A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. (John Barrymore)
Jean and I married on 12th June 1954 and this was our first house - a 3 apartment in Kirkintilloch.
MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE ORGAN began with the 2-manual pipe organ which I heard every Sunday in church. When I was in my late teens, I took lessons from the organist, and I spent a great many hours practising there.
After demob from the RAF, I resumed lessons this time on a 3-manual, and my sister Rita, who was also a pianist and violinist, began organ tuition too.
Later we both became pupils of Wilfred Emery, organist of Glasgow Cathedral, and of course we had a first-class instrument on which to play.
By this time we were both church organists and were quite well known locally for special praise services and church concerts. We also performed regularly doing piano duets.
Over the years Rita had organ posts at three different churches, one of which closed down. I had posts at six churches, three of which closed down. (I should add that I entertained regularly at six retirement homes, of which three closed down.) Does this tell you something?
While I was taking organ lessons, I was always on the look-out for a church post with a better instrument, the ideal one being a 3-manual with full pedal board. And both Rita and I frequently applied for advertised vacancies. Our local newspaper always reported on those jobs and often mentioned who had applied for the posts. I used to pull Rita’s leg by telling her that the paper had referred to her as “Miss Rita Jaap, the well-known organ applicant.”
I once applied for a vacancy in a Possilpark church, and was asked to attend for an audition. On arriving, I was shown into the vestry where about half-a-dozen others were seated clutching their music. There was complete silence in the room, and as we waited our turn, the soft groaning of the organ could be heard - oh, not Handel's Largo again!!! I played two of my exam pieces, and the job was mine.
In 1971 we moved to this 7 apartment in Lenzie where our 3 daughters were delighted to have their own rooms.
In the 1950s I became organist in a Lenzie church where I was surprised to find that the congregation all possessed Anthem Books and would stand and join with the choir in singing them at the morning services. In those days Lenzie was considered a rather “posh” place. Many folk still remembered the time when the big houses employed domestic staff. (That church used to hold a special afternoon service on Sundays for domestics.) One incident I’ll always remember - I hadn’t been playing there all that long, when a country-squire-type of gentleman came up to the organ at the close of the service. He introduced himself and asked if I smoked cigarettes. I was still a smoker then, and, when I nodded, he produced a cigarette case, took out a handful of cigarettes, laid them on the organ bench and walked off!!!
There was a time when church cantatas were popular, and I used to prepare and direct performances of things like Stainer’s “Crucifixion.” Sometimes we would combine with another church choir, and on one occasion I conducted and my colleague played the accompaniment.
I find that, when you are young, you aren’t afraid to tackle projects that you would be reluctant to face later on. In my early years as organist, I gave a recital in Lenzie when my programme included a complete Mendelssohn organ sonata, a Bach fugue, a Mozart minuet and one or two lighter items.
The highlights of my career were undoubtedly the three occasions when I deputised for the organist at Glasgow Cathedral, and was thrilled to perform on a wonderful instrument with a first class choir.
Some time before retiring from church organ playing, I helped form a choral and orchestral society which lasted two or three years. Our aim was to try to perform the kind of music not normally heard locally. I was the conductor, and among the musicians were our daughters, Margaret on viola and Fiona on clarinet. I can’t remember how many concerts we gave, but I won’t forget the hours practising Monteverdi‘s “Beatus Vir”. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to give it a public performance.
In 1983 we moved to our present home in Auchinloch. The second photo shows the lovely view we have from the back garden. There was a proposal to build 93 houses in that field, but local feelings were very much opposed to it and the project has been withdrawn (permanently, we hope.)
My music clip this week of course must feature an organ. Ton Koopman is a brilliant Dutch organist, harpsichord player and conductor. Here he plays Bach’s Fugue in G minor on the 18th Century instrument in St.Marien Cathedral, Freiberg.
The following is yet another little piece from our friend Anon.
I dreamed death came the other night
And heaven’s gate swung wide,
An angel with a halo bright
Then ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment
Were folks I’d judged and labelled
As “quite unfit” of “little worth”
And “spiritually disabled.”
Indignant words rose to my lips
But never were set free,
For every face showed stunned surprise,
No one expected me!!!