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I believe that the RCO has reached the point where
1. they are about to lose a good slice more of their membership. This because of 'bitching' correspondence, public faliure to deliver and excessive membership charge in relation to the amount they actually provide to those members who have already gained their desired qualifications.
2. they may well have their precious royal charter revoked. I have read the charter and they have broken with the stipulations in it at least once already - viz. the move to Birmingham.

The querstion is, who will stick with the RCO until a viable alternative is sorted out?
1. The bright young things who have not yet taken their FRCO and would would be expected to get it shortly - I am talking about a total of less than 100 youngsters maximum - mostly privately educated, to whose parents the high fees question is not a problem. These are an elite - not a bad thing in itself- but an elite is a poor support base for an expensive organisation
2. those who still get a buzz from seeing their names printed up (occasionally) alongside the great and the good. A mini 'ego-trip'and an increasingly expensvie one.
3. those who receive fees for carrying out RCO business.
4. those who can expect to receive honorary recognition. they won't pay for anything anyway! These (increasing numbers) should never have been allowed to join the examining panels. This in one move alienated me, for one.

I predict that in five years the organisation will have continued to shrink to the point where membership will have to more than double to keep this leaky ship afloat. In the meantime, is there another organisation that could do the one vital job properly? I refer to the need for an un-biased, professional organisation who will set, mark and administer graded tests in organ playing and church choir work.

What is needed are at least three grades of playing ability, preferably more. As has been pointed out, the need for academic aspects to these qualifications is less than it used to be. The FRCO was in some cases (like mine) an alternative to a university degree. I have seen it said in a recent post that the Burham committee no longer approve FRCO as a degree equivalent. Interesting, if true.

Not having written papers will reduce costs markedly and will increase the pool of those prepared to subject themselves to close professional scrutiny.
There are plenty of people who would like to improve their playing skills, particularly if there was a grade of qualification just within their grasp. These would also be paying fodder for master classes, courses etc. Please note, even when you've paid your (large) annual membershiop fee, you are still expected to pay more for day courses.

I would also recommend that (like FTCL, for instance) a panel of two examiners would be sufficient, provided that they are suitably qualified and approved themselves and that candidates remain anonymous (even hidded from the examiners) during performance and tests (where appropriate). Tests should be very limited in the early stages, sightreading, harmonisation at sight that sort of thing. The first qualification might come in at a level of playing difficulty around Grade 6 Associated Board, but might include skills useful in church like being able to play a hymn decently.

With such an examining method, scheme of work and syllabus, I don't think that the new organisation would have too much difficulty finding candidates. Whether it also needs to collect and retain subscribing members is an open question.


There are many good points here, Paul.

I think that it is quite possible that you are correct in your assesment of the short-term furture of the RCO. I have thought for some years that this body has become rather less of a driving force.

I would welcome the idea of the instigation of either a new set of qualifications, or perhaps, seeing the IAO examinations combined with the efforts of (for example) the St. Giles Organ School, in order to produce several levels of carefully-crafted examinations - which would be tailor-made to suit the needs of church musicians today.


Does St Giles really have anything to offer? Some of the teachers are of course very good, but I know a lot of people who lost all respect for St Giles when certain people started working for them.

Mmm, sausages for breakfast...


I have seen it said in a recent post that the Burham committee no longer approve FRCO as a degree equivalent. Interesting, if true.

Does the Burnham Committee still exist? I'm not sure, but I thought it was abolished under Thatcher and that these days teachers' salaries are governed by the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1991. If that's right and the Burnham Committee doesn't exist, it could hardly recognise the FRCO!

I understand that a statutory pay review body was established under the act. Presumably this fulfills a similar function. However, the qualifications recognised (or not recognised) by this committee would say nothing about the standard of those qualifications, but everything about how the government found ways of pruning the Treasury's outlay on the teachers' pay bill.

Paul recommends a new series of qualifications starting at grade 6. I am not sure I agree. Diplomas may be seen as elitist, but I happen to think that they should be. I do not see the point of having one at grade 6 standard. That used to be the level of the old ATCL diploma. I got it myself when I was about 16 and have always felt it was a bit fraudulent.

Is there room for a more practically orientated, gold-standard organ playing diploma? Possibly. But if it lacks the broad-based musicianship required by the current (and even more, the former) FRCO syllabus, I would suggest it can never hope to be held in the same regard.