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Book on playing English Organs?


kropf
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Hello!

 

Here some basics about the English way of playing/approaching an organ were given.

Is there any book that gives even more insight into the way English instruments should be used? Maybe Stephen Bicknell's book on the History of the English Organ or one of the many "memories of an organist" collections...?

Thanks!

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Hello!

 

Here some basics about the English way of playing/approaching an organ were given.

Is there any book that gives even more insight into the way English instruments should be used? Maybe Stephen Bicknell's book on the History of the English Organ or one of the many "memories of an organist" collections...?

Thanks!

 

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

 

 

I don't know of any particular book which covers the subject at all adequately.....we learned by watching and listening.

 

Perhaps a better idea would be for Bernhard to pick a few examples of English organists playing pieces available on YouTube and/or the Pipedreams radio programme, and we could have a go at describing what the organist is actually doing.

 

It's one of those strange things, but when you know how to do something, it becomes second nature and I doubt that anyone spends a great deal of time working out registrations on a fairly "standard" style of British instrument.

 

For us, it would be just as difficult getting to grips with Rollschweller pedals!

 

I'll have a dig around and see what I can find as musical examples, and perhaps highlight a few of the techniques/registrations employed.

 

MM

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Hello!

 

Here some basics about the English way of playing/approaching an organ were given.

Is there any book that gives even more insight into the way English instruments should be used? Maybe Stephen Bicknell's book on the History of the English Organ or one of the many "memories of an organist" collections...?

Thanks!

[/quote

 

Here is a useful book by Eaglefield Hull on the way things were done in 1911: http://www.archive.org/details/organplayingitst00hulluof and sad to read of the author's suicide at Huddersfield station on Wikipedia.

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It is perhaps good to start earlier on in time from our present day and see where much of our tradition stems. I post what was printed in 1791 concerning registrations and the actually playing of the organ. It is of note that about that time church music was leaning far more towards the secular than the sacred and there are some terse comments (quite applicable today) concerning style and the use of the swell box.

 

 

The principal Stops in the Great Organ, are the Diapasons and must always be drawn, no other Stops being to be used without being joined with them, though they may themselves be used alone. The Cornet is only a half, or treble stop, and it ought never to be used in the Full Organ, but only with the Diapasons, in Voluntaries, giving out Psalm Tunes, Symphonies or Anthems etc.

 

When the Trumpet is used as imitative of the real Trumpet, it is then only joined with the Diapasons. Reed Stops are the most liable of any to get out of tune, (particularly the Clarion, Vox Humana, and Cremona) of which the performer should be aware, when he fixes upon his Voluntary, especially in the Country, where the Organs are in general very much neglected.

 

The Flute in unison with the Principa ie. 4' is frequently used alone but is more properly joined with the Diapason.

No Music can be expressive that is not accented, marked, or enforced at proper intervals This may be in a great measure effected on the Swell of the Organ, by the management of the Pedal, especially in slow Movements, (which are most proper for the Swell) but on the other parts of the Organ, must be done by other means, such as Appoggiaturas, and by occasionally doubling the Bass note at the accented parts, by taking the Octave.

 

For the Diapasons, the style should be Grave, and of the Sostenuto kind, gliding from note to note, or chord to chord, with almost always a holding note either in the Treble, Tenor, or Bass of the Organ. If the Principal 4' be added, the style may be more brilliant, the fingering more staccato, and quicker passages may be executed with better effect than on the Diapasons alone.

 

For the Trumpet, the style should also be grave, and majestic. The Bass should be played on the Diapason, Dulciana, Principal and Flute of the Choir Organ, except now and then by way of Contrast, particularly towards a grand Close, when the Trumpet Bass (qualified by the Principal) or Full Organ may be introduced with great effect.

 

For the Cornet, quick Music, in a brilliant style, is proper. This Stop though frequently used in Voluntaries before the first Lesson, is yet, I think, of too light and airy a nature for the Church. I should therefore recommend its being used but sparingly in Voluntaries, and only in the Minor Key, except on Festivals and joyful occasions, for which it may properly be reserved. The Bass to it may be played on the same set of Keys, provided the left hand is kept below middle C.

