Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Wash Me Throughly - S.s. Wesley


Philip
 Share

Recommended Posts

We have just started work on this piece and I played it through for the first time last Friday night. In the anthem books we have (NCAB and Ash Wednesday to Easter) there is a registration marking at the start of "Sw Reed", but no other markings in the rest of the piece. To those who have accompanied this before - do you accompany on Swell Reed throughout, just using the Swell box for dynamic changes? Or do you switch to something else at some point? What about the pedals?

 

Thanks in advance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm no expert in English mid nineteenth-century performance practice, but since no one else has replied...

 

There is a critical edition of SSW's anthems in the Musica Britannica series, so if you're near an affluent music library it might be worth looking up vol.57 to see whether it sheds any light - but my guess is it probably won't. (Or you could always buy it if you have the odd £92.50 to spare!)

 

Personally, as far as registration goes, I would do whatever is necessary to produce musical sounds that balance the choir properly, even if it means adapting or discarding the composer's suggestions. But I wonder what SSW intended?

 

In the organ pieces and choir accompaniments of his I have seen, SSW does not always give full registration indications and often none at all. Where he does give full directions, it is fairly clear that he does not expect elaborate, kaleidoscopically orchestral registration, but simple schemes. Quite often he relies on uncoupled manuals and obtains variety by varying the way their sounds are combined or divided between the hands rather than by altering the stops. In one organ piece there is an implicit stop descrescendo on the Great (he thoughtfully frees a hand to allow it) and in his organ accompaniment for The Wilderness there is some changing on the Swell between the Oboe, the diapasons and "Sw. reed" (the term must thus imply a Trumpet/Cornopean/Horn). This is about as complicated as it gets. More often, stop changes are confined to places where there is a clear break in the music. On several occasions in his choral accompaniments he calls for a Swell reed coupled to the Great diapasons (i.e. the open and stopped). It looks to me as if this was as much to ensure that the swell pedal crescendos were effective as anything else, in which case it is quite likely that the Sw. diapasons were also drawn and maybe the Principal too, but I am only guessing.

 

Taken together, all this rather suggests to me that in Wash me throughly SSW probably did intend the Sw reed to remain drawn throughout. However, I would not assume that he necessarily meant the accompaniment to be played entirely on the Swell. A mezzo forte direction is (probably) missing in the accompaniment below the bass lead at "For I acknowledge my faults". SSW seems to have quite liked tunes in the baritone tessitura to be accompanied on an Open Diapason (Ch. or Gt), so a move to the Great here (with Sw coupled) would not be out of order, moving back at the end of the four-part section.

 

I can't remember ever having had to accompany Wash me throughly, but I cannot imagine being able to stomach having a trumpet-type reed on all the way through this piece. I wonder what sort of reed SSW would have had in mind. A Willis Cornopean, or something more close-toned? Whatever, I think I would probably substitute an Oboe and have done with it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How interesting a thread !

 

Had S-S Wesley be a german or a french composer, be sure there would

already be 100 postings here...

 

Wesley's music asks for well-marked changes. There is a terrible, passionnate

fire behind it; it is too "romantic" for british liturgical use, hence its neglect;

but now that even guitars are allowed into the church, why not give Wesley the

place he deserves, despite the loud climaxes ?

At Worcester the old organ permitted to accompany a complete Wesley Anthem with

the Swell only, but we make take for sure we shall have to wait another century before

someone gets the idea to build something like that Swell again....

 

But here is an interesting example on Youtube:

 

 

And then this one which illustrates at best those extreme changes and climaxes:

 

 

Pierre

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well as something of a Wesley fan, I think to be strict you have to remember what was available on the organs of the time, look at specs of Hereford, Winchester, Gloucester, etc., so it it highly likely he intended no changes, and perhaps this is one of the few Wesley pieces in which you can get away with it! I would vary however, and use the pedals. The swell reed in question is probably the Oboe rather than a more powerful stop. The absolute authority on S S Wesley's anthems is Peter Horton, sadly not a member here, but I may be able to find his email address.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let us not forget Donald Hunt. Here are 4 MP3

at Worcester:

 

 

Partie 1

 

http://orguemirepoix.yellis.net/HS/Worcest..._Our_Hands1.mp3

 

Partie 2

 

http://orguemirepoix.yellis.net/HS/Worcest..._Our_Hands2.mp3

 

Partie 3

 

http://orguemirepoix.yellis.net/HS/Worcest..._Our_Hands3.mp3

 

Partie 4

 

http://orguemirepoix.yellis.net/HS/Worcest..._Our_Hands4.mp3

 

This is an absolute summit, Grade A+++ World class !

