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What can we do?


Philip
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I think tuneful, worthy music works to a point, but balance is the key to any programme. Something short, tuneful and cheery might be appropriate following something longer, deeper and altogether more serious. There is seriously good organ music out there which is worth hearing. Why be afraid of playing the Rheinberger Passacaglia I'm discussing elsewhere? Its a super piece, and its not particularly difficult listening IMO. What about the Healey Willan I,P&F too? Just to coin two examples.

 

IMO we shouldn't be afraid of transcriptions. People like them. I gather Thomas Trotter on Easter Monday at Southwell was full with standing room only. He's about as close to a big name as you'll get, but he played several transcriptions. Like it or not, people do enjoy them.

 

The other thing with programming is giving them something they want to hear. If you stick the Widor down as the finale, then you can play some more inventive stuff beforehand in the knowledge that people will think 'Oh good, the Widor...' and might turn up for it. Likewise with 565, and a few other pieces. Yes, they're overdone, but if they draw people in to hear other (perhaps better) stuff too then it works. I notice it an awful lot, not just in organ programmes - in choral and orchestral programmes too you put in something popular and use it to introduce people to less well-known stuff which they wouldn't turn up for in its own right.

 

Let us not forget also that at church we have an important role in exposing people to organ music. Although less people go to church now than say 30 years ago, it still brings people in who wouldn't otherwise take an interest in organ music. By playing a carefully balanced selection of voluntaries you can get them on side and make them receptive to what you play.

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I think tuneful, worthy music works to a point, but balance is the key to any programme. Something short, tuneful and cheery might be appropriate following something longer, deeper and altogether more serious. There is seriously good organ music out there which is worth hearing. Why be afraid of playing the Rheinberger Passacaglia I'm discussing elsewhere? Its a super piece, and its not particularly difficult listening IMO. What about the Healey Willan I,P&F too? Just to coin two examples.

 

IMO we shouldn't be afraid of transcriptions. People like them. I gather Thomas Trotter on Easter Monday at Southwell was full with standing room only. He's about as close to a big name as you'll get, but he played several transcriptions. Like it or not, people do enjoy them.

 

The other thing with programming is giving them something they want to hear. If you stick the Widor down as the finale, then you can play some more inventive stuff beforehand in the knowledge that people will think 'Oh good, the Widor...' and might turn up for it. Likewise with 565, and a few other pieces. Yes, they're overdone, but if they draw people in to hear other (perhaps better) stuff too then it works. I notice it an awful lot, not just in organ programmes - in choral and orchestral programmes too you put in something popular and use it to introduce people to less well-known stuff which they wouldn't turn up for in its own right.

Let us not forget also that at church we have an important role in exposing people to organ music. Although less people go to church now than say 30 years ago, it still brings people in who wouldn't otherwise take an interest in organ music. By playing a carefully balanced selection of voluntaries you can get them on side and make them receptive to what you play.

 

 

I think, Philip, that you have probably expressed better what I was attempting to explain earlier - balance is indeed the key: I am certainly not advocating a series of puerile thirty second popular tunes! Works like the Rheinberger Passacaglia are easily assimilated by audiences (although I admit that your audience would probably look happier than my mine with your preference for ending on a major chord!). There is also the issue of celebrity - what is it that attracts people to a Carlo Curley concert? I doubt that he plays Sebastian Forbes and Ligeti (although I have never heard him live). Cameron Carpenter is also to an extent 'iconic' in his attraction to musicians, for whatever reasons (he always reminds of a sort of organists Liberace!). In the non-organ world many people (including the parents of some of my piano students) rave on about Andre Rieu - but I am fascinated at how some of them cannot actually recall what he played or who the composer was . . . but the whole spectacle sparked an interest in "classical' music. It's an awkward line to tread, but I think the suggestion of mixing attactive music alongside newer or avant garde items works, and again particularly if you do the increasingly common idea of talking to your audience. A moments explanation and 'face to face' from a perfromer does much for breakinmg down the barriers, or sense of aloofness that some audinces perceive organsists to have.

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I am still assessing the major/minor chord thing. Now trying it with the minor so I can try to make a judgement.

 

On talking to the audience, I'd agree. Of course programme notes are helpful, but they are somewhat impersonal and for an organist to make a few informed and maybe humourous remarks about what he is about to play is good. Not before every piece though I'd say - perhaps at the start of each half or maybe introducing pieces in blocks (depending upon how many you're playing etc.). And not for too long either!

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