RCO survey shines a light on the musical life of organists and choral directors

RCO survey shines a light on the musical life of organists and choral directors

The RCO received more than 900 responses to its 2015 survey, providing a unique insight into the musical life of organists and choral directors.

The importance of the organ and choral music in religious worship was strongly emphasised throughout the responses.

When asked to respond to a series of statements about the role of organ music and organists in contemporary society, the strongest agreement was for “organ music has an important role to play in today’s religious worship”. Three out of every four respondents reported playing as part of a church service at least once a month, with more than 60% doing so weekly.

But there was also strong support for, and engagement with, secular music. The second most strongly supported statement was that “organ music has an important role to play in today’s classical music”, while in the course of a typical year 36% of respondents play in a theatre or other secular venue and 32% play in a school or educational establishment.

RCO Chief Executive Philip Meaden said: “We are extremely grateful to everyone who took part in our survey, and to all the partner organisations which helped us publicise it.

“This research shines an important light on the musical life of organists and choral directors at every level, and helps us better understand their different ambitions and needs.

“It will be an invaluable resource as we continue to develop and shape services for all.”

Professional support for organists and choral directors was a key requirement highlighted in the survey, with 23% of respondents citing music as their primary source of income, and 45% citing it as a secondary or supplementary source.

The desire to develop as individual musicians was also evident throughout the results. The most important goals cited by respondents were to develop skills and abilities, and to broaden and/or deepen understanding of repertoire, of performance practice, of service-playing skills and of improvisation.

With these goals in mind, 31% of respondents take lessons, and 37% attend at least one course or training event a year.

Asked what additional support they would like to see from RCO and its partner organisations, respondents highlighted more classes, courses and teachers, better local access to learning resources, ongoing professional accreditation, and more opportunities for online learning.

Underlining this need for support was strong approval for the statement “it is important for organists to have a strong professional representative body”.

Philip added: “The need for effective professional and learning support at all levels comes across loud and clear, and has been placed at the heart of the RCO’s strategic plan for the future.

“We have already begun announcing new initiatives, such as our partnership with Incorporated Society of Musicians, and more will following in the coming weeks, including new online services and new approaches to accreditation and continuing professional development.”

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