Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Recommended Posts

many spend a lot more of their time accompanying hymns, psalms, canticles and anthems
and I, for one, actually enjoy it more than playing voluntaries. Most other musicians do most of their playing in groups - I enjoy the aspect of making music with other people.
Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a certain beauty attached to accompnying a good choir for sure. Evensong on a summers evening with proper (non kendrick-ised) music is really one of the great pleasures in life.

 

One of the favourite services i ever had the pleasure of accompnying had:

Smith Responces

Psalm 147 ( Stanford)

Wood in D (underated)

Evening Hymn (B-Gardiner)

and a piece of Stanford to finish with.

 

Not exactly shine jesus shine is it?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Does anyone agree that the art of accompanying is somewhat ignored in all the diploma exams?
I had not realised until I checked just now that it has been dropped from the new RCO choral directing diploma. In the old choir training diploma the candidate was required to accompany an anthem.

 

The more I think about it the more I am surprised that this art is so neglected by the examining bodies. There are some organists who can play very well, but have little idea about accompanying. Last year I attended a special choral evensong (not on home territory), beautifully sung by an augmented church choir accompanied by an organist from another church in the area. He played excellently, but he effectively sabotaged the whole service by turning it into an organ concerto with choir accompaniment. He played so loudly that I could hardly hear the singers at all.

 

And there are other aspects of the skill that could be examined as well, such as incorporating the vocal parts into the accompaniment when necessary at rehearsals and how to turn those accursed piano reductions in vocal scores into an effective organ texture with some sensitivity for the original orchestral colours (which of course requires knowing the original).

Link to post
Share on other sites
I appreciate that it would be much harder to teach and examine choral accompaniment,

 

I'm not so sure about this. To me the basic principles are

 

- You accompany the choir

- This is done sensitivly, neither too loud nor too soft (unless indicated on the score, i have seen mp below an F vocal line)

- If a part is 'faltering' the ability to help them out through a subtle addition of their notes to the organ accompniment.

- Following a conductor for ralls, gaps (Think Stanford in C, could you play that 'as written' B))

- In psalms, appropriate 'word painting'

 

Is any of that really too hard to test? possible solutions to me would be (for each point)

 

- an assessment of a prepared piece

- as above

- self explanatory, have a 'weak' part, for example an exposed treble solo, that needs 'propping up'

- A piece with ralls, and breaks, possibly with the conductor leaving an extra long gap to check the altertness of the candidate.

- Playing of a psalm.

 

my tuppence worth anyway

-

Link to post
Share on other sites
Does anyone agree that the art of accompanying is somewhat ignored in all the diploma exams?

 

I should have thought that whilst all organists get to play their cherished works from time to time, many spend a lot more of their time accompanying hymns, psalms, canticles and anthems, and often play their voluntaries only to the backs of the departing congregation.

 

I appreciate that it would be much harder to teach and examine choral accompaniment, but that doesn't seem to me to be quite sufficient an excuse to examine accompanists on their ability as recitalists (if you see what I mean).

 

J

I quite agree - the accompaniments matter far more - though when people discuss broadcasts of Choral Evensong the playing usually only gets mentioned in terms of the voluntary. I certainly spend more time on the choral stuff and have, occasionally, changed a voluntary because there wasn't sufficient preparation time left.

 

There are Piano Accompaniment diplomas (bring your own soloists usually) and there are Post Graduate courses on this eg at the RAM. It would be possible to do an Organ Accompaniment diploma (logistically nearly the same as providing a suitable choir for DipCHD). Of couse one might argue the CertRCO/ARCO should be re-aligned in this direction too (less 2-part transposing, more hymn/chant playing) but that's ground we've been over before.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's only harder because you'd have to get about a dozen people together to form the choir, and they then have to do their thing differently with however many ARCO (or whatever) candidates there are in a given exam, rather than simply keep repeating the same performance irrespective of the organist and the DoM.

