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Can we add to this, no rallentandos at the end of any verses, apart from the last one? Places where this is done, you end up starting the next verse at the speed you finished the last one, and invariably the hymn gets slower and slower.

 

Anyone like to make any other points on playovers? e.g, there are one or two hymns where I play the last line rather than the first one/two as the tune modulates to a distant key? I'm thinking Woodlands and Michael where I normally play the last line.

 

I agree with you regarding Woodlands and Michael - I also play the last two lines when introducing Highwood (NEH320), and give a whole verse playover for Martins (NEH446).

 

G

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Incidentally, at our All Age Eucharist yesterday we did "Holy, Holy, Holy...." to the tune "Tersanctus". Anyone remember that one?

 

G

 

Yuk

:angry:

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I quite often solo the tenor - is this as common a practice as it was when I first started playing in churches?

 

Peter

 

I still do it - sometimes an octave up. Our organist often solos the melody but I have never fully mastered this!

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Anyone like to make any other points on playovers? e.g, there are one or two hymns where I play the last line rather than the first one/two as the tune modulates to a distant key? I'm thinking Woodlands and Michael where I normally play the last line.

Whilst it is often more musically satisfatory to play the last line as a play-over, may I humbly suggest that it is not the primary purpose of play-overs to be artistic. As Wolsey mentioned, the purpose of the play-over is to establish the speed and remind the congregation of the melody - to encourage them to begin singing as effectively as possible. I am firmly of the view that this is best done by reminding them how they are to begin singing, not how they are to finish.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Whilst it is often more musically satisfatory to play the last line as a play-over, may I humbly suggest that it is not the primary purpose of play-overs to be artistic. As Wolsey mentioned, the purpose of the play-over is to establish the speed and remind the congregation of the melody - to encourage them to begin singing as effectively as possible. I am firmly of the view that this is best done by reminding them how they are to begin singing, not how they are to finish.

Surely you are leading them in?

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For starting hymns gathering notes :P were once widely used and effective with large congregations in large buildings.

 

But this practice has died out since the late 70s. Why is this? ;)

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Exactly! ;)

 

...and to lead them in is best done not by starting and then stopping half way through, but by simulating the conditions in which they start in each verse.

 

Reflecting on this discussion and especially your comment on artistry, I wonder if you might not have put your finger on a major difference between now and the time when gathering notes &c were widespread. Where many if not most churches provided offerings of anthems, motets, service settings &c., today in most churches the hymn (or the chorus) is the only musical offering, and is led by the instrumentalist not a group of singers. Would that this were not so, but given this situation, is it really surprising that we should look for some artistry to lighten the proceedings? If the hymn singing and playing is dull and mechanical, it is hard to make the rest of the worship anything different.

 

I have one church where the organist uses some artistry and flair, and another where everything is four-square (and the organ allows for little more). I know which one is easier to lead worship in! (of course, a good choir in either of them would move the goalposts, but that's one for the future!)

:P

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But what speed do you expect them to sing at - that of the 'playover' or the speed at the end of the 'rall' and how would they know??

I think it's a matter of 'know your audience'.. an authoritarian approach may work well in an unfamiliar church, but again if they are fighting you all the way into the second verse and beyond, perhaps for the sake of a good service, it might be better to give in and observe the 'house style'...

 

As for me, being in my post for 7+ years, we just adapt to each other I think. If I'm not hungover on a Sunday morning, my tempi are brisk and if I'm tired at evensong they are more relaxed. And yes, I admit I like to rall a bit at the end of the playover.. The cong will already have heard you play the opening phrase or two in tempo, so they are hardly going to forget that by the time the playover comes to an end!

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...and to lead them in is best done not by starting and then stopping half way through

I disagree. Congregations are not musically sophisticated. Some members will quite possibly not really be interested in the music at all. Very few of them will actually be alert to the extent any self-respecting musician would like them to be. In fact, you'll be lucky if they are concentrating at all. Their general attitude is typified by the fact that, unless they have been trained otherwise, they will still be in the process of standing up when the singing starts. I'm sorry, but I genuinely cannot understand why anyone should think that playing the end of the hymn is the most effective way to remind them of what they are supposed to be doing. The average congregation doesn't give a fig as to whether or not there's a smooth transition from the play-over to the first verse; they just want to know what the tune is.