 

Pierre

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is a terrible, passionnate

fire behind it; it is too "romantic" for british liturgical use, hence its neglect;

Eh??? I would have said that Sebastian Wesley is probably the least neglected composer of all in our churches. Even most parish churches with a four-part choir will sing "Blessed be the God and Father" and/or "Lead me, Lord".

 

Jonathan is right: it is anachronistic to think of SSW in terms of Hope-Jones. SSW was more of a classical Romantic with an aesthetic rather similar to Mendelssohn's.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eh??? I would have said that Sebastian Wesley is probably the least neglected composer of all in our churches. Even most parish churches with a four-part choir will sing "Blessed be the God and Father" and/or "Lead me, Lord".

 

Absolutely. The New Church Anthem Book, surely a staple of most parish choirs, contains no less than six Wesley anthems. 'Blessed be the God and Father' may not be the finest thing for a musical purist, but it is absolutely glorious IMO, and many churches and cathedrals will be singing it on Easter Day evening I am sure. I would have thought 'Wash me throughly' is also something of a mainstay of the Anglican choral repertoire, which is why I am surprised at the lack of responses on here. Of course, this is Wesley's 200th anniversary year since his birth, so perhaps we should be making an extra effort to sing some of his stuff, if you go in for observing anniversaries.

 

Based on the replies so far, I am envisaging something like Sw 8&4 Flutes and Oboe for the first section, and then a Great Diapason coupled up to Sw for the middle bit, switching back at the end, along with some judicious use of the Swell Pedal and an appropriately balanced pedal registration (in fact, contrary to my OP, he does supply an instruction for beginning pedalling some way into the piece).

 

Interestingly, 'Blessed be the God and Father' has some reasonably comprehensive registration instructions, for instance a Sw Reed beneath a Gt chorus just before the first soprano solo, and then Sw Reed again for 'All flesh is as grass'. I like to add a tremulant and 32' for 'The grass withereth', and then of course in on full(ish) organ for the final chorus and fugal section.

 

Thanks to everyone for their responses.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find our Bevington organ at Kendal ideal for Wesley: it has a Swell Cornopean and Great Claribel that come into their own for the pre-duet passage in "Blessed be the God and Father" and a Great Dulciana that works well (alone, with the Claribel or coupled to one or both of the Swell 8' flues) as an accompaniment to most choral passages. And when the Open Diapason, Principal and Mixture are whipped out, plus Swell Cornopean, there's a Full Organ that I'm sure would have met with Wesley's approval.

 

Having said that, the Cornopean (even with box shut) isn't really the right sort of thing to grab for "Wash me throughly" unless you want to give everyone ear cancer. One of the Swell 8s is a Gamba; in combination with 4' (Harmonic) Flute it can make quite a convincing Oboe substitute. (On some other organs I've met, Salicional plus 4' Flute plus Nasard if available can do the same trick; add a Tremulant and it can even become a fake Vox Humana!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The swell reed in question is probably the Oboe rather than a more powerful stop.

It has to be; anything else would obliterate the solo treble in the opening bars - even with the box tight shut. To play the chordal accompaniment on a more powerful reed would also *sound* inappropriate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

... and, of course, Wesley being famously and ardently opposed to equal temperament and insistent upon GG compass, anything remotely resembling the Hope-Jones sound would be unlikely to find favour.

 

Imagine those first diminished chords at the opening of Wash Me in a sensible temperament. You scarcely need a Swell pedal - the tuning does all the dynamics for you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

... and, of course, Wesley being famously and ardently opposed to equal temperament and insistent upon GG compass, anything remotely resembling the Hope-Jones sound would be unlikely to find favour.

 

Imagine those first diminished chords at the opening of Wash Me in a sensible temperament. You scarcely need a Swell pedal - the tuning does all the dynamics for you.

 

Indeed ! This said, english organs had Swellboxes already more than 100 years before S-S Wesley...

I would be very interested to ear Wesley's anthems accompanied by an organ tuned after

a late unequal temperament.

