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Guidance For Voluntaries During Lentq


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I'm dep'ing for a number of services during lent and would appreciate some advice on appropriate voluntaries.

 

Am I correct in assuming that it would be appropriate to "tone down" the voluntaries throughout lent? Or is this a progressive from Ash Wednesday onwards, culminating in more sombre and contemplative pieces for Holy Week?

 

Thanks in advance.

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

If you're deputising for Eucharists, you might like to know that Sundays are, stricly speaking, not part of Lent (count 40 days from Ash Wednesday and you'll see). The practice of omitting the Gloria in excelsis on Sundays is by no means universal for this reason. As a priest, I like something jolly and uplifting at the end of all eucharists. You could always ask the priest/minister about the themes you're likely to encounter. All the best

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I can echo the priest comments above, so I don't make too many adjustments after morning eucharist (though I did go through a phas of having a common theme, eg all Bach, all Buxtehude etc). Howvere, in the evening, I used to just play something quiet, often one of the Bach CP, or the Howells Psalm Preuldes that end softly. It was quite effective for the most part.

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Depends on your denomination: in the RC church the rubric is rather severe - instruments may be used during Lent only to support congregational singing. However, I doubt this is much observed: 10%* of RC musicians couldn't imagine Lent or Passiontide without Bach and turn a blind eye and in so doing probably compensate for the other 90% of churches without organists† and therefore which don't get voluntaries on any of the Sundays between January and December.

 

 

 

 

*The Book of Made Up Statistics ed Contrabordun, p35

†Ibid p38

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To get back to the question of what voluntaries to play, I second the suggestion of Bach, particularly:

 

O Mensch (of course!)

O Lamm Gottes (Orgelbüchlein)

Herzlich tut mich verlangen

 

But there are loads of others that are suitable too.

 

There are good preludes on the Passion Chorale by both Buxtehude and J. L. Krebs, neither of which is at all difficult (both are called Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder).

 

Much Howells is suitably sombre for Lenten use too, notably Master Tallis's Testament, the Fugue, Chorale and Epilogue or any of the psalm preludes except the last.

 

If you can do good left hand trills and ornaments the Tierce en taille from de Grigny's Premier Livre d'Orgue is heart-meltingly plangent. Alternatively, there's the similar movement from Couperin's Messe des Paroisses which has fewer ornaments.

 

If you are playing anywhere on Good Friday I strongly commend Parry's setting of "St Cross" (O come and mourn with me awhile) from his second set of Seven Chorale Preludes. Soundfile at the bottom of the page here (you may need to turn the bass down).

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Then there's BWV 745, the Chorale Prelude Aus der Tiefe rufe ich on the tune we use for Forty days and forty nights. Although among the Bach opera dubia, I personally think it's a very fine piece - it reminds me more of Brahms than Bach. Not sure who is currently favoured for the composer - W. F. Bach I believe. It might be hard to track down a copy - I tried online without success - but do if you can. It's in Lohmann's edition of Bach's organ works (Breitkopf).

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Much Howells is suitably sombre for Lenten use too, notably Master Tallis's Testament, the Fugue, Chorale and Epilogue or any of the psalm preludes except the last.

 

And the Sarabande in modo elegiaco.

 

Of course, there is, in transcription terms, the Haydn Seven words from the Cross, or perhaps a little after Lent?

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To get back to the question of what voluntaries to play, I second the suggestion of Bach,

Try the Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie sets from the Clavierubung III - glorious tortured chromatics at the end of the Second Pedaliter Kyrie.

 

I have used some of the elevation toccatas of Frescobaldi & Froberger; some of the gloomier parts of Vierne - eg Symp 1 movement 1; Elegy & Lied from 24 piece Op 31 etc.

 

There's also a rather nice treatment of Heinlein (40 days & 40 nights) by Leighton.

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And the Sarabande in modo elegiaco.

Which was originally titled 'Sarabande for Good Friday' to match the 'Sarabande for Easter'.

 

There's also the 2nd & 4th movements of the Partita, Psalm prelude set 2 no 1 and the second and third Rhapsodies.

 

And I alternate the Langlais setting of the Passion Chorale with the Crucifixion (3rd) movement of the Dupre Symphonie-Passion on Palm Sunday - its not that difficult once you've sorted out all the chromatics - and where to drop down the octave in the RH.

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hmmm...