 

I think it's a matter of 'know your audience'.. an authoritarian approach may work well in an unfamiliar church, but again if they are fighting you all the way into the second verse and beyond, perhaps for the sake of a good service, it might be better to give in and observe the 'house style'...

Well, yes. Since I was the one who used the word "authoritarian" I should perhaps qualify it by saying that that doesn't mean ignoring what your congregation are doing. It's no good just ignoring them and ploughing on regardless, hoping they'll catch up, because they won't. If you want to herd sheep you have to stay with the flock!

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Agree wholeheartedly on rallentandos. There's nothing worse than being unsure of the speed. Things that might work for effect when music is being conducted don't always work when people have to listen to the organ and each other and are getting conflicting signals.

 

Playovers - much better to use final phrases to run in than just the first couple of lines - although sometimes a full verse can work, especially with a piece only recently learned by a congregation!

 

As for the comments made earlier on 8' foundations and rich backgrounds - that's fine when a congregation is being led by a choir or by individuals who know what they're doing. But where the organ has to lead then fewer tied notes and brighter registrations make a huge difference.

 

We have quite an elderly congregation who need time to find the hymn they are going to sing. There are two choices.

 

1. Reasonable play over and start the first two lines with only half the congregation.

 

2. Longish playover and pander to the `ancients' and it's `all together now!'.

 

Whatever I do though I don't lose tempo between playover and hymn. Strict tempo at all times.

 

What's your choice?

 

FF

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I disagree. Congregations are not musically sophisticated. Some members will quite possibly not really be interested in the music at all. Very few of them will actually be alert to the extent any self-respecting musician would like them to be. In fact, you'll be lucky if they are concentrating at all. Their general attitude is typified by the fact that, unless they have been trained otherwise, they will still be in the process of standing up when the singing starts. I'm sorry, but I genuinely cannot understand why anyone should think that playing the end of the hymn is the most effective way to remind them of what they are supposed to be doing. The average congregation doesn't give a fig as to whether or not there's a smooth transition from the play-over to the first verse; they just want to know what the tune is.

 

If I believed what you say about the 'average congregation' then my conclusion would be that the whole enterprise is a waste of time. Since I am still in holy orders after 25 years, and still play to accompany hymns from time to time after 35 or more years doing it, it suggests I don't share this viewpoint. Perhaps the giveaway is the 'unless they have been trained otherwise' - it's up to those who lead music and those leading worship to make sure they are trained. And if they are not 'musically sophisticated' is that a reason not to expose them to a musical approach with some style and/or panache? I don't think so!

 

Actually I find it really hard to believe that your congregations are really as you say, or the hymn singing would be dire. Meanwhile, since the technique I have been using seems to help foster alert and interested singing here (and in other places I've used it/seen it used) we'll carry on that way.

;)

 

 

 

We have quite an elderly congregation who need time to find the hymn they are going to sing. There are two choices.

 

1. Reasonable play over and start the first two lines with only half the congregation.

 

2. Longish playover and pander to the `ancients' and it's `all together now!'.

 

Whatever I do though I don't lose tempo between playover and hymn. Strict tempo at all times.

 

What's your choice?

 

FF

 

I think the choice is whatever works in the context, and if it can be made to have some style as well, so much the better!

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Guest drd

The idea, as I understand it, is to set up the conditions where the congregation, or members of it, are not even aware of breathing together ready to sing. If the playover is rhythmic, with good phrasing and pulse, the subliminal signals sent out by it will enable the congregation to do this.

 

In order to send those subliminal signals, it's important to regard the entire hymn - from the start of the playover to the end of the reverberation after the last chord of the last verse - as one piece of music, not something segmentalised.

 

I think all the various suggestions which work in practice do this.

