CLESO AGM Chairman’s report on 29 April 2010

It hardly seems that long ago since I stood up at my first AGM to give a report on the Societies’ activities and to try and lay a path for the next year and further beyond. But I now find myself at the end of my third year as Chairman and, as such, have to give way to my successor. It has been useful to have a look back at the many diverse trips and activities that CLESO has organised over this period and I could run off such a list but David Sutton, our secretary, will be eluding to the past year’s activities in his report later.

We are here this evening meeting and marking our 50th year and our society has undoubtedly given much pleasure to many members over this time, both through social and professional occasions and given them opportunities to experience and play some fantastic instruments. This evening, rather than looking back, I would like you to think about what CLESO means to you today and what should it stand for in the future.  It does concern me that we might not find ourselves here in another 50, 10 or even less years.

I have tried to sow the seeds of renewal and change during my time as Chairman but the process has been rather slow. I do feel that we need to actively embrace this process as, if we have a large enough vision, CLESO with partners should be a ‘one stop shop’ for organists in London where they can gain information and practical help with training, events, recitals, scholarships, access to churches, tuition and the ability to electronically network with others.

In 2008 I noted in my report that we should be far more heavily involved in education as one of the principal aims of CLESO is “to encourage those with an interest in the organ, especially the young, and to give support to those who want to learn the instrument.” I am pleased to say that at the beginning of July this year we will have the first in what I hope will be a series of events with school children and young adults. We are linking up with the RCO and running sessions to introduce the organ and allowing them ‘hands on’ experience. We are also hiring in the ‘WOOFYT’ organ, which is specifically designed for teaching purposes and putting together by junior school age pupils.  This stands for the ‘Wooden One Octave Organ For Young Technologists’ .

Later in the year, I have also been proactive with regards to running another co-event this time with the eastern section of the RSCM where masterclasses will be given to talented teenagers by Roger Sayer. In the morning of that day we will have a valuable opportunity for us all to refresh and discuss many aspects of our service playing with practical demonstrations and discussion with Roger. This is all good news but I do wish we had been doing this years ago.

Maybe CLESO should be going a step further by provoking debate within the musical world at large as to where all the future young organists are going to come from and how we can all better facilitate this?

Another area that we can look at to involve people in the organ world and ourselves, is to target those who attend the many lunchtime recitals that take place during the week in town. This is an area that we haven’t really looked at yet but there is no reason why we shouldn’t.

On a positive note, one of the exciting changes that has happened recently is that I have been successful in my approach to Catherine Ennis to become our new President. Catherine is a well known professional in the organ world and although her recitals take her all over the world she is mainly based in London. This will give us again a true presence in the City with someone who is at the top of her game and we are thankful to her for giving some of her valuable time to foster our aspirations and plans. I would also at this juncture like to make a public thank you to our out-going president, Malcolm archer, for all is support during his tenure of the post.

We have a plethora of historically important organs and buildings in London ranging from the dilapidated or qwerky to restored or new instruments. Nowhere in the rest of the country does another society have the vast range of places to visit and we should all be shouting this from the rooftops to the many churches and organists on our patch who still haven’t come across us or who are not yet members. It is a golden marketing opportunity but we also need to make ourselves attractive enough to gain their support. So what can you do for us, for your Society which belongs to you?  Campaign for us, invite people in to become new members, go out of your way and be persistent about it. Support our events, they are put on for everyone’s enjoyment and learning.

Don’t be afraid to get involved, maybe with a particular project you have an interest in.

I would finally like to thank all of the present committee for their work over the last year and in particular David Sutton for helping arrange many of this year’s celebratory events. Also to Christopher Morris for our excellent website, which sees a remarkable amount of traffic and for his involvement with building links with the St Giles International Organ School and the upcoming educational events. A special thank you also ought to go to Glynne Williams who has been on the committee for a number of years and is now stepping down due to work commitments. She has given of her time and expertise and she will be much missed.

I look forward to seeing you at our future events and do come and talk to me or any of the new committee at any time.

Martin Seymour 29/04/2010

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