 

The Flute may be played in much the same style as the Cornet, except that the Bass may be played on the same Stop, which being an octave one ie. 4', there may be more execution with the left hand than usual on the Organ. This also being of too light and trifling a nature to be much used in Churches, I think entire Flute pieces should be avoided, and the Flute only used in an echo, or by way of relief to the more noble parts of the Organ.

 

The Stopt Diapason and Principal are together capable of as much Execution as the Flute alone, and the same style of play will therefore serve for them ... being by no means so trivial in effect.

 

For the Cremona, or Vox Humane which stops should only be used with the Diapason, the Cantabile style is of course proper, confining the right hand to about two octaves, or more, from about the C below middle C upwards, and playing the Bass on the Diapasons.

 

The manner of playing the Swell requires more judgement than any other part of the Organ, as by a judicious management of the Pedal, the human voice may be much better imitated than by two Vox Humane; the Cantabile style is therefore also proper for it, though it is capable of a considerable degree of execution, particularly when the Cornet is drawn. Double notes and Chords judiciously swelled and diminished have a good effect. The Bass may generally be played on the Stopt Diapason and Flute of the Choir Organ (with or without the Principal, according to the number of Stops drawn on the Swell) or where the compass of the Swell extends below middle C, both hands may occasionally be employed thereon.

 

The Swell is frequently used as an echo to the Trumpet, Cornet, etc. The finest Mixture ie. combination, in which is, that of the Diapason and Hautboy, with the Trumpet to strengthen if required.

 

The Cornet in the Swell should, I think, never be used as such, but only used with the other Stops to make a full Swell, as an echo to the full Organ.

 

As to the peculiar advantage and effect of the Swell in expressing the Pianos, Fortes, Crescendos, and Diminuendos, the performer must consider that the mere see-sawing the Pedal up and down at random, and without meaning, can have no better effect than what is produced by a peal of Bells ringing on a windy day.

 

After learning the proper method of touching the different Stops, the next thing to be attended to is the proper selection of them for Voluntaries, of which those before the first lesson should be generally introduced with the Diapasons, or Swell, after which the Trumpet, Vox-humane or Bassoon may be used with intermediate passages (for the sake of variety and contrast) on the Swell or Choir Organ. As the real Trumpet is not capable of modulating into different keys (without which music soon becomes tiresome and insipid), a transition had better be made for that purpose to the Flute, (in a minor key) [onl the Swell or Choir Organ, after which a return may be made to the Trumpet.

 

The Cornet I have said before should be but sparingly used, especially in the Major key, when however it is introduced, I think it should always be succeeded (if but for a few bars) by the Diapasons or Swell, so as for the Voluntary not finally to conclude with the Cornet.

 

For the concluding Voluntary, the Full Organ is generally, and I think with propriety used; in which the Performer (at least after a few bars in a grave style) may be allowed a little more scope for his Fancy and Finger, than during divine service. When however it immediately succeeds an affecting, pathetic discourse, I think the Organist should endeavour, in some measure, to co-operate with the Preacher, by adapting his style accordingly, for which purpose, some soothing gliding play on the Diapasons may be proper, for some little time at least, till those who may wish not to quit every serious idea may have time to go out, after which a return to the full Organ may be made; as nothing tends more to drive people out of that frame of mind than a light, trivial Anthem; or a rattling, noisy unmeaning Voluntary.'

 

What food for thought! What apposite sentiments - even for today writtn by John Marsh in 1791! I have added bolds etc to draw the eye to certain important features.

 

All the best,

Nigel

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What food for thought! What apposite sentiments - even for today writtn by John Marsh in 1791! I have added bolds etc to draw the eye to certain important features.

 

All the best,

Nigel

Wouldn't it be marvellous if there existed an organ in one of our ancient universities of the kind that John Marsh was thinking when he wrote those words.

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Wouldn't it be marvellous if there existed an organ in one of our ancient universities of the kind that John Marsh was thinking when he wrote those words.

Off my head, why not go to Rotherhithe S. Mary? I feel that you will find there about all of which Marsh writes.

I find it strange that so little of our glorious British past is all but forgotten (and not taught hardly at all). There are amazing works to play (well), but frequently overlooked in favour of dazzle from other nations. The sublime moments of the slow introductions of English Voluntaries are models of beauty and invention and should be the basis of many-an improvisation today. Some movements from William Croft out-surpass anything from the French of the same time. I played some of his music once and was rushed by players (led by Ewald Kooiman) in the audience wanting a score. Proud moment!

