Anybody wishing to have a 'ramble' about the club circuit in general please email us and
we will add your comments here - anonymously if you wish.
Feel free to give your honest opinions but please keep them polite
we will add your comments here - anonymously if you wish.
Feel free to give your honest opinions but please keep them polite
From Alan at North Herts Organ Society:
Well done for trying something positive.
We at the North Herts Organ Society might be considered healthy with 100 members. However we average about 70 over the year for concert attendance and we have an expensive hall with audio and visual facilities and soft seating plus a hall manager that helps the artist set up audio and visual aids and are currently making a loss on every concert. We can keep going up to the end of next year on reserves. So, we are looking for ways to get better attendances.
We advertise locally, maybe one visitor results!
We find a few visitors will come for a particular artist that they like... usually from other clubs in the area.
Our membership fee is £7 and our concert fee £6. Visitors are charged £7.
Looking around we seem to be in common with a number of clubs and £10 / concert seems to be the top charge.
Our age group in the club is definitely past retiring age with a few just below.
We have tried bussing in the care home residents but they do not want to come out in the evenings. So no takers there.
Schools seem unresponsive yet this is where our future must lie. But few schools teach music these days. We will plug away at this one again.
We have tried getting local funding from our council which do give grants out to various organisations but it heavily over subscribed and we have not had success to date.
The one thing we do struggle with is how to create effective advertising. What is it that would persuade people to come? We try to shy away from “organ” because of its pipe or church connotations.
The catchment area for our club is probably no greater than a 10 mile radius from where we hold concerts. Is this too small? should we raise the bar and try other local papers further away?
With the BBC shunning organs and X factor Simon Cowell zapping all but Jean Martin who was restricted to a piano rag media coverage is scant.
Well enough of my ramblings for now.
I would love to get some feed back on what is happening elsewhere.
From Henry, Hon Sec. Plymouth Broadway Organ & Keyboard Club:
Our club was formed more than thirty years ago and was named 'The Broadway Organ Society'. It provided concerts to a membership of about 200, and until 2017 had been run by just two chairmen. In 2017 the long standing committee were unfortunately having health issues and eventually it was announced that the club would have its last concert in December 2017. The membership were shocked at the news, and after a short while members of a 'new committee' met with the chairman to discuss a possible plan of forming a new club with Ron remaining as Chairman. and with great enthusiasm from everyone things started to brighten up. Organfax, and the artistes that we have been able to work with have been of tremendous help offering advice and practical help to keep us in operation, and our sincere thanks go out to them.
One of our problems was identity and location for visitors from all over the U.K, we are in one of the loveliest part of our great country and it is the choice of a host of holiday makers. So with the help of our friends in the organ & keyboard world we are bringing ourselves up to date. We removed the 'society' word and included 'keyboard' in an attempt to show a more modern trait, but could not come up with a word to replace club - so 'PLYMOUTH BROADWAY ORGAN & KEYBOARD CLUB' has survived for two years and have 2020 all booked with entries arriving for 2021!
When selecting artistes our club does enjoy those who offer varied genre, with a sprinkling of their musical career including all 'ups & downs'. Remember when we lost poor Chiho, on her last concert we had photographs etc. of their wedding, which made us feel as though we were all family members, and when the sad news was announced at the next concert, with agreement from everyone, we sent a personal message of condolence to John, who has been back to us since.
It has been hard work and continues to be so. What we are doing is to target like minded enthusiasts, at the end of every concert we ask our audience to 'bring a friend'.
I'm afraid that until a couple of months ago we were able to get free advertising on local BBC radio but there has been a major change (nationally I think) to pander to the younger generation with their modern trends, who wouldn't come to our type of concerts even if WE PAID THEM!
I am a strong supporter of what you are doing and hope that my comments are of some use and depending on feedback will respond to any queries raised. We want what you are doing to succeed, for all.