 

I might be odd, but I like to do Alain's "Choral Dorien" on Ash Wednesday... it's been a few years, but I think I'll pull it out again...

 

Some of my upcoming Lenten service music:

- Langlais prelude on "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood"

- Bingham "Go to Dark Gethsemane"

- Wood "The Old Rugged Cross"

- Karg-Elert "Christ, Thou Lamb of God"

 

I'm just now filling out my music schedule until Easter... I must say I am

enjoying the opportunity to play more substantial stuff again... my last post

not many really seemed to care, so I gave up and resorted to improv-o-doodle

most of the time. This congregation is far more musically aware, and not only

enjoys good music, they expect it.

 

Some may think it in poor taste, but I'm seriously thinking of doing Faulkes "Hosanna"

on Palm Sunday... I've always wanted to do it, and I finally have an instrument that I

want to try it on.

 

Easter closing voluntary will probably be Daniel Gawthrop's "Toccata Brevis"... I would love to do Widor, and even toyed with Paponaud's Toccata (and read through a bit of it today), but alas, my technique is still recovering from 10 years of disuse.

 

I am pulling out the Koraal from Peeter's Suite Modale this Sunday - I've always wanted to play this in public, never have done it.

 

I'll stop rambling now....

 

- G

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I tend to prefer the 'great' minor preludes and fugues of Bach during Lent. I may also play certain movements from Vierne symphonies - for example, the Adagio from the Troisième Symphonie - which, I believe, is actually marked 'andante'.

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I'm dep'ing for a number of services during lent and would appreciate some advice on appropriate voluntaries.

 

Am I correct in assuming that it would be appropriate to "tone down" the voluntaries throughout lent? Or is this a progressive from Ash Wednesday onwards, culminating in more sombre and contemplative pieces for Holy Week?

 

Thanks in advance.

 

 

Or even have no organ music at all, apart from hymn accompaniments, if not throughout Lent, then certainly during Passiontide.

 

English congregations (C of E at least) seem to have lost the habit of sitting in silence before divine service, witness the mindless social chit-chat that ruins most of our efforts to set a suitably devotional mood through careful choice of voluntaries each week. Perhaps Lent should be an opportunity for incumbents to introduce the notion of 'Speak to God before the service and to each other afterwards'.

 

To file out in silence for 5 or 6 Sundays a year would be a salutory reminder of what this penetential season is all about. The triumph of Easter then becomes all the more powerful with the joyful return of music.

 

JS

 

(I think I'd better run for cover now ......)

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I just leaf through my considerable stock of music, and pick out the miserable pieces I never normally play.

 

After Mass, I just go for gravity.

 

MM

 

Oh dear - Lent is meant to be thoughtful, not miserable. I would be happy to hear/play any of the suggestions, particularly those of Vox and pcnd.

 

The RC church's strictures on the use of the organ during Lent are perhaps too hard, but occasionally the best voluntary during this season is no voluntary at all if your clergy and congregation are capable of observing a reflective silence. :)

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The RC church's strictures on the use of the organ during Lent are perhaps too hard, but occasionally the best voluntary during this season is no voluntary at all if your clergy and congregation are capable of observing a reflective silence. :)

 

Impossible in most RC churches Patrick!

 

Peter

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Which was originally titled 'Sarabande for Good Friday' to match the 'Sarabande for Easter'.

 

 

I find this a very interesting comment. I'm not disputing it for one moment - it makes perfect sense - but I'd be grateful for some kind of reference or authority. Hopefully, you can remember where you saw it. Thanks.

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Oh dear - Lent is meant to be thoughtful, not miserable. I would be happy to hear/play any of the suggestions, particularly those of Vox and pcnd.

 

The RC church's strictures on the use of the organ during Lent are perhaps too hard, but occasionally the best voluntary during this season is no voluntary at all if your clergy and congregation are capable of observing a reflective silence. :lol:

 

How about a sermon-free Lent, too?

:lol:

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Guest Barry Oakley
Oh dear - Lent is meant to be thoughtful, not miserable. I would be happy to hear/play any of the suggestions, particularly those of Vox and pcnd.