N

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For the sake of the few people who are not aware of it, see "The Elusive English Organ" from Fugue State Films.

 

http://www.fuguestatefilms.co.uk/shop/prod...lish_organ.html

 

A Documentary film and recording featuring Daniel Moult.

 

Between about 1550 and 1830, some of the most beautiful English music was written for the organ, by composers such as Byrd, Purcell, Handel and Stanley. In the documentary The Elusive English Organ, Daniel Moult sets out to perform this repertoire on appropriate organs of the time.

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Thanks for the material provided so far!

MM's Youtube idea seems to be a nice one.

 

In anticipation of video links, I am currently waiting for a Vodafone technician to restore my DSL connection to its nominal speed.... :)

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Off my head, why not go to Rotherhithe S. Mary? I feel that you will find there about all of which Marsh writes.

I find it strange that so little of our glorious British past is all but forgotten (and not taught hardly at all). There are amazing works to play (well), but frequently overlooked in favour of dazzle from other nations. The sublime moments of the slow introductions of English Voluntaries are models of beauty and invention and should be the basis of many-an improvisation today. Some movements from William Croft out-surpass anything from the French of the same time. I played some of his music once and was rushed by players (led by Ewald Kooiman) in the audience wanting a score. Proud moment!

N

I played a Boyce Trumpet Voluntary last Sunday evening to the expressed delight of the congregation. I very much liked reading Marsh's comment about not using the Trumpet stop when the music modulates. A true purist!

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I very much liked reading Marsh's comment about not using the Trumpet stop when the music modulates. A true purist!

In a later edition (c.1795 or later) Marsh (presumably it was he) revised his text substantially, expanding his comments on the Trumpet thus:

 

"For the Trumpet, the style should also be grave, and majestic, playing chiefly in the key of C, or D and keeping nearly to the natural compass of the real Trumpet, on which rapid and chromatic passages not being executed, they must of course be improperly used in an imitation of it. Double notes in the manner of two Trumpets may occasionally be used, and a long holding note on the 5th or Key note, with a second part moving, has a good effect. The Bass should chiefly be played on the Diapason, Dulciana, Principal, and Flute of the Choir Organ, except now and then by way of Contrast, particularly toward a grand Close, when the Trumpet Bass (qualified by the Principal) or Full Organ may be introduced with great effect."

 

There are similar playing guides by Francis Linley (1790s?) and Jonas Blewitt (c.1795) who seem to have cribbed Marsh liberally - or maybe they all copied each other. I previously printed Linley's advice here.

 

Blewitt says:"After a Trumpet Piece, to conclude with the same subject on a Full Organ, has a very grand effect. This strikes a sublime awe, and is always to the credit of the Performer."

 

This reference to "sublime awe" highlights a consistent message of all three writers that was hinted at by Nigel above: the need for dignity on the organ in divine service. Trumpet voluntaries, being in a "majestically grave and martial style" [Linley], were suitable for church use; however, Cornet and Flute voluntaries were (at the end of the eighteenth century) coming to be regarded as too light and airy for church use [Marsh]. Blewitt didn't object to Flute pieces, but wrote significantly: "When the Flute Piece is finished, let a few slow chords on the Diapasons conclude the Voluntary. I will here presume to add, that in the very same manner should every piece of Music, which has a Presto movement, be concluded. It brings back that solemnity of mind which such a volatile air has been permitted to sport with too much for the dignity of Church or Cathedral Service."

 

I am not sure how easy it is to recapture the spirit of church worship in this era, but it is surely fundamental to understanding this repertoire properly. Those of us who were brought up on Book of Common Prayer services in the middle of the last century might have experienced something similar, but modern worship has an altogether different air and has done for many decades. At the very least, although skipping through Trumpet voluntaries as jauntily and merrily as possible may be great fun, it is not what the composers intended.

