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Skills Test Help Please


Bevington
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I wonder if anyone can suggest, please, whether there are any websites with free downloadable transposition exercises for organists? I have gone through my Sumsion, Wilkinson, Lang, Hunt (etc) books and have started them over again. Hymnbooks tend to have too much that is familiar for a church organist. I need fresh material, although I suppose Bach chorales would provide some challenges! There is no real music shop in the town where I live - in fact in a town of 18 000 I am the only organist and have the only church choir . . . but where I am organist I can at least enjoy practising on either a 1922, 40 stop Willis, and a single manual 1845 Bevington. It's amazing what kind of instruments reach Australia! The 'free downloadable' part is because I am basically a freelance professional musician, and that can have an interesting effect on income . . . Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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I wonder if anyone can suggest, please, whether there are any websites with free downloadable transposition exercises for organists? I have gone through my Sumsion, Wilkinson, Lang, Hunt (etc) books and have started them over again. Hymnbooks tend to have too much that is familiar for a church organist. I need fresh material, although I suppose Bach chorales would provide some challenges! There is no real music shop in the town where I live - in fact in a town of 18 000 I am the only organist and have the only church choir . . . but where I am organist I can at least enjoy practising on either a 1922, 40 stop Willis, and a single manual 1845 Bevington. It's amazing what kind of instruments reach Australia! The 'free downloadable' part is because I am basically a freelance professional musician, and that can have an interesting effect on income . . . Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

 

The Werrner Icking Music Archive and the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) offer free downloads of music over a very wide range, and I am sure than you could find a lot of music on these sites for transposition - by the way, are you working towards an exam or is this for personal satisfaction? Whatever, good luck (and welcome to this forum!)

 

Peter

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The Werrner Icking Music Archive and the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) offer free downloads of music over a very wide range, and I am sure than you could find a lot of music on these sites for transposition - by the way, are you working towards an exam or is this for personal satisfaction? Whatever, good luck (and welcome to this forum!)

 

Peter

Thanks Peter, and for such a quick reply! I have briefly checked the suggested sites and there is certainly stuff that is of use. I am indeed working for an exam: did a music degree 20+ years ago, but various skills need considerable revising to reach exam standard. It's funny how one can comfortably score read in a choir rehearsal, or transpose, but to sit and test yourself with an exam style exercise creates such different expectations. Also, as I mentioned, I am the only organist in a rural town of 18 000, the nearest capital city being three hours away, so one really has to be self motivated and disciplined.

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At the risk of repeating myself, can I offer some advice on transposition for exams that I have given elsewhere in this forum (with particular reference to the RCO exams).

 

The best transposition exercises are real music, rather than hymn tunes or exercises written for the purpose of transposition. I have received this advice time and time again, starting with John Scott years ago, and with every teacher and examiner I have subsequently spoken to.

 

The musical reason for this is that in an exam, the examiners will award a basic pass mark for accuracy, but you get the extra marks for playing with musical feeling ; they will be looking for phrasing, shape and articulation rather than just a robotic but accurate performance.

 

Obviously, it is much more enjoyable as well to transpose real music rather than exercise music, and it probably includes greater chromatic challenges as well, which you can grade yourself. For my ARCO I transposed the more chromatic movements of Vierne's 24 Pieces en style libre, whilst for my FRCO I transposed my way through all of Reger's chorale preludes.

 

Once you become more confident, start to transpose your vocal score and figured bass exercises as well. Put deliberate obstacles in your way so that 'simply' transposing seems simple by comparison.

 

If you are feeling brave, force yourself to transpose a hymn in a service just for the sake of it. It is nerve - racking, but it will improve your confidence no end. In the three months running up to RCO exams, I made it a point of principle never to play any service music in the actual key in which it was written.

 

I hope these thoughts help ; very best of luck.

 

Mark B

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Not downloadable, but a very suitable source of transposition material the chorale preludes Op.34 by Carl Piutti, published in three volumes by Bärenreiter. None of the pieces are long and none are very difficult. Vol. 1, which contains the best pieces, contains little if anything above grade 6 standard. A lot of the pieces have been transposed down in this modern reprint (to suit modern hymn books, I assume), often with dire results to the bass line, so it's good practice to transpose them back up again!

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At the risk of repeating myself, can I offer some advice on transposition for exams that I have given elsewhere in this forum (with particular reference to the RCO exams).

 

The best transposition exercises are real music, rather than hymn tunes or exercises written for the purpose of transposition. I have received this advice time and time again, starting with John Scott years ago, and with every teacher and examiner I have subsequently spoken to.

Hear, hear. For some people, other practice opportunities for transposing 'real' music might present themselves, e.g. accompanying a singer in a song which is set in an uncomfortable key; an exam candidate who turns up for a run-through with part and piano accompaniment in mis-matching keys; a church service - usually of readings and music - where achieving key relationships between items may necessitate transposition.

 

Incidentally, with current informed thought in some quarters about Tudor church music being that it should sound approximately a tone higher than it originally appeared in its sources (check the prefatory stave), try playing through the given organ or rehearsal part down a semitone if the editor's cranked it up a minor 3rd.

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For prep for my FRCO, I found the AB grade 4 and 5 list very useful (though not free) in terms of practice. I agree with the comments about real music being the important quality. Remenschnieder and hymn tunes had been recommended, but there was far too much familiarity and predictability about them.

 

For the sight reading, grade 6 pieces, particularly the B and C list pieces were useful.

 

My biggest and steepest learning experience was when accompanying rehearsals for Guildford Choral Society about 10 years ago when they were doing Messiah with a period band and all the rehearsals had to be done a semitone down.