From Stuart Burr, professional keyboard player:
When I was a lad and went to the local organ club with my parents virtually everyone played. Yet there are plenty of thriving music and keyboard schools around but their students don't attend concert clubs which, I would say, can only be down to lack of awareness or they are not inspired to do so. This led me to my comment about fostering links with the schools. I know a lot of the students are probably youngsters and if so they and their accompanying parents don't want to listen to an evening of ' theatre organ and war songs' and 'I can't think of anything worse'! Both were things that was said to me when I've talked to people about concerts - is this about perceived players content or lack of potential audiences awareness.
There is a definite fall in organ interest but this has been in decline for sometime. I know its probably a disliked point of view but I don't feel the organ scene has done a lot for its own image, whereas the keyboard sector has stayed more steady. I remember the outcry when The Organist Entertains got moved from its original slot on radio 2 and there being hardly a murmur when it got cut down to 30 minutes in a graveyard slot and eventually cancelled completely. However the program content was hardly what you would call diverse, also when you look for organs on national TV or radio the most prominent is Paul O Grady on radio 2 and they are always very 'organ-y'. To be honest I had a look on YouTube at the big names who had videos and even though they have instruments capable of so much more all their featured videos are in 'theatre/organ' sound. It's not really what the 'youngsters' go for or how they are taught to play - I'm not saying that's right, just how things have changed.
As a professional keyboard player myself the old saying about not biting the hand that feeds you is particularly pertinent. Through my, so far 35 year career, I've always kept my prices down and with all the costs of publicity, hall hire and everything else involved clubs can't keep making losses. All professionals need to be aware that high fees can hurt and potentially close clubs which results in everyone losing out financially, socially and musically.
Extracts from an article written by a club secretary submitted to OrganFax in 2009 - to read it in full click here to download it.
Arguably, the most asked question relating to the very survival of many organ clubs and societies is “How can we increase our concert attendances?” The following thoughts and suggestions may not be entirely appropriate to all clubs, nor are they intended to be comprehensive. However, it is hoped that they will at least provoke some form of positive reaction. Of course, in certain cases, clubs will struggle due to a dearth of persons available and / or willing to assume the various essential duties, administrative and otherwise. Therefore, if concert attendances can be increased it follows that there will be a greater likelihood of volunteers being found to share the necessary responsibilities.
Obviously, most new support will have to be drawn from a younger age group, most likely from recently retired persons or those approaching retirement – an age group that will probably have been influenced in the most part by music of the 60s, 70s and 80s – so this factor will have to be borne in mind when clubs are selecting artistes – to ensure that the music played is suitably attractive.
In order to ‘move with the times’, clubs would be unwise not to consider arranging occasional alternatives to the ‘traditional’ one-organist concert. Whilst retaining an organ or keyboard as the basis for concerts, it should be possible to introduce another facet – e.g. another instrument, a vocalist or even a comedian – by way of variation. Diversification surely must occur if clubs are to survive for much longer. In any case, even if modernisation takes place, it is questionable whether persons currently aged in their 40s will be interested in this style of entertainment in twenty years’ time. Society is constantly changing and ageism, in one form or another, continues to have an influence over trends. Such prejudice clearly exists within the media and entertainment business in general and this obviously makes life that much more difficult for individuals and ‘senior’ clubs alike. Clubs should consider how they may be able to survive for another few years - beyond that, it is certainly not easy to believe that the electronic organ scene can continue in anything like its present form.
It must be emphasised that players will also have to contribute to the necessary changes, by virtue of the content of their concert programmes. Whilst not ignoring the more senior members of their audiences, they must direct their music – little by little and year by year – towards the younger age group that clubs are (or should be) working hard to attract. Thankfully, a number of players have moved, or are moving, in the right direction. Sadly, however, other players continue to produce programmes containing a preponderance of pre-war music (Classics excepted, of course), vainly expecting that this will attract a generation that was not born until at least ten years after the war had ended!
Diversification, modernisation, an open-minded, pro-active attitude … these are all essential aspects of progress. It is a challenge that should not be ignored. Those who believe that most suggestions are impractical, or not even worth attempting, are probably already resigned to failure in the not-too distant future. After all, let’s face it, negativity is an easy option!