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I'm sorry, but I genuinely cannot understand why anyone should think that playing the end of the hymn is the most effective way to remind them of what they are supposed to be doing. The average congregation doesn't give a fig as to whether or not there's a smooth transition from the play-over to the first verse; they just want to know what the tune is.

Absolutely true - on the many occasions when you need to tell them what the tune is.

 

But I don't think there's a single one of our congregation who needs telling how Woodlands goes, for example. If it says 422 on the boards and it's just been announced as 'Tell out my soul', then I'll choose the final two lines as the playover. It sounds so much better, sets the tempo just as well, and doesn't pose any difficulties for the congregation. (Same goes for other old favourites like Blaenwern, Abbot's Leigh, and dare I say it, Sh*ne Jesus Sh*ne...)

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Absolutely true - on the many occasions when you need to tell them what the tune is.

and dare I say it, Sh*ne Jesus Sh*ne...)

 

It was all going so well........ ;)

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Guest Lee Blick
For starting hymns gathering notes :P were once widely used and effective with large congregations in large buildings.

 

But this practice has died out since the late 70s. Why is this? ;)

 

I had to do this in one parish. It was quite a big church and if I didin't do a gathering note it would be about halfway through the verse before the congregation caught up!

 

Somtimes if it is an important service and hymn is familiar to everyone, including the church cat, I do a little fanfare or an short intro twiddle leading into the the playover. Who else likes doing this? What hymns do you do it to?

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Somtimes if it is an important service and hymn is familiar to everyone, including the church cat, I do a little fanfare or an short intro twiddle leading into the the playover. Who else likes doing this? What hymns do you do it to?

 

The introduction and setting of Angel Voices by Colin Mawby (I think) is great fun if not in the most impeccable taste. ;) After hearing it, I've always thought the hymn to be poorer without it, which I suppose is the most important criterion.

 

Oh, and the introduction to Lord of the Dance is essential - a standard playover, two beats and in kills it. I played it at Winchester a few years back for their Sunday morning service, which was attended by (amongst others) massed morris dancers :P I'll never forget the nave filled with jingling as they sang that hymn...

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More thoughts on hymns in general as the discussion seems to have widened:

 

-Gathering notes: As a teenager I did mornings for the Anglicans and evenings for the non-conformists and gathering notes were a big no no in the morning, and a yes yes in the evening. Perhaps that is still the case, even if it is a slight generalisation

 

-Fanfares/twiddly intros: Special occasions only, rarity value important. Never during Advent or Lent, always did it on Easter morning for Jesus Christ is ris'n to day, often when have Crown him with many crowns or suchlike. I must even admit to the ultimate bad taste very very occasionally of having the last verse up a semitone after a suitably subtle modulating passage. However, only for Love Divine (Blaenwern), Jesus Christ is risn today (means cong have to go for top F for Now above the sky he's king, very effective) and At the name of Jesus (but only if forced to have it to Camberwell).

 

-Last line playovers: Again, not very often, and I've already mentioned Woodlands and Michael for harmony reasons, but if the cong already know the tune very well, I don't see a problem, it adds a bit of variety. I do it for Gopsal and for Darwalls 148th as well. And I agree with Lord of the Dance last line.

 

-I know Shine Jesus Shine has its detractors and it doesn't work in every parish situation, but my cong always joined in enthusiastically with it, and it IS possible to play it well on the organ, despite lots of people (including clergy) saying it only works on the piano.

 

-Inevitably this will all lead on to last verse reharmonisations. Again, doesn't need to be done for every hymn. But I'm in favour. I'm amazed how many hymns CDs by very reputable cathedral choirs with very talented organists and excellent choirs are hugely dull and conservative when it comes to recordings.

 

-What about 'covering the action' at the end of the offertory? I've heard very bad attempts and its better to have silence, I think, even if the clergy complain.

 

Thoughts?

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Sorry to have left this discussion due to my sunday concert...

 

Regarding playover* speed and rallentando:

 

A little rallentando does NOT disturb singing in the RIGHT speed (i. e. that of the playover before braking...)

Why?

Like at conducting, the speed of a piece is controlled by the upbeat, the "Avviso" like some say, the beat before the first sounding beat (am lacking better vocabulary...).

