Learn the organ
St Giles’ promotes organ studies. Whatever your age and goals, you can be assured of high quality teaching tailored to an agreed programme of study.
St Giles’ recruits and nurtures the next generation of young musicians. A growing number of St Giles’ choristers are learning the organ, and subsidized tuition is available to choristers. St Giles’ is eager to encourage musical children to become the church musicians of the future, able to recruit singers, administer, conduct and inspire choirs, accompany divine worship, teach, perform concerts, and a whole host of other skills.
Please contact Dr Nicholas Prozzillo for further information.
St Giles’ is happy to offer tuition at any level, including diplomas. Students are welcome to attend for occasional or regular lessons. Guidance is available in service playing, repertoire, organ history, technique, and keyboard skills.
Oxford has a varied organ landscape which is ideal for introducing young organists to aspects of organ history – and to allow them to play different organs. Our classes are fun too! Every term the church organizes a study morning where our organists visit a few colleges to have masterclasses.
Organists frequently find themselves in varied musical roles, especially as choral conductors. St Giles’ provides an environment in which those young musicians who want to start exploring the world of conducting can have a go. This is a skill which has to be learnt on the job and it is good to introduce enthusiastic choristers to choral direction!
Short introduction to organ history
With a documented history dating back at least a thousand years, the organ has caught the attention of journalists, saints, musicians, poets, theologians, and painters, and many others, inviting diverse interpretations. Mozart, honoured the instrument with the title, ‘King of Instruments’. The instrument’s mechanics and engineering could display a culture’s ingenuity and carry political overtones. For example, in 757 a gift from Constantine V, termed ‘organum’, was sent to the Carolingian court, perhaps to show Byzantine’s cultural-technological advances.
The organ, so often elevated to such supreme status, has been at the centre of various battlefields, both metaphorical and literal. For instance, organs were associated with Rome during the English Reformations, and were to be destroyed. The Puritan regime during the Commonwealth period 1640-9 was suspicious of the instrument, and on 9 May 1644 Parliament enacted that ‘all Organs and the Frames or Cases wherein they stand […] shall be taken away and utterly defaced, and none hereafter set up in their places’. Thus at Westminster Abbey, Cromwell’s soldiers ‘pawned the pipes at several alehouses for pots of ale’; at Peterborough a regiment threw the organ to the ground, ‘where they stamped and trampled it to pieces in a strange, furious and frantic zeal’. And there is much more.
Few instruments can claim a status which enables them to be praised or mercilessly attacked as a result of storms of contention. Organ history is fascinating. But so is learning to play this instrument which comes in many different shapes and sizes! There is a vast literature of musical works: from J S Bach’s adventurous harmonies, to Ecclesiastical Tangos, to Hungarian Rock.
A growing number of St Giles’ choristers are learning the organ, and there have been some splendid examination results in recent months. Let us encourage our musical children to become the church musicians of the future, able to recruit singers, administer, conduct and inspire choirs, accompany divine worship, teach, perform concerts, and a whole host of other skills. Organ tuition is available to keen pianists. Please contact Dr Nicholas Prozzillo for further information.