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Mander Organs
Colin Harvey

Organ Accompaniment

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While listening to the rather stomach churning recordings at Kampen and Boswald on the Baroque organ tone thread, I came across this:

 

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=gI9G-yLx2wQ&NR=1

 

This impressed me even less than the very unpleasent playing at Kampen for a number of reasons.

 

Firstly, the organist's tempo is all over the place - there is no sense of moving forward with an underlying pulse - sometimes he tries to drag the congregation forward by playing slightly ahead of the beat but it's quite funny to notice how the congregation wins in the end.

 

Secondly, the congregation and organist are very much doing their own thing and the 2 activities don't really sound related at all. The organist is blasting away on all his Cavaille-Coll inspired reeds for all he's worth and yet it bears no relation to the chorale at all...

 

... which brings me onto the third point. Is it really necessary to play at that level of volume all the time? Yes, it's a big congregation and yes, it's Psalm 150 but to play on full Grande Orgue and Pedale anches all the time strikes me as ... insensitive, unmusical and immature. And the touch is not especially good. It sounds like the organist is too over-excited to be in control of what he is doing. This is a sign of immaturity or inexperience to me - after a while, the excitement of playing a really loud and exciting organ like this wears out and you're left with just playing the music...

 

I felt this accompaniment was at the expense of the singing - it draws attention away from the singing and the chorale to the unholy racket going on at the west end, when its function should be to accompany and lead. Not show-off.

 

Are there any other points people would make about this example? More to the point, do people have examples of good accompaniment they'd like to post or point at - either congregational or choral. It would be good to have examples from other cultures too, so we're not just sticking to Anglican Choral accompaniment and hymns.

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The recording is so bad that I do not venture to judge the balance between the the noise from the organ and the congregation's singing. But the rest of your comments are spot on.

 

Paul

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Mind you, this kind of crap is broadcast quite frequently on Dutch TV (and radio) and you'll find it also in a lot of the Dutch protestant churches.

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Guest Cynic
you should listen to what we have to put up with on Songs of Praise!

 

Or The Daily Service!

 

I'm still trying to work out which language the Daily Service Singers sing in. Who else has had the curious experience of listening in, only to fail to recognise something which turns out to be pretty familiar after a couple of minutes of concentration!

 

Sometimes they manage recognizeable English, but most often settle for a very curious variant upon it in which the letter i is always pronouced ee.

Characteristic phrases resulting from this treatment...

'no eel shall come...' (in Come Holy Ghost by Attwood)

and 'Leaving Lord' ...a modified version of Sidney Carter's well-known hymn.

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Guest Echo Gamba
and 'Leaving Lord' ...a modified version of Sidney Carter's well-known hymn.

 

Or even Patrick Appleford,! :o

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not all congregational singing in the Netherlands is that bad as the examples given here.

 

go here for example: http://www.ncrv.nl/ncrv?nav=ytynKsHtGATmKnJihGxhG

scroll down to 28 september 2008 and listen to psalm 91 (click "SPEEL AF) (beginning at 8.20)

 

admitted: this singing is with a conductor, but I've been singing like this (excluded the multiple voice bits) a lot of the time in my own congregation without a conductor.

 

Or listen to the first bit of 5 oktober 2008. Or even better the first bit of 12 oktober 2008!

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[edited blank] There must be a way to remove a post, but I haven't worked it out yet! A comment about Cynic upsetting the apple cart seemed less funny, when read three posts down, sorry... I'll get my coat :unsure:

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Or The Daily Service!

 

I'm still trying to work out which language the Daily Service Singers sing in. Who else has had the curious experience of listening in, only to fail to recognise something which turns out to be pretty familiar after a couple of minutes of concentration!

 

Sometimes they manage recognizeable English, but most often settle for a very curious variant upon it in which the letter i is always pronouced ee.

Characteristic phrases resulting from this treatment...

'no eel shall come...' (in Come Holy Ghost by Attwood)

and 'Leaving Lord' ...a modified version of Sidney Carter's well-known hymn.

 

I am pretty sure that

has been posted before but I think that it bears repeating ... :unsure:

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Or The Daily Service!

 

I'm still trying to work out which language the Daily Service Singers sing in. Who else has had the curious experience of listening in, only to fail to recognise something which turns out to be pretty familiar after a couple of minutes of concentration!

 

Sometimes they manage recognizeable English, but most often settle for a very curious variant upon it in which the letter i is always pronouced ee.

Characteristic phrases resulting from this treatment...

'no eel shall come...' (in Come Holy Ghost by Attwood)

and 'Leaving Lord' ...a modified version of Sidney Carter's well-known hymn.

Yes, as any well trained singer will tell you, it's rather difficult to sing a short "i" ... it's not really a singable vowel at all - a typically English amalgamation of 2 vowels in context. So most who've been professionally trained will tend towards an "ee" vowel, which is an easy and resonant vowel to sing.

 

not all congregational singing in the Netherlands is that bad as the examples given here.

 

go here for example: http://www.ncrv.nl/ncrv?nav=ytynKsHtGATmKnJihGxhG

scroll down to 28 september 2008 and listen to psalm 91 (click "SPEEL AF) (beginning at 8.20)

 

admitted: this singing is with a conductor, but I've been singing like this (excluded the multiple voice bits) a lot of the time in my own congregation without a conductor.

