During last year, we launched a major organ-education initiative, now well under way. There are educational events within our main programme but vitally supported by an entire series of workshops. We are delighted to have successfully negotiated partnerships with the Royal College of Organists, neighbouring IAO associations HOS & BOA, and RSCM Worcester.

We are planning now, with the Royal College of Organists, a further series of joint WOA/RCO classes, with a discounted fee for members of either organization: this follows the success of our first and trial series of three such classes this year. website for our third joint WOA/RCO classes.

There are places for players and for observers at all our classes and workshops.



Some suggested outlines for possible further workshops…


Section A. Repertoire & Music History

Exploring the Orgelbüchlein

Aimed at listeners as well as players, with members invited to contribute illustrative recordings as well as live performances.

Possible content: -

Structure and purpose of the work

Types of prelude featured

Degrees of difficulty – ideas about where to start and an order in which to proceed

Examination of selected preludes in theory and practice

Possible development: plenty of material in this collection for more than a single session. And, of course, the Orgelbüchlein is just one example: much the same could be done in future workshops with other major collections of organ works.


The French Classical School

A rewarding section of repertoire, but with some individual characteristics that invite communal demystifying

Possible content: -

Outline of composers and typical organs of the period

Key features: registration, inégales, fingering, ornamentation

Sharing key examples – live and/or recorded

Possible development: the French Classical School is just a typical example: similar things could be done with the Northern Baroque, the French Romantics, the Italian Renaissance, the German Romantics, Iberian Organ Music, the Baroque in Southern & Central Germany, etc


Exploring Periods

Historically informed performance practice has come to dominate organ teaching: so what characterises the principal periods of the organ repertoire?

Possible content: -

Renaissance: England, Netherlands, Italy, Iberia

Baroque: England, France, Germany

Romantic: Germany, France, England

Modern: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, England

Possible development: Rather as with improvisation, there is ample material here for more than a single session, and a mini-series might be the result.


The Organ Music of England

It’s our country and our instrument – perhaps we should try to know it well…

Possible content: -

The Earliest Extant Collections – Robertsbridge to Mulliner

The English Renaissance – Tallis to Tomkins

The Early Baroque – Christopher Gibbons, Croft, Blow, Purcell

The Georgians – Stanley, Heron, Boyce, Handel, etc

From Classical to Romantic – the Wesleys

The Late Romantics – Stanford, Stainer, Elgar… Thalben Ball

Modernism & Eclecticism – from Britten to Bednall

Possible development: clearly, there is material here for more than a single session. And other major organ cultures could be examined in similar ways: for example, the Netherlands ­→ North Germany → Bach; Italy → Southern Germany → Bach; France from Pierre Attaingnant to the present day; etc


Mendelssohn: what else besides the Sonatas?

An opportunity for members to share favourite pieces/movements (whether from recordings or at the console). Listeners would be as welcome as players.

Possible content: -

The Preludes & Fugues: over-view and playing/commenting on examples

Examples from the miscellaneous works

Possible development: there is an obvious implicit call here for a parallel session on the Sonatas – perhaps with both an over-view of the set and also a study of one sonata and/or example movements from several. Mendelssohn is just one possibility among composer-based topics: similar things could be done with others, of course – for example…


Making a Start with Messiaen – as listeners and/or players

Widely regarded as difficult, compelling, important: where do we start and how do we cope with this modern master?

Possible content: -

Beginning to listen: over-view of L’Ascension or La Nativité, sharing comment on selected movements (live and/or recorded)

Beginning to play: approaching one of the easier works – Le Banquet Céleste


Sharing Repertoire

An open opportunity for members to share repertoire (whether in recordings or live performance) that they have found rewarding and that others may like to try

Possible development: this is a workshop which could, and no doubt should, be repeated as often as any two or three players may wish for such a thing.



Section B. Technique & Skills


Technique Clinic

Enthusiasm, though vital, is never enough to ensure that a challenging piece becomes a source of satisfaction not frustration: it is surely sound technique, in partnership with effective practice methods, that makes the difference.