 

The RC church's strictures on the use of the organ during Lent are perhaps too hard, but occasionally the best voluntary during this season is no voluntary at all if your clergy and congregation are capable of observing a reflective silence. :lol:

 

 

I certainly agree they are much too hard. The Benedictine abbey where I attend Mass only uses the organ strictly for the liturgy durin Lent - there's no music before or after the service. However, when I sang in the choir of St Marie's RC Cathedral, Sheffield, some years ago it was strictly a short piece of Bach only during Lent for the voluntary. I do feel, though, that a quiet voluntary can often be a positive aid to reflection.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
How about a sermon-free Lent, too?

:lol:

 

With my usual modesty I have to say that I have offered on several Sundays in both my churches to skip the sermon, only to be told that it would be unacceptable as people look forward to it (this isn't from selected fans I hasten to add). Perhaps the suggestion could be made to your own clergy if the cap fits?

 

 

It doesn't surprise me to hear from others that reflective silence is seldom possible. Wall-to-wall sound masks those inner promptings that might be uncomfortable to hear, especially in Lent! And, of course, if clergy are not talking, they won't feel in control of proceedings...

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I do feel, though, that a quiet voluntary can often be a positive aid to reflection.

Perhaps there is scope here for the organist and priest to come to an agreement that, at the end of Eucharist and Evensong the congregation will remain seated and reflective while the organist plays a quiet outgoing voluntary such as Bach's Liebster Jesu, or the Bach/Krebs double-pedal setting of An Wasserflüssen Babylon. Now that would put the cat among the pigeons.

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With my usual modesty I have to say that I have offered on several Sundays in both my churches to skip the sermon, only to be told that it would be unacceptable as people look forward to it (this isn't from selected fans I hasten to add). Perhaps the suggestion could be made to your own clergy if the cap fits?

 

Actually, by far the worst are visiting clergy, who are unable to grasp, so it would seem, that we normally follow the Mass with a Choral Matins and there simply is not time for a sermon which lasts at least twenty-two minutes. Aside from the fact that I view this as sheer self-indulgence on the part of the preacher in question, it means that we start Matins somewhat later than the advertised time. This also affects the start of the said Mass at noon - which also has to begin late.

 

Apparently, our Rector does warn visiting clergy that the sermon should last no longer than ten minutes. I can only assume that they either forget - or choose to ignore - his request.

 

I suspect that the only solution is a trapdoor in the pulpit - controlled by a draw-stop on the organ console. Now before anyone calls for a similar device for the organist, I do not keep my clergy waiting. In fact, when I played for Mass at Santiago di Compostela last October, I frequently had to stop (and commence) playing at, literally, five seconds' notice. Whilst starting in such a way is not too difficult, has anyone else here ever tried terminating an improvisation in a satisfying manner within three to five seconds?

 

Not so easy, is it?

 

:lol:

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Actually, by far the worst are visiting clergy, who are unable to grasp, so it would seem, that we normally follow the Mass with a Choral Matins and there simply is not time for a sermon which lasts at least twenty-two minutes. Aside from the fact that I view this as sheer self-indulgence on the part of the preacher in question, it means that we start Matins somewhat later than the advertised time. This also affects the start of the said Mass at noon - which also has to begin late.

 

Yes, absolutely. I have two churches on a Sunday morning. The second is a village which can only be approached through long narrow country roads, and is a good fifteen minutes' drive at best. The fact that this village also has a couple of caravan parks on the outskirts and that, in the summer, there are often delays as caravans meet whilst coming in opposite directions, I seldom arrive before 11a.m., often later. It's incredibly frustrating watching motorists who probably tow their caravans once per year repeatedly reversing in the wrong direction, turning their steering wheels in the same (wrong) direction again and expecting not to hit the hedge for the umpteenth time. :lol: Last year we had a horsebox and a caravan jam together. Having waited in a queue for about fifteen minutes, I eventually managed to turn the car around having done something like a 27-point turn in order to approach the village from another lane. As I squeezed through the large queue I came across not only the vicar, but the associate priest, and the bishop who was visiting us that morning, all stuck in the queue. I think we started the service something like half an hour late!

 

Back to the point. I always ask visiting preachers at my first church to keep their sermon within 10 minutes, and remind them that I have another job to get to. Some of them are very good, and some are awful. I think a lot of them are used to preaching to small congregations and, when faced with a congregation much larger than they're used to, view it as an opportunity to show off to a large captive audience. Last year, one of them, after preaching the world's most boring and incoherent sermon for 25 minutes said "I'd better stop in a few minutes or the organist will say that I've gone on too long". I was about to reply when one of the congregation beat me to it and loudly said "You have!". Bless them!

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