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Many thanks indeed to Nigel and to VH for quoting extensively from Marsh, Blewitt and Linley. These treatises, along with the voluntaries appended to them for practical application, are all available in excellent modern editions, and should be required reading for all who play the Georgian Voluntaries. The Marsh is edited by Greg Lewin and the Blewitt and Linley by David Patrick of Fitzjohn music. David and Greg, along with Geoffrey Atkinson of Fagus Music, have published modern editions of the majority of the collections of voluntaries published from ca 1728-1858 by English composers; there is much fine music (along with some less than fine pieces as well, of course) in these books, and to play them well, demonstrating a real knowledge of historical performance practice, is a real challenge to those not used to thinking outside the box. Interestingly enough, William Russell wrote Trumpet movements in Eb major and E minor! This year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Keeble, whose 4 volumes of Select pieces offer fine alternatives to the more frequently played compositions of this period, his fugal writing in particular is second to none. Search out, practise, play, enjoy - and I can confirm that Nigel is absolutely correct in writing that congregations/audiences will do likewise!

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Many thanks indeed to Nigel and to VH for quoting extensively from Marsh, Blewitt and Linley. These treatises, along with the voluntaries appended to them for practical application, are all available in excellent modern editions, and should be required reading for all who play the Georgian Voluntaries. The Marsh is edited by Greg Lewin and the Blewitt and Linley by David Patrick of Fitzjohn music. David and Greg, along with Geoffrey Atkinson of Fagus Music, have published modern editions of the majority of the collections of voluntaries published from ca 1728-1858 by English composers; there is much fine music (along with some less than fine pieces as well, of course) in these books, and to play them well, demonstrating a real knowledge of historical performance practice, is a real challenge to those not used to thinking outside the box. Interestingly enough, William Russell wrote Trumpet movements in Eb major and E minor! This year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Keeble, whose 4 volumes of Select pieces offer fine alternatives to the more frequently played compositions of this period, his fugal writing in particular is second to none. Search out, practise, play, enjoy - and I can confirm that Nigel is absolutely correct in writing that congregations/audiences will do likewise!

 

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

 

 

I would also mention the six fugues by James Nares, (1715 -1783), which few people ever seem to play, but which are rather well written.

 

At least they aren't as miserable as those who must have listened to them at York Minster when he was organist there.

 

MM

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This year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Keeble, whose 4 volumes of Select pieces offer fine alternatives to the more frequently played compositions of this period, his fugal writing in particular is second to none.

Sets 1 - 3 are available in facsimile on the IMSLP site: http://imslp.org/wiki/Select_Pieces_for_th...n_(Keeble,_John). They are indeed worth investigating.

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It seems to lack a Choir Organ and Cremona, Vox Humana, and Clarion stops. Was the Bassoon stop similar to, or the same as, the Hautboy?

 

Indeed it does. But, it's in a university, and it has most things that most C18th English organs would have, including quasi-trigger swell. And neither is there anything in Oxford (unless Keble is finished and in yet) on which a typical English organist will feel comfortable accompanying a typical English choral evensong without even having to think twice about registration.

 

I'd love to know how to describe a Bassoon but the ones I have met have been distinctly throatier than the Hautboy, which (where they have appeared in the same instrument) have been a good deal less fruity than a Victorian example might be. The one at Jesus might be described as 'unapologetic'.

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Indeed it does. But, it's in a university, and it has most things that most C18th English organs would have, including quasi-trigger swell. And neither is there anything in Oxford (unless Keble is finished and in yet) on which a typical English organist will feel comfortable accompanying a typical English choral evensong without even having to think twice about registration.

 

I'd love to know how to describe a Bassoon but the ones I have met have been distinctly throatier than the Hautboy, which (where they have appeared in the same instrument) have been a good deal less fruity than a Victorian example might be. The one at Jesus might be described as 'unapologetic'.

 

 

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

 

Fascinating and very English though all this is, I think we are in danger of side-tracking the main reason for Karl's request, which I suspect was rather more to do with the symbiotic relationship between Swell & Great divisions on an English instrument, and the way we control this at the console. to create a virtually seamless range of expression, which with a German romantic instrument, is achieved very differently.

 

Perhaps we could bear this in mind as the discussion continues?

 

However, full marks for some interesting insights into early English organ music, which has taught me a few things.

 

MM

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Hello!

 

Here some basics about the English way of playing/approaching an organ were given.

Is there any book that gives even more insight into the way English instruments should be used? Maybe Stephen Bicknell's book on the History of the English Organ or one of the many "memories of an organist" collections...?