Possible content: -

Examining resources that may prove helpful, for example -

Jacques van Oortmerssen, Organ Technique

Jacques van Oortmerssen, A Guide to Duo and Trio Playing

Anne Marsden Thomas, Pedalling for Organists

George H. Ritchie & George B. Stauffer, Organ Technique modern and early

Examining specific aspects of technique, and trying out exercises for developing them, for example –

Position at the stool and prevention of strain

 Fingering and articulation

 Legato and finger-substitution

 Pedalling – pivoting, positioning, action, note-finding, etc


Keyboard Skills

Sharing tips and experiences, exploring resources, obtaining comment and encouragement in practical attempts

Possible content: -



Keyboard harmony

Hymn extensions

Soloing out

Fanfares, flourishes, introductions, interludes, cadenzas, etc

Possible development: rather as with improvisation, there is scope for a whole series of workshops on these skills, if sufficient interest can be found or generated.


An Introduction to Early Fingering

Is it just a current ‘in thing’ or a real aid to playing with greater understanding?

Possible content: -

Fingering as a key to articulation, accent, and phrasing

The principal fingering systems of the past in practice

Compromises and practicalities


Approaching Improvisation

Introductory session in which members with some experience can share ideas with beginners.

Possible content: -

Is improvisation a gift or a set of teachable skills?

Do we improvise by ‘inspiration’ or blueprints?

Introductory practice: keyboard harmony, basic counterpoint in improvisation

Example improvisations: turning chord-progression into a prelude, a hymn into a toccata, a theme into a chorale prelude

Possible development: if successful, this could be the start of a whole series of sessions for those interested – we obviously cannot achieve much in a single workshop. (Success in such a venture might depend on cooperating with other associations to make numbers feasible.) BUT, as with any series of workshops, we’d need to avoid the assumption that it becomes a ‘closed’ series: it would be splendid to have regular attendees, but newcomers and casual visitors would also be welcome – as would observers.



Section C. Exploring the Instrument


Playing Varied Repertoire on an English Organ

We may know how a German chorale prelude, a Georgian voluntary, or a Classical Plein Jeu might originally have been registered – but what ideas are there for playing them on the nineteenth/twentieth-century English organs we normally encounter?

Possible content: -

Take an outstanding example of an English organ (virtual Hereford Cathedral?) and put to the test the idea that it can play anything.

Share ideas on adapting registrations to suit smaller organs.

Possible development: there is an obvious case for a follow-up session (or more than one, according to the level of interest) using one or more typical church organs – probably two-manual, with an early modern, modernised Victorian, or eclectic character.


The Organ-Builder’s Art

Sharing knowledge about the instrument we play – its history and technical nature

Possible content: -

History: Antegnati, Boizard, Schnitger, Silbermann, Bucholz, Cavailllé-Coll, Walcker, Willis, Hill, etc

Organ-building & tuning today



Section D. Practice & Performance


How do we learn a piece?

So many problems, or so many successes… it all depends (so it is often claimed) on the method, or lack of method, applied to the learning process: a workshop on the subject would provide an opportunity for members to share experiences, techniques that have proved successful, valuable ideas gleaned from teachers and courses, and so one. Members might wish to try the experiment of taking a totally new piece and learning, with communal involvement, a short section as part of this workshop.


Ways of Practising

Most of the time that most of us spend at the organ is practice time: how can we make the most effective and enjoyable use of it? This workshop would be a chance for members to share tips and methods gleaned from experience, from lessons with teachers, from classes and courses, and from resources in print or on the Internet. Members might wish to share at the console examples of pieces or passages that have come right through effective practice, or that are still proving problematic and which might benefit from suggestions and encouragement as to different practice methods.


What are we working on?

An open opportunity for members to play pieces or sections of pieces from work in progress (not necessarily learnt throughout, and not yet brought up to performance standard) – sharing comments, suggestions, and encouragement.

Possible development: this, of course, is another workshop that could be repeated as often as there is any demand for it; it would be completely successful with only a small number of participants – though more would always be welcome.



Many of us must have experienced that piece that won’t come right, or the piece we had so thoroughly learnt that falls apart when played to a teacher or performed for friends or used in church… or just the piece that always goes well – except here and there. This workshop would provide an opportunity for communal troubleshooting, in which fresh eyes and ideas could be used to help one another conquer seemingly persistent problems.

Possible development: again, this is a workshop that could be repeated according to demand.


Performance – with a friendly audience

Some of us may enjoy performing and would value another opportunity; some of us may be more nervous – and would value a chance to ‘practise performing’ before the friendliest and most supportive of audiences.

Possible development: this is another event which could be repeated according to demand – and one to which observers would particularly be welcomed.