Who will try that ?

 

The H-J organ wasn't the one for Wesley, no doubt; but it was an incredible accompanying organ.

D. Hunt and his team used it in a wide choral repertoire with great success.

It was not Saint-Saëns organ as well, but the "Messe à quatre voix" they recorded is still

the best available. The CD I have is very busy, I think it is wandering through all Belgium

from one organist to the next one.

 

Pierre

Link to comment
Share on other sites

{snip} The absolute authority on S S Wesley's anthems is Peter Horton, sadly not a member here, {snip}

 

I've been in touch with Dr Horton and he sent me the following remarks:

 

a) although several early works have plentiful registration markings ('The Wilderness', 'Blessed be the God and Father', original version of the Introduction from the Introduction and Fugue in C sharp minor), he stated in a letter in 1845 that he had given this up because no two organs were alike.

B) Swell reed in Wash me throughly. I'm not an organist, but I would expect a registration change at the end of the first section (bar 32)

c) Use of the pedals. Wesley used the pedals more sparingly than later generations and in my Musica Britinnica edition I have suggested that the pedals should only enter in 22, dropping out after the first note of bar 32, re-entering in bar 51 and dropping out in bar 88.

 

I believe that Stainer & Bell might be thinking of marking the publication, in March 2010, of the third volume of Wesley anthems in Musica Britannica by offering a discount of the first two volumes....so they will only cost you an arm instead of an arm and a leg.

 

Kind regards

 

Oscar

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been in touch with Dr Horton and he sent me the following remarks:

 

a) although several early works have plentiful registration markings ('The Wilderness', 'Blessed be the God and Father', original version of the Introduction from the Introduction and Fugue in C sharp minor), he stated in a letter in 1845 that he had given this up because no two organs were alike.

:( Swell reed in Wash me throughly. I'm not an organist, but I would expect a registration change at the end of the first section (bar 32)

c) Use of the pedals. Wesley used the pedals more sparingly than later generations and in my Musica Britinnica edition I have suggested that the pedals should only enter in 22, dropping out after the first note of bar 32, re-entering in bar 51 and dropping out in bar 88.

 

Many thanks for this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll be interested when the organ at St Swithun's, Worcester is re-installed following restoration. See http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N03625. Last rebuilt by Nicholson in 1844 - ideal I suspect for Wesley etc. Long compass Great, small Swell. Church is redundant, but beautifully kept and regularly open and used. Superb acoustic too. Goetze and Gwynn are doing the restoration, and there's a recital series planned for later this year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We reckon 1885, although it could be anything up to 5 years older than that...

 

NPOR recently paid us a visit to update their records, so you'll find some more about the Bevington here:

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=K00841

Some interesting similarities with this :

 

http://www.davidsanger.co.uk/bevingto.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some interesting similarities with this :

 

http://www.davidsanger.co.uk/bevingto.htm

 

Indeed, the resemblance is truly striking. I daresay Sanger's is more versatile than ours ... What's most interesting is that neither organ is indigenous to its current location, having been relocated to perform a specific purpose (choir accompaniment in our case, teaching and occasional recitals in Sanger's).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Roffensis
Taken together, all this rather suggests to me that in Wash me throughly SSW probably did intend the Sw reed to remain drawn throughout. However, I would not assume that he necessarily meant the accompaniment to be played entirely on the Swell. A mezzo forte direction is (probably) missing in the accompaniment below the bass lead at "For I acknowledge my faults". SSW seems to have quite liked tunes in the baritone tessitura to be accompanied on an Open Diapason (Ch. or Gt), so a move to the Great here (with Sw coupled) would not be out of order, moving back at the end of the four-part section.

 

I can't remember ever having had to accompany Wash me throughly, but I cannot imagine being able to stomach having a trumpet-type reed on all the way through this piece. I wonder what sort of reed SSW would have had in mind. A Willis Cornopean, or something more close-toned? Whatever, I think I would probably substitute an Oboe and have done with it.

 

Yes indeed. So would I. I think that with this sort of music it is always best to be on the side of caution. As to pedals, I'd be wary of even a 16 foot. It's one of those works that has such a dignity and poise in the choral parts, that really any organ should be very in the backround. IMHO!! :blink:

 

Hope it goes/went well. A superb piece.

 

R

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...