I’m an organist. I know that organ concerts are not usually spectator sports and can be dull to the uninitiated, so I wasn’t expecting too many punters at the Thursday lunchtime concerts in Portlaoise. An organ concert in Dublin, I’m told, might attract 20 people or so. Imagine my delight when 40 people turned up for the first one, 25 for the second, 48 for the third, and 42 for the fourth. Is it novelty value? Is it that they are regular, short and tuneful? Whatever the reason, good! Thanks to all our performers who have waived fees, and thanks to all who come. It’s good to see people bringing lunch to munch. The organ is a treasure. Internationally acclaimed musician Mark Duley says so. Stanley says so: it is a very versatile small instrument that fills the church with great richness of sound. I happened to be playing when one of the visiting organists turned up to practise, and he said he was stunned by the sound, and how well it suited the church. Portlaoise should be proud of the instrument.
Portlaoise church was privileged recently to host a concert given by the extraordinarily gifted young artists of the Herbert Lodge Music Summer School. One of the performers was a young lad on the cello whose mother told me that when, at his request, she took him to concerts at the National Concert Hall, she was almost – I kid you not – accused of abusing the child by ‘forcing’ him to listen to classical music when he should be out playing football. This says something about the values of our society. At the Maryborough School end of term service in June, the school choir sang John Rutter’s The Lord bless you and keep you. It showed what can be accomplished with vision and enthusiasm. Sad, though, that some of the senior boys declined to sing: singing is not cool. I’d be the first to acknowledge that singing school assembly ditties suitable for 6-year-olds is repellent to young male adolescents, but we really need to quash the apparently widespread notion that singing damages both sporting prowess and spermatogenesis. I think this attitude might even extend to interest in any sort of ‘classical’ music. Will all the musicians of the future be female? Interestingly, all the organists playing in Portlaoise this summer are male, and most professional organists are male. Comments, anyone?