 

Or listen to the first bit of 5 oktober 2008. Or even better the first bit of 12 oktober 2008!

Thanks for posting this link - I enjoyed listening to the entire thing!

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Yes I have to agree with this, and I have many years of vocal coaching behind me, and hopefully a bit of singing still to do! A good vocal coach will help you to develop your maximum vocal range both in terms of compass and dynamics, and it's almost impossible to sing some vowels at the upper and lower limits of your voice without some alteration to the sound. Try singing 'oo' fortissimo on your highest note for example.

 

R

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Guest Cynic
Yes, as any well trained singer will tell you, it's rather difficult to sing a short "i" ... it's not really a singable vowel at all - a typically English amalgamation of 2 vowels in context. So most who've been professionally trained will tend towards an "ee" vowel, which is an easy and resonant vowel to sing.

 

 

I'm absolutely sure you're right, however, this practice can make a nonsense of the words.

Living Lord and Leaving Lord are theologically poles apart! Is the sense of the text more important than anything else? Well, I think it is.

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I'm absolutely sure you're right, however, this practice can make a nonsense of the words.

Living Lord and Leaving Lord are theologically poles apart! Is the sense of the text more important than anything else? Well, I think it is.

 

So what noise do you suggest the singers make for a minim then? To the best of my belief, the sound 'ih' only ever appears in the language as a short, almost percussive, bridge from one consonant to the next. To unnaturally stress it is poor word setting, and I'd rather have the vowel altered slightly to a gentle 'ee' than an ugly, football-crowd sound (which will also encourage appalling singing technique). But to overstress the alteration is also to sing badly.

 

In the case of the Daily Service, don't forget that the (probably quite nervous) singers will be concentrating terribly hard on singing to people in a building, whereas in reality they are probably quite close-miked. At a distance of 40 feet you wouldn't know there was any alteration to the vowel. At a distance of 2 feet you would.

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So what noise do you suggest the singers make for a minim then? To the best of my belief, the sound 'ih' only ever appears in the language as a short, almost percussive, bridge from one consonant to the next. To unnaturally stress it is poor word setting, and I'd rather have the vowel altered slightly to a gentle 'ee' than an ugly, football-crowd sound (which will also encourage appalling singing technique). But to overstress the alteration is also to sing badly.

I don't have a particularly beautiful singing voice, but I can make a quite pleasant sustained [ih] sound. Of course it would be hard on a high note. I think it is a cop out to say that good singers will refrain from intelligibility in order to protect their voice. Why is Dudley Moore imitating Peter Pears so funny? Because the vowel modifications are ridiculous.

 

Try saying, as though to a small child "The biiiig, baaaad, wolf." Now sing it. It's quite possible not to sing "the beeeeg, bahhhhd, wolf".

 

I wonder if the reason so many directors of musical theatre prefer to cast actors over trained singers for the leading roles in musicals because they are less likely to mangle the vowels. It might also be the reason musically uneducated clergy don't respond well to choirs. And I think this might be a particularly English thing - German choirs, for example, tend to sing the same vowels that they would speak.

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I'm sorry you thought I was copping out. You shouldn't be so dismissive however; English is a very cruel language to singers, with some of the hardest dipthongs. Not all alterations should be regarded as 'mangling' because of a few Italian waiter impersonators.

 

The offending note in Leaving Lord, for instance, is one which is particularly prone to being sung flat. Place it in combination with a vowel which is also prone to creating a flat sound, and you're gonna go flat. A subtle and slight inclination towards a smiley sound cures this problem instantly. Perhaps aiming for ih as in 'leering' rather than in 'leaving' would satisfy more ears.

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Guest Echo Gamba

This aint 'alf gone off topic!

 

I'm sure that we are all going to be on tenterhooks over the next few weeks whether singing or directing Darke or Holst (Eeeeen the bleak meedweeentaaah :unsure: )

 

Incidentally, has anyone come across a setting by Robert Walker? I had it on an LP from Norwich some years ago and rather liked it. If I remember rightly it is in 3/4 and started with quaver-quaver-crotchet-crotchet /

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My choir absolutely loves singing the Robert Walker setting of In the bleak midwinter; it is very popular. We have sheet music copies but it is also in David Hill's book "Noel!" Published by Novello, it includes the verse that Darke did not set (Angels and Archangels). Time signature is 5/4

 

As a matter of interest, my own singing teacher, who works with a lot of well known choirs both here and in the USA does nbot approve of altered vowels n high notes.

 

Malcolm

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Guest Echo Gamba
My choir absolutely loves singing the Robert Walker setting of In the bleak midwinter; it is very popular. We have sheet music copies but it is also in David Hill's book "Noel!" Published by Novello, it includes the verse that Darke did not set (Angels and Archangels). Time signature is 5/4

 

As a matter of interest, my own singing teacher, who works with a lot of well known choirs both here and in the USA does nbot approve of altered vowels n high notes.

 

Malcolm

 

Sorry; I mis-remembered the timing. It's years since I had a turntable on which to play my LP's. There was some nice stuff, slightly off the beaten track on that Norwich disc. (Including a very heartening ;) mistake in the acompaniment to "As with gladness"!)

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As a matter of interest, my own singing teacher, who works with a lot of well known choirs both here and in the USA does nbot approve of altered vowels n high notes.

 

How does this singing teacher cope with the totally different vowel sounds each side of the Atlantic? Or, for that matter, different accents in every region of every country?

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