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Organists confess to tune-smuggling

10 May 2013


Take the hint: members of Abba, whose song "Money, money, money" has been played on the organ while the collection is taken

Take the hint: members of Abba, whose song "Money, money, money" has been played on the organ while the collection is taken

THE secret, says Jeffrey Makinson, sub-organist of Manchester Cathedral, is to clothe the theme in a different harmony, tempo, or rhythmic metre. Even then, there is a risk that your mischief will make at least a few ears prick up.

Half of churchgoers have heard of an organist slipping unexpected tunes into a service, suggests a new survey from Christian Research, which has been published to coincide with the Christian Resources Exhibition International next week.

From sneaking Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a prayer" into a sung eucharist to playing "Money, money, money" during the collection, instrumentalists appear to be combining the topical with the irreverent. One of the 2250 respondents recalled hearing "Roll out the barrel" during the funeral of an alcoholic.

Organists are not above using their instrument to exact revenge. Stephen Goddard, who carried out the research, told the BBC Sunday programme last week that one organist, when asked to play at a former boyfriend's wedding, segued into "Can't help loving dat man", as the couple processed back down the aisle. At one church in Glasgow, an organist bearing a grudge against the choirmaster opted for "Send in the clowns", as the choir took their places.

This week, readers of the Church Times, provided their own examples, responding to a request on Twitter. One organist reported mixing the tunes of "Raindrops keep falling on my head" with "Make me a channel of your peace" before church one Sunday - the former music also having been played during a wet wedding, to "much mirth".

The theme tune to Roobarb & Custard, the children's TV show of the 1970s, was described as an "excellent voluntary" by one musician, while a chorister recalled "fighting tears of laughter", while processing out of Salisbury Cathedral to "Goodbye", as sung by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

The Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd David Walker, revealed that, to avoid his future wife's hearing the bridal march that his friend, an organist, had composed for their wedding, he had told him to "riff on 'Yes, we have no bananas'" during the rehearsal.

Among the most inventive contributions were a postlude imitating circus music, played after a sermon "on being a fool for Christ", and a rendition of "We've only just begun" by the Carpenters to mark the signing of an ecumenical covenant.

The responses suggest that a claim from one organist in the survey - that "Nobody notices, I do it all the time!" - may be ill-founded.



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