From David Read, professional pianist and keyboard player
I think you hopefully will find some of what I have to say helpful, none of my comments are meant to be derogatory, quite the contrary, but hard hitting if needs be.
Although I am not on organ fax as a performer I am very aware of what you do as i am in a very similar line of business with the same problems you face with dwindling numbers. clubs closing and all the problems you seem to be facing. I might add that I have played for a couple of the organ/keyboard societies over the years so do know how it all works.
I also have always had a fascination for keyboards/organs and unlike most classical musicians have always enjoyed playing these instruments for pleasure. I can remember as a youngster being absolutely fascinated with the Technics organs at our local store. I really developed my interest in keyboards/arrangers and digital pianos and have played products by Yamaha, Korg,Technics and Roland. I also own my own Yamaha arranger.
I often play a programme of music that ranges from the dance music of the 1920's/30's, big band hits, 50's 60's, 70's etc but also I do not exclude using modern music if it is good....So often I find that some artistes tend to stick to the same old formula and this sadly is not the way to attract new audiences. I am not saying that the old music is not good but sometimes it is necessary to approach it in shall we say a fresh and new way.
I have played at a couple of organ clubs in the past. At one of them I presented an evening with two keyboards and played music ranging from classical to pop arrangements and modern musicals all in a lively way, also a few songs as well The setting was far too formal and not at all relaxed and despite a standing ovation at the end it was without doubt one of the hardest places and audiences I have ever entertained. I had a similar experience at another club where again formality seemed more important than an enjoyable evening and the buffet more important than the concert! I know this is not the same everywhere but old fashioned is the word that keeps coming up.
It’s very admirable what you are trying to do, but the entire industry I’m afraid has been in decline now for several years, and there’s not one simple answer to solve it or we’d have done it long ago.
One obvious reason is what I call the dish cloth scenario. The facts are too many players are now running their own festivals and weekend ringing out the depleting dish cloth.
Years ago Caister and Blackpool, or Morecambe as it was then, were big special occasions. Nowadays they’re every weekend near enough. If you have pretty much the same audiences going to these weekends and seeing many artists chances are they won’t bother going to see one of those artists at their own club again.
This for me is the problem mainly.
As a keyboard player and a service engineer on musical instruments, I speak to a lot of people whilst working on their equipment, and the subject of organ clubs often comes up. Many people who use to support the clubs no longer go, and when I ask why they don't, the general reply is that its always the same players, and often they do not vary their programmes. What is needed is new blood not necessarily young blood. Also another comment is that the type of music played is too old fashioned and the players need to play more modern music. This might then attract a younger crowd. There are many good local players out there but for some reason you do not see them playing at these clubs. Obviously this would mean someone spending time scouting around and listening to other players at various places.
Another idea might be for a relatively local/club member to play for the first 15/20 minutes at each concert. This would add a little bit more interest.
I am not a concert circuit player I have been attending club concerts,social evenings and festivals on and off since the 80s .
As far as the festivals go I was around 16 when I attended my first at Caister.
My impression from then and still are that while many of the organisers did the best to make us younger enthusiasts welcome , there were some who possibly saw us as a threat which may tarnish the atmosphere of those who wanted to keep the status quo in check and did not welcome young new comers. Some of the stand dealers made this perfectly clear when I would want to try out the new instruments for myself. “young people have no money to spend but the old retired people do.
If its going to be a sales exhibition festival than I wish they would say so in advance.
Also many of the players have been playing nearly all the same tunes everytime.
I am getting a bit weary of Tico Tico, the Lonely Shepherd, Morning at Seven, Waltz number 2, Luftwaffer March, and so on... For heaven sake the war is over! there is a great abundance of easy listening music all generations like.
Suggestion , let fresh players in, they are there and youtube shows lots of good players
out there. I feel there are an elite few who are trying to keep anything new from happening and frightened of the risk of change.That includes clubs.