Thanks!

I have three on the shelves that may help to understand what was expected/assumed/usual at the time. Both Dixon (1870-1950) and Conway (1885-1961) were writing towards the end of their lives so much of their writing reflects practices in the first half of the century.

 

The Organ: Its tonal structure & registration Clutton & Dixon 1950 Grenville Publishing Co. The chapters on Tonal Structure & Registration of the 'Modern British Organ' - of which Tewksbury in its 5 manual Walker incarnation is cited as 'the apotheosis of English tonal design' (p127) - are acknowledged as mostly the work of Colonel Dixon.

 

Playing a Church Organ M P Conway 1949 Canterbury Press. Ch 3 covers colours, layouts, specifications (including prioritised list of potential stops) - all designed to allow 'the player to make best use of his resources'. Ch 4 covers Registration.

 

Church Organ Accompaniment M P Conway 1952 Canterbury Press. This includes further advice on registration plus detailed comments on every movement of The Messsiah & Elijah plus all 150 psalms

 

The application of all this is contained in Conway's Organ Vocal Score for the Messiah (Peters 1958).

 

Sometimes the most telling comments are about what NOT to do! - avoid too much Full Sw, don't always use Sw-Gt, avoid too many octave couplers, try not to 'pump' the Swell box all the time, don't mix lots of 8's into a 'mash' of sound (like one of the piston settings on the RCO organ at the time) - presumably most people were inclined to do so....

 

MGP

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The Organ: Its tonal structure & registration Clutton & Dixon 1950 Grenville Publishing Co.

Available online here: http://www.archive.org/details/organitstonalstr017814mbp

 

Sometimes the most telling comments are about what NOT to do! - avoid too much Full Sw, don't always use Sw-Gt, avoid too many octave couplers, try not to 'pump' the Swell box all the time, don't mix lots of 8's into a 'mash' of sound (like one of the piston settings on the RCO organ at the time) - presumably most people were inclined to do so....

Another book along these lines (showing an incipient awareness of the neo-Baroque) is Reginald Whitworth's "Organ Stops and their Use" (Pitman, 1951).

 

Also worth reading is the article "organ-playing" by Sir Walter Parratt in the 1904 edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. The relevant volume is online here (but be warned, it's a 40mb pdf file). The article is on page 599 of the pdf file (page 562 of the actual book).

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I have three on the shelves that may help to understand what was expected/assumed/usual at the time. Both Dixon (1870-1950) and Conway (1885-1961) were writing towards the end of their lives so much of their writing reflects practices in the first half of the century.

 

The Organ: Its tonal structure & registration Clutton & Dixon 1950 Grenville Publishing Co. The chapters on Tonal Structure & Registration of the 'Modern British Organ' - of which Tewksbury in its 5 manual Walker incarnation is cited as 'the apotheosis of English tonal design' (p127) - are acknowledged as mostly the work of Colonel Dixon.

 

Playing a Church Organ M P Conway 1949 Canterbury Press. Ch 3 covers colours, layouts, specifications (including prioritised list of potential stops) - all designed to allow 'the player to make best use of his resources'. Ch 4 covers Registration.

 

Church Organ Accompaniment M P Conway 1952 Canterbury Press. This includes further advice on registration plus detailed comments on every movement of The Messsiah & Elijah plus all 150 psalms

 

The application of all this is contained in Conway's Organ Vocal Score for the Messiah (Peters 1958).

 

Sometimes the most telling comments are about what NOT to do! - avoid too much Full Sw, don't always use Sw-Gt, avoid too many octave couplers, try not to 'pump' the Swell box all the time, don't mix lots of 8's into a 'mash' of sound (like one of the piston settings on the RCO organ at the time) - presumably most people were inclined to do so....

 

MGP

 

I often approach organ literature from the 50's and on with care. Modern writing can put a lot of things right - so is there anything more up to date on this subject?

 

There were a lot of strange ideas about organ accompaniment appearing in the 50's and 60's, which can be proved by recordings, compositions and organ building from the period. Especially organ building in North America (Britain didn't exactly have much money for organ building in the 50's though some do of course exist. With neo-classical ideas starting to take hold, but mostly very Edwardian performance styles prevailing - it must have been a strange mixture.

