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Vox Humana

Funeral Voluntaries

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Was it Elegy from A Downland Suite, as arranged by Alec Rowley. A very beautiful piece that suits the organ perfectly. Mind you, the arranger has abridged the piece somewhat, without comment. In fact, now I look at it, he doesn't even say where it comes from! I only discovered it a couple of years ago.

Many thanks, I think that you have solved my problem. I always thought that this piece was extracted from another composition but completely forgot "A Downland Suite". As you correctly say, it is a beautiful piece and perfect for the organ and I am surprised that it is not more widely used.

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It IS dedicated to Walford Davies!

The fact that HWD was the dedicatee is not necessarily inconsistent with the Elegy being a parody of Solemn Melody. According to Jonathan Rennert's biography of GTB, and other sources, working relationship between the two was far from easy.

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The fact that HWD was the dedicatee is not necessarily inconsistent with the Elegy being a parody of Solemn Melody. According to Jonathan Rennert's biography of GTB, and other sources, working relationship between the two was far from easy.

I think there was a great friendship between the two and there was a good working relationship, albeit with the odd disagreement.

 

Re: Elegy: [from the Rennert book]

Thalben-Ball also assisted in Sir Walford's weekly broadcasts of choral evensong from the BBC concert hall. Before one such service Davies said: 'At the end, play a beautiful melody.' GTB know what he wanted: a long, singable, rising and dipping line, such as that found in Sir Walford's own Solemn Melody. The piece he improvised, which resulted in many letters from listeners, and which Davies said was 'exactly right, absolutely perfect', was the well-known Elegy. Ever modest, Thalben-Ball admits its similarity to Solemn Melody: 'It's a crib of the style, but not of the tune, to be perfectly honest.'

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Just out of interest however, does anyone use the Chopin funeral march at a funeral nowadays? I think I once had that piece on an LP by Gunther Brausinger, but I have never heard it played at a funeral. Don't know why really.... :unsure:

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Just out of interest however, does anyone use the Chopin funeral march at a funeral nowadays? I think I once had that piece on an LP by Gunther Brausinger, but I have never heard it played at a funeral. Don't know why really.... :unsure:

 

I have all four of those LPs somewhere. I think they are unusual in that they comprise transcriptions which, although played on baroque-type instruments, sound surprisingly effective. I do wish they'd re-release them on CD.

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Just out of interest however, does anyone use the Chopin funeral march at a funeral nowadays? I think I once had that piece on an LP by Gunther Brausinger, but I have never heard it played at a funeral. Don't know why really.... :unsure:

 

I think theology to some extent has shifted ground and there is more of an Easter presence in services. When the 19th Century Funeral Marches were being composed and played there was a greater darkness at funerals and the music rather suited the occasion. We no longer wear mourning for weeks or months after a death. Black arm bands have all but gone. Funeral services now are more in celebration of a life ended, and a comfort and a moment of spiritual hope to those left. Dark, sorrowful music seems rather out of place to me. I like an Easter hymn to finish a service and a fine strong postlude to uplift and give encouragement to those leaving the church.

All the best,

N

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If anyone did, in fact, elicit a score of either or both of the Somervell pieces mentioned in this post, could you possibly share them with me? I have PM'd David Harrison to no avail - well, it was in 2010 he posted! Please PM me if you can help. Many thanks.

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When my Father died last year, the organist at the Crem in Colchester played the Prelude from Franck's Prelude, Fugue et Variation (very nicely, too). I had never thought about this for funerals, but it seemed just perfect and I have used it myself since then.

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A certain, well-known, ex-Cathedral Master of Music, famous for his wit and repartee once introduced the Boellmann 'Suite Gothique', at a recital, with the comment that the 3rd movement was often played at weddings! ......... It was also played at funerals! ............ the difference being that he played it slower at funerals!

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David Drinkell's post (#58) reminded me of a similar occasion at my own father's funeral, also at a crematorium. The organist played (well) number III of Stanford's Six Preludes & Postludes, 2nd set, op 105 (the Lento in G). We had not asked for anything specific despite one of my brothers and me both being organists, but it fitted the occasion exactly and I couldn't have chosen better myself. There are other suitable numbers in that set also.

 

CEP

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