Regarding the organ, this upbeat is represented by the GAP between the end of the last note of the playover and the entrance of the hymn.

 

I used to teach that a rallentando is sometimes bad taste and at most times a functional risk, as some of you have explained.

But having attended many exams and many more services (and played...), I was very curios, why it DID work, even with rallentando or with DIFFERENT SPEED at the playover.

 

The "power" of the gap was the explanation.

 

Many of you will agree, that the gap between end of a verse and start of the next should not last a something, but one correct pulse of the music, be it a 1/4 or a 1/2 note. This may optionally result in an extended measure at the end, having a 5/4 or 6/4 final measure in a 4/4 piece.

 

Although it is right that a concregation is widely free of musical education, there is much musical instinct. I found many congregations who would establish a better rhythm and speed stability than the organist who led them...

 

*) I hope I got it right as the introduction to a hymn? Never discussed this issues in English... ;)

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and it's just been announced as 'Tell out my soul'

and another thing - (as I've quite obviously been outvoted re rall at end of playover - not that i'm going to stop doing it!) - why announce hymns? It's on the board, the playover is rolling...we do the same thing every week...ok, there might be some newcomers or infrequent visitors, but everybody else is opening the hymn books (well, not in the Catholic church I play in, but that's a different story).

 

But if we must have hymns announced, can we please not read the entire first verse out? And above all, not with long pauses between the lines so you never know if it's time to start or not.

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Guest Lee Blick
But if we must have hymns announced, can we please not read the entire first verse out?

 

Ugh. That would wind me up no end. As if the congregation are unable to read it for themselves...

 

I went to play for a service where that happened. I pretended not to realise it was happening and started the playover anyway ;)

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Guest Patrick Coleman
and another thing - (as I've quite obviously been outvoted re rall at end of playover - not that i'm going to stop doing it!) - why announce hymns? It's on the board, the playover is rolling...we do the same thing every week...ok, there might be some newcomers or infrequent visitors, but everybody else is opening the hymn books (well, not in the Catholic church I play in, but that's a different story).

 

But if we must have hymns announced, can we please not read the entire first verse out? And above all, not with long pauses between the lines so you never know if it's time to start or not.

 

Unnecessary interpolations (including announcing hymns) in liturgical services irritate me beyond! ;)

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The introduction and setting of Angel Voices by Colin Mawby (I think) is great fun if not in the most impeccable taste. B) After hearing it, I've always thought the hymn to be poorer without it, which I suppose is the most important criterion.

 

Does it work on your average two-manual Hele? :P

 

-Gathering notes: As a teenager I did mornings for the Anglicans and evenings for the non-conformists and gathering notes were a big no no in the morning, and a yes yes in the evening. Perhaps that is still the case, even if it is a slight generalisation

 

Gathering notes are surely the epitome of bad practice in hymn playing. I thought the habit was long dead and buried, but no! A pupil of mine who plays at our local methodist church met a lady organist from elsewhere on the circuit who was surprised to learn that he didn't use gathering notes - but I believe the lady in question had never had any formal training in how to play an organ. That's the only instance of it that I have encountered round here - though I daresay it goes on in a few places behind closed doors. :)

 

-Inevitably this will all lead on to last verse reharmonisations. Again, doesn't need to be done for every hymn. But I'm in favour.

 

I agree. Like fanfares and descants* their effectiveness is in inverse proportion to their use. One or two per service is probably quite enough, in my view (though I'm a bit of a hypocrite since I've often been known to use two in a Communion service). Nothing is worse than that sinking, "here we go again" feeling you get when it's done for nearly every hymn. It wouldn't be so bad if they were done well, but most aren't. More than once I have heard organists try to improvise a reharmonisation spontaneously and get thoroughly lost with most unedifying results. But we had a thread on this recently.

 

* I disagree with Gordon Reynolds who held that that descants are the biggest church nuisance after pigeons. They're far, far worse than pigeons. (Christmas carols excepted.)

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As if the congregation are unable to read it for themselves...

Ah, yes, now you come to mention it, maybe there is a good reason after all.

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