 

Look at organs like - McEwan hall edinburgh. Willis 3 with essentially a positive instead of choir. Except it isn't really - just a collection of soft mutations. Couple this to compositions like JH Dixons 'baroque suite' which has mutations indicated in the registration instructions, but to be used in a very un-baroque way!! Also recordings like Guildfords Stainer Cruxifiction and Maunder Olivet to Calvary from the 60's which demonstrates a bit of mutation use in victorian music. This proves that things were changing, whilst most of the older practices remained.

 

Therefore - when the advice about not using to many 8 foots and not always using sw-gt, not using too much full swell etc is presented - I for one take it with a pinch of salt. I'd be much more interested in knowing how they accompanied in the pre war years. So is there any pre war literature on this subject ?

 

In my humble opinion, a lot of the badly registered accompaniments I've heard around come from people trying to register edwardian / victorian music in a way that they were taught to do so 30 - 40 years ago when classical ideas were in full swing. Too much upper work, thin choruses (ie 8,4,2 rather than 8,8,8,4) and poor use of the expression pedal all seem to be common failings...

 

What to do about it? Make sure we observe the great cathedral organists of today! The art of beautifully registered accompaniments lives strong. One can learn so much through listening. In fact - learning to register accompaniments is probably one of the best exercises for the organ pupil in my opinion. The registration changes are much more complex than in most repertoire, must always be subtle and smooth, and require great care of panning and execution. Learning to piston push your way though Stanford can teach you a huge amount about registering repertoire effectively.

 

 

best wishes - I need some sleep now. CD

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I often approach organ literature from the 50's and on with care. Modern writing can put a lot of things right - so is there anything more up to date on this subject?

 

There were a lot of strange ideas about organ accompaniment appearing in the 50's and 60's, which can be proved by recordings, compositions and organ building from the period. Especially organ building in North America (Britain didn't exactly have much money for organ building in the 50's though some do of course exist. With neo-classical ideas starting to take hold, but mostly very Edwardian performance styles prevailing - it must have been a strange mixture.

 

Look at organs like - McEwan hall edinburgh. Willis 3 with essentially a positive instead of choir. Except it isn't really - just a collection of soft mutations. Couple this to compositions like JH Dixons 'baroque suite' which has mutations indicated in the registration instructions, but to be used in a very un-baroque way!! Also recordings like Guildfords Stainer Cruxifiction and Maunder Olivet to Calvary from the 60's which demonstrates a bit of mutation use in victorian music. This proves that things were changing, whilst most of the older practices remained.

 

Therefore - when the advice about not using to many 8 foots and not always using sw-gt, not using too much full swell etc is presented - I for one take it with a pinch of salt. I'd be much more interested in knowing how they accompanied in the pre war years. So is there any pre war literature on this subject ?

 

In my humble opinion, a lot of the badly registered accompaniments I've heard around come from people trying to register edwardian / victorian music in a way that they were taught to do so 30 - 40 years ago when classical ideas were in full swing. Too much upper work, thin choruses (ie 8,4,2 rather than 8,8,8,4) and poor use of the expression pedal all seem to be common failings...

 

What to do about it? Make sure we observe the great cathedral organists of today! The art of beautifully registered accompaniments lives strong. One can learn so much through listening. In fact - learning to register accompaniments is probably one of the best exercises for the organ pupil in my opinion. The registration changes are much more complex than in most repertoire, must always be subtle and smooth, and require great care of panning and execution. Learning to piston push your way though Stanford can teach you a huge amount about registering repertoire effectively.

 

 

best wishes - I need some sleep now. CD

 

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

 

I can go along with these observations to a point, but I would question whether the use of mutations and thinner choruses actually dates from the 1950's on.

 

Why?

 

Well, take a look at what John Compton was doing in some of our cathedrals, abbeys and concert halls....Derby, Bangor, Hull City Hall, Bournemouth Pavilion, Downside, Holy Trinity Hull (et al).

 

I recall, back in the 1960's of my youth, Dr Leslie Paul accompanying psalms at Bangor, with an amazing array of colour from the various mutations; some of which were used to create synthetic orchestral reed effects as well as more piquant sounds....all distinctly un-baroque of course.

