RCO Covid-19 advocacy for organists: update
The Royal College of Organists continues to campaign and press for solutions to the problems facing organists through the Covid-19 pandemic.
For organists, this is not simply about loss of income and the potential hardship that can bring. We have also sought to draw attention to the need for organists to have access to their instruments. The majority of organists are the only instrumentalists who have to go to another building in order to practise – crucial if we are to retain the hard-won skills we have built up over the years.
When we first heard at the start of the UK lockdown that organists would not be allowed to work for the foreseeable future the RCO Chairman, Lord Glenarthur, wrote to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and several Ministers to advance the case of all organists.
Lord Glenarthur also wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury to put these points and also to stress how important it is that the instruments are regularly “exercised” (blower turned on, stops drawn, keys and pedals depressed) to ensure the instruments are serviceable when the lockdown eases. In this respect there has been some movement and it is now permissible to turn organs on. Sadly, they still may not be played.
Since then, RCO Chief Executive Sir Andrew Parmley has been participating with The Church of England Recovery Group which, along with similar bodies in other denominations, is working hard on the questions we all face. It is anticipated that their advice will unfold gradually over the coming months.
Members of the College staff have been in regular contact with colleagues throughout the creative industries to share information and best practice and to discuss how we may best support our members.
Sir Andrew Parmley said: “From the RCO’s point of view we are heartened to hear that it may soon be possible to hold weddings and funerals in churches, with a very few people in attendance. The good news is that we hope that an organist could be one of that small group of people.
“However, although it may soon be possible for individuals to enter churches for private devotions we still have no similar information regarding the position of organists. We continue to make representations on this point – we simply cannot see a difference between this concession and the position of a sole organist entering a church to practise - probably “out of hours” and with the doors locked.”
And he added: “The College is also discussing with many partners the future of church and cathedral choirs. Until a vaccine is widely available we will all have to think creatively to devise imaginative ways for singers to work together. This will of course be easier in a large cathedral than a small parish church, even if organists display the ingenuity for which they are renowned.”