 

It's an issue of practicalities, I think, and I think it's tricky.

 

Visiting prospective ARCOs (or whatever) in situ might be an option but not every prospective ARCO (o.w.) regularly plays with a decent DoM and choir, so that isn't really a level playing field either.

 

Here are some skills which I think go unnoticed and, possibly, unappreciated by most, and certainly unexamined.

 

The ability to hear what the choir is doing, identify what's wrong and know where the DoM is likely to go back to so that you can reset the registration, provide the notes and be ready to play before the DoM says anything. (To an infrequent page-turner like me, this looks like mind reading!)

 

The ability to know most of the music pretty much by heart so that you can play it whilst looking neither at the music nor the console but at a little CCTV monitor featuring the DoM. (I have witnessed a Grade 8 Dist. accompany a choir (in a fairly undemanding Stanford which they had had 2 months to prepare) and be 2 bars behind the choir within a couple of pages.

 

The feeling and touch to accompany soloists. (That seems a bit wishy-washy, so what do I mean? I think it's about being prepared to accept that someone else has centre stage but being utterly content to act in a supporting role with just as much skill, dedication and musicianship as the soloist themselves whilst appreciating that ones effort is likely to go unnoticed. 'Touch' isn't about dynamics in this case but about the flexibility to anticipate and therefore stay in synch with a soloist whose interpretation of the rhythm might be imaginative.)

 

The ability to shepherd a congregation of hundreds through a Venite (or Credo) and have everyone finish in the same place, together.

 

The facility to give well-meaning, far-from-competent choirs who don't have a DoM the confidence to go for it and know that at the end of it everything will sound fine because the organist is solid.

 

J

Link to post
Share on other sites
The ability to hear what the choir is doing, identify what's wrong and know where the DoM is likely to go back to so that you can reset the registration, provide the notes and be ready to play before the DoM says anything. (To an infrequent page-turner like me, this looks like mind reading!)

 

The ability to know most of the music pretty much by heart so that you can play it whilst looking neither at the music nor the console but at a little CCTV monitor featuring the DoM. (I have witnessed a Grade 8 Dist. accompany a choir (in a fairly undemanding Stanford which they had had 2 months to prepare) and be 2 bars behind the choir within a couple of pages.

 

J

 

Much of what you say is sensible. However, two points occur to me. With regard to your first point above, eighteen years' experience has shown me that this is never easy to predict. Quite often my own boss will not wish to look back at a section simply to correct inaccurate note-reading; this is often tackled in the Song School afterwards. He may, in fact, wish to give a particular passage a different dynamic or perhaps adjust the speed a little. It is not always possible to know where he may wish to return, in any case - there may be other things which he wishes to correct - no-one notices everything and each person (here I am thinking of the Director of Music and the Organist) will have different criterior by which he judges the minutiae of errors and interpretations.

 

Your second point: being able to know the repertoire from memory is a luxury, believe me. I do not have the time to practise daily (usually about once or twice a week, from mid-evening). Since I have a number of choral services (and voluntaries) to prepare, I therefore must practise effectively. Naturally there is much repertoire which does not need to be practised; Generally, I do not need to practise settings of the evening canticles, for example. Last Sunday evening I learnt the canticle setting during the full practice immediately before the service. Fortunately it was easy (Batten Fourth Service) so I could sight-read it. However, if it had been awkward, I would have had to do the best I could under the circumstances. Given the hours which I work and the notice of impending music which I usually receive (despite being the person who also types, prints and duplicates the music-lists), sometimes highly-practised accompaniments are not an option.

 

I count amongst my friends a number of cathedral organists and organists who, like me, play regularly in one of England's 'greater churches'. I do not know anyone who watches the conductor all the time - or even most of the time. In any case, this is not strictly necessary. Whilst the conductor needs the freedom to alter tempi or dynamics, etc, during the performance, common sense dictates that there are likely to be long sections in which it would be lacking in taste to pull the speed around, for example.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...