 

Moving swiftly to York Minster and Dr Francis Jackson, and he would so much the same thing, and even managed to create possibly the finest recording of the Willan "Introduction & Passacaglia" of all time, using registers quite alien to what Healey-Willan must have had in mind. Registrationally, he re-invented the work, yet artistically, he was absolutely on the money.

 

When it came to choral accompaniment, "Francis" was right up there with the best, and like Dr Sidney Campbell, his psalm accompaniments are the stuff of legend.

 

I make no further point than the fact that it isn't quite so straightforward as simply being a 50's and 60's phenomenon, and lest we forget, the organ at Liverpool Cathedral had a very generous provision of upperwork and mutations from the earliest days.

 

MM

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I recall, back in the 1960's of my youth, Dr Leslie Paul accompanying psalms at Bangor, with an amazing array of colour from the various mutations; some of which were used to create synthetic orchestral reed effects as well as more piquant sounds....all distinctly un-baroque of course.

Indeed. In the same decade I remember issues of The Organ mentioning the ability of the Choir mutations to produce synthetic Clarinets and synthetic Orchestral Oboes. That said, I wouldn't dream of using them in music as early as Stainer and Maunder.

 

Therefore - when the advice about not using to many 8 foots and not always using sw-gt, not using too much full swell etc is presented - I for one take it with a pinch of salt. I'd be much more interested in knowing how they accompanied in the pre war years. So is there any pre war literature on this subject ?

Well, there's the 1904 article by Parratt that I referenced above, although he does not mention accompaniment specifically. He won't have any truck with Mixtures, but, once you get past that diatribe, he recommends... well... not using too many 8' stops, not over-using the couplers, using straight families of stops, e.g. diapasons 8', 4', 2', flutes 8', 4', 2'. Much the same sort of advice, in fact, as given by Whitworth. He does have some closing remarks on playing with orchestras, where he recommends not using any stops above 8' pitch. But, in line with what mgp indicated above, Parratt's article takes prevailing practice largely as read and is aimed primarily at trying to get other organists to broaden their outlook.

 

Sir John Stainer's tutor also contains general advice on registration, though again it's not specifically about accompaniment: http://www.archive.org/details/organ00harkgoog (the page mentions a pdf file on Google.com, but I can't work out how to access it; you can read it online, however.)

 

For something specifically dealing with accompanment, there is this, penned in 1885 with parish churches in mind and full of advice that is now considered bad practice. Bridge says very little about registration, but it is still an interesting read. I've quoted it before, but I do love this passage:

"While dealing with the expression of the words in the Psalms, a timely warning must be given against exaggeration in the direction of "word painting." No doubt many of those who read this little book may have heard organists attempt to portray "birds singing among the branches" (generally depicted by means of the shrillest flute in the organ), and the author has a vivid recollection of attempts to represent "the Heavens dropping" and the "word running very swiftly," the former by a startling staccato chord on the lowest octave of the great organ, while the right hand sustained the harmony on the swell, and the latter by a run up the keyboard of surprising rapidity. Ideas such as these would not, it is believed, occur to any organist of refined taste."

 

 

In my humble opinion, a lot of the badly registered accompaniments I've heard around come from people trying to register edwardian / victorian music in a way that they were taught to do so 30 - 40 years ago when classical ideas were in full swing. Too much upper work, thin choruses (ie 8,4,2 rather than 8,8,8,4) and poor use of the expression pedal all seem to be common failings...

 

What to do about it? Make sure we observe the great cathedral organists of today!

Well, yes, but I can think of one cathedral organist today, who is on record (and CD) as an organ scholar using the sort of accompaniments you decry. No names, no pack drill! Anyway, he may well have changed his approach since.

 

Then again, it all depends on the choir, doesn't it? It's one thing if you are accompanying a crack cathedral or collegiate choir which always sings perfectly in tune. With such a choir you could safely stick to 8' pitch alone if you felt so inclined. On the other, what are you going to do if you are accompanying less superhuman mortals and hear the pitch slipping? But in general I agree: bright, vertical choruses are no more likely to blend with a choir than a fat, suffocating wodge of 8' tone. I think they can work in more fugal textures, but even then I'm not really sure how desirable bright 2' tone is; generally I'd prefer to avoid it and leave the limelight to the choir.

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