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Do you ever read orchestral scores or chamber music? C clefs very much the opposite of obsolete there. I appreciate that organists are rarely required to read orchestral scores but Sydney Watson always accompanied Stanford in A from the full score. And keyboard continuo players (many organists amongst them) are often confronted with a b.c. part that migrates into Tenor clef.

To be honest, no. With a seventy-hour working week, I am busy enough as it is; this is simply not part of my job, so I neither have the time nor the inclination to do so.

 

I cannot imagine why Sydney Watson would bother to do this. The keyboard reduction appears to be a good one, as far as I am concerned. I have played it on many occasions, and regard it as both effective and idiomatic for the organ. Having also heard it twice in the (original) orchestral version, I greatly prefer the organ arrangement. For me (even with a competent orchestra), it simply did not work. The whole thing lacked focus, precision - call it what you will. I found the organ version to be superior in every way.

 

However, I can see that if one regularly acted as a continuo player, then it might have some value. Incidentally, one of my colleagues, who is head of music and performing arts at a local school, does have to examine orchestral scores regularly (as part of the A' level analysis of set works). He also does not possess the ability fluently to read C-clefs. He has never found this to be a handicap. The consistently good results which our students obtain in public examinations would seem to re-inforce this belief.

 

Please do not get the impression that my colleague is a 'musical illiterate' - with a BMus (Lond.) and a fellowship diploma in composition, I regard him as an extremely competent teacher. Whilst he may not wish to sit at a piano and wade through whole sections of orchestral scores (something which I regard as of questionable vaule, given the accessibility of so many excellent recordings in many formats, these days), he is thoroughly familiar with a wide repertoire of orchestral, choral, chamber and operatic works - to name just a few genres.

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I simply feel that there are far more useful things an organist needs to be trained to do - such as improvisation in a liturgical context. This I regard personally as infinitely more useful and of far greater importance than the maintenance of reading clefs which have largely fallen into disuse.

I don't think I would disagree with that.

 

It seems to me that this is not that far removed from insisting that one's choir should all read from part-books.

Jolly good idea! - at least in early music - provided, of course, that you have singers capable of meeting the challenge (which admittedly is a whole nother issue). :)

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I don't think I would disagree with that.

 

 

Jolly good idea! - at least in early music - provided, of course, that you have singers capable of meeting the challenge (which admittedly is a whole nother issue). :)

... And in your last sentence lies the crux of the matter....

 

As it happens, one of our choirmen (who also possesses an 'Apple' computer - and a legal copy of the music publishing programme 'Sibelius') has transcribed many of the items from our chained library, in order for the choir to sing them during the services. Unfortunately, this often means reconstructing the organ score from a variety of part-books - or, simply, making it up. Since he has not had any formal musical training (and does not play an instrument) - this not infrequently results in inaccuracies and un-idiomatic parts. Last Sunday was a case in point. I was playing Gibbons' Short Service at the rehearsal before Evensong and suddenly met with several F-flats, and a number of notes written 'on' the treble stave, but with about four or five ledger-lines. As it happened, I had never played this setting before and I must admit that this all came as rather a surprise. Apparently, since the key in which it was set in his source(s) was rather high for men's voices, he had simply pressed the 'transpose' button on the Sibelius programme. All of which meant that I had to concentrate rather closely during the service, in order to avoid making a mistake.

 

I have to say that I was somewhat more relaxed while improvising the closing voluntary - which I tried to do in fairly strict sonata form.

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Ah yes, the curses of the transpose button. There are some examples of that on CPDL too. You have my sympathy.

 

I have to say that, personally, I would much rather sing Gibbons's "Short" in a version recovered as closely as possible to what the composer is likely to have written than in a version from a not very reliable set of partbooks far removed from the composer in both time and location. :)

 

That said, there is nothing at all against recreating a performance of Gibbons as it would have been at a given place and time, in your case the 1670s, just as it is perfectly legitimate to recreate Straube's performances of Bach. However, I do hope your gentlemen gave their performance with the assistance of historically authentic quantities of ale.

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[quote name='pcnd'

Can I take it that you play in a powdered wig, some form of breeches (with shiny knee buckles) and a big shirt....?

 

======================

 

Only in the privacy of his own study, after dark and with the curtains drawn.

 

MM

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I am sure that there is, and has been, an element of archaism about the use of C Clefs, as with many aspects of "Western" music notation eg C and ¢ time signatures, the use of transposition and non-standard key signatures in writing for clarinets, horns, brass, and percussion.

 

I like the sense of continuity and connection with the past that C clefs represent. I have a facsimile of the original partbooks of Tallis and Byrd's Cantiones Sacrae of 1575, which use 9 or so different clefs, many in the same part book, and I have huge respect for those church musicians of the 16th century who were sufficiently fluent to take those clefs (and canonic instructions) in their stride.

 

I love coming across C Clefs in organ music, both in the Peters Edition of Bach and in the original edition (as reprinted by Kalmus) of the Brahms opus 122 Chorale Preludes. Brahms, always fond of archaisms such as the natural horn and the passacaglia, also used C clefs in his vocal music eg the motet Warum Ist Das Licht Gegeben Op 74. He was a subscriber to the first critical complete editions of Handel and Bach which he apparently played through on the piano as soon as each volume was delivered; those editions are littered with C clefs.

 

I'm always slightly disappointed that the OUP facsimile edition of John Stanley's organ voluntaries re-notated the sections in Alto clef.

 

Archaicly,

 

Michael

 

 

============================

 

 

There's nothing archaic about alto and tenor clefs. With nothing better to do, I recently used them when re-writing Ligetti's "Volumina," with the net result that it sounded exactly the same but proved much easier to read. I feel that I now understand the composer's intentions better, and with a more compressed page size, I discovered all sorts of interesting crab canons and inverted chordal counterpoint. It was only when someone pointed out that the clef markings should be to the left of the score, that I realised I had been playing with it turned upside down.

 

MM

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Ah yes, the curses of the transpose button. There are some examples of that on CPDL too. You have my sympathy.

 

I have to say that, personally, I would much rather sing Gibbons's "Short" in a version recovered as closely as possible to what the composer is likely to have written than in a version from a not very reliable set of partbooks far removed from the composer in both time and location. B)

 

That said, there is nothing at all against recreating a performance of Gibbons as it would have been at a given place and time, in your case the 1670s, just as it is perfectly legitimate to recreate Straube's performances of Bach. However, I do hope your gentlemen gave their performance with the assistance of historically authentic quantities of ale.

 

Oh yes, Vox. Afterwards (particularly since it was the last choir Sunday of the academic year), there was much drinking and merriment in the nearby tavern.

 

It almost made it all worthwhile....

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Ah yes, the curses of the transpose button. There are some examples of that on CPDL too. You have my sympathy.

 

I have to say that, personally, I would much rather sing Gibbons's "Short" in a version recovered as closely as possible to what the composer is likely to have written than in a version from a not very reliable set of partbooks far removed from the composer in both time and location. B) ....

 

As it happens, the Gibbons was not from our part-books. I think he was using an old single copy from an English publisher; however, since I have not seen it, I am not really sure what he was using.

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