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Well I must thank you all very much for such wide ranging and useful advice and ideas. Like many organists, transposition and score reading occur in various ways as a regular part of the weekly round, but it fascinates me that sitting down with a book of exercises seems to awaken a subconscious anxiety of getting it wrong, compared with the perhaps more straightforward stuff that is dealt with for rehearsals and services. Perhaps it is the memory and familiarity giving false confidence? I am downgrading my postludes for a couple of months into the 'easy to revise/learn' category to allow more practise time on these various skills - I was told that I should spend at least half of my available organ practice time practising transposition and score reading.

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I have used various items from time to time with pupils and for myself. I would absolutely agree that real music is the best, the advantage too is, if you have to buy it, you have something to play at a later date. For straightforward two save transposition, with a twist, the Bach-Reimenschnieder Chorals are excellent, because they offer a tougher standard than would be expected from most ARCO standard tests. For real pieces, a good starting point are the Healey Willan Hymn Preludes, which are all on 3-staves. The best advice I ever got was to push the standard well beyond what is expected, i.e. difficult 3-stave pieces, harder transpositions (more than a tone), and for score reading lots of stuff with C-clefs and more than four parts. If you feel really adventurous, score read orchestral scores, I was made to do this at college, but it is hard if you are not used to reading orchestral scores. At one point I transposed every hymn I played, just for practice, normally up though, as most of the tunes were too low for a choir to sing!

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I have used various items from time to time with pupils and for myself. I would absolutely agree that real music is the best, the advantage too is, if you have to buy it, you have something to play at a later date. For straightforward two save transposition, with a twist, the Bach-Reimenschnieder Chorals are excellent, because they offer a tougher standard than would be expected from most ARCO standard tests. For real pieces, a good starting point are the Healey Willan Hymn Preludes, which are all on 3-staves. The best advice I ever got was to push the standard well beyond what is expected, i.e. difficult 3-stave pieces, harder transpositions (more than a tone), and for score reading lots of stuff with C-clefs and more than four parts. If you feel really adventurous, score read orchestral scores, I was made to do this at college, but it is hard if you are not used to reading orchestral scores. At one point I transposed every hymn I played, just for practice, normally up though, as most of the tunes were too low for a choir to sing!
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One can become so stuck with exam guidelines and text books that the obvious is not apparent until someone else makes a suggestion: with piles of music around the place it makes perfect sense to use everything in sight for transposition, sight-reading, score reading etc. The advice not to play anything in its orginal key can provide interesting moments! I have managed to alarm some vocal students by changing the key of every song in a lesson - "good for us both" I said! I usually tell my choir if an unaccompanied setting or anthem is to be done in a different key, but just recently at rehearsal I confess to enjoying some mischievous pleasure by running through some music in keys other than the printed version without a word . . . and seeing some puzzled looks from some who have a good sense of pitch and can tell that something is different, but not exactly what. Some guess and give me a strange look.

How easy is it to gain organ practise time/venue for someone doing an exam? I mentioned earlier that I am the only organist in an Australian town of 18 000: but my father is English and still has a sister (the ubiquitous elderly aunt) in the Streatham area, Sth London. What I have in mind is a three week period where some fairly intense final work would be needed.

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  • 2 weeks later...
How easy is it to gain organ practise time/venue for someone doing an exam? I mentioned earlier that I am the only organist in an Australian town of 18 000: but my father is English and still has a sister (the ubiquitous elderly aunt) in the Streatham area, Sth London. What I have in mind is a three week period where some fairly intense final work would be needed.

For ARCO, the RCO will give you an allocated practice slot (about 1-2 hrs, if I remember) at St.Barnabus Dulwich 2-3 weeks before the exam.

Obviously you'll need to find some more practice slots, if you are going for AR. I get the impression St Barnabus is used pretty heavily during the RCO exam periods so I'd be surprised if you get the opportunity to do regular (i.e. daily) practice there. Maybe someone like William McVicker (who is organist of St Barnabus) might be able to help? One of the hats he wears is Dioscean organ advisor for Southwark so he can probably suggest somewhere in the Streatham/Dulwich area.

 

Unless other bored members can help?

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If I remember correctly, when Justason took his ARCO exams a couple of years ago he, and all the other candidates were explicitly instructed by the RCO NOT to attempt to arrange additional practice times on the exam organ. I believe the intent is that everyone gets the same amount of time to familiarise themselves with the instrument and thus there is a level playing field.

 

JOR will need to do his three weeks of intensive practice elsewhere.

 

A couple of things that might be useful; I remember there being a leaflet about the organ at the church, which J~son found pretty much told him how to register his exam pieces. (Unfortunately, he didn't read it until after his exam.) Also, there is a clip of him practising his pieces on the exam organ at St Barnabus, on YouTube. If JOR (or anyone) wants the link, please PM me.

 

J

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If I remember correctly, when Justason took his ARCO exams a couple of years ago he, and all the other candidates were explicitly instructed by the RCO NOT to attempt to arrange additional practice times on the exam organ. I believe the intent is that everyone gets the same amount of time to familiarise themselves with the instrument and thus there is a level playing field.

 

JOR will need to do his three weeks of intensive practice elsewhere.

 

A couple of things that might be useful; I remember there being a leaflet about the organ at the church, which J~son found pretty much told him how to register his exam pieces. (Unfortunately, he didn't read it until after his exam.) Also, there is a clip of him practising his pieces on the exam organ at St Barnabus, on YouTube. If JOR (or anyone) wants the link, please PM me.

 

J

Thanks . . . um "PM" means . . . .

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Strictly speaking, its against the regulations to request extra time with the church, so you run a bit of a risk. However, I will own up to a bit of extra practice myself here when the person due to follow me in Huddersfield didn't turn up and no one came to chuck me off. I'm not sure it made a huge (if any) difference as the exam was over a week away.

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