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davidh

Screwing up the last verse.

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Provided with a basic music education, I was taught that it was usually good manners for a piece to return to the home key as it closed, with the assurance that listeners with a good sense of pitch would feel uncomfortable if it ended anywhere else.

 

I have now heard a lot of Dutch hymn singing, with the organist raising the last verse by a semitone, improvisations doing the same, and published versions of improvisations confirming that they really did end a semitone high. Now this adds nicely to the excitement of the build-up at the end, but it seemed to me a rather cheap and unworthy effect.

 

Recently I was given a book, with a title which sounds like a post-mortem report, "The Organs of J S Bach", and I learn that in Altenburg he started a hymn in D minor, raised it to E flat minor on the second verse and finished with the third verse in E minor. A witness at the time said "only a Bach could do this and only the organ in Altenburg. Not all of us are or have that."

 

(Presumably the limitations on many organs of the time were due to the temperament which would not work in all of those three keys. The organ there is now tuned in Neidhardt I, but the original temperament is not known. Of course no such problem exists with equal temperament.)

 

How many organists elsewhere do this, and is the practice common?

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Horrible habit! I have very occasionally done it to a worship song/chorus thing and I always do it to At the name of Jesus to Camberwell - though i have a slightly extended interlude and go up a tone with some silly harmonies. Goes down a treat and is at least as tasteful as the tune itself. (If anyone wants a copy, PM me.) I dare say Bach would have treated Camberwell with a little freedom as well!

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I agree that this is tasteless; unfortunately I can be a bit tasteless so do indulge occasionally.

 

I have Stephen's 'Camberwell' (did you post it on the web group we had for reharmonisations, Stephen?) and it does work very nicely, because there is already an interlude between the verses so flows well. Another I always change on is 'There is a Redeemer', where there are some passing notes which nicely fit a modulation from D to E going into verse 3. I did once do consecutive key changes on the hymn/song (delete as appropriate) 'Such love' but it wasn't approved of (looking back, it was a bit silly!). I have also sometimes raised the last verse of a hymn at a big festal service (eg. 'Thine be the glory' on Easter Day with an improvised fanfare-type interlude) - I'm sure some fellow contributors would be appalled at the thought!

 

When I saw the thread title I thought it was going to be about awful reharmonisations of last verses. At Beeston on a Sunday morning reharmonisations draw very little comment (positive or negative) but when I play at St Marys, Nottingham they draw a lot of comment from the choir, and mostly negative! Being the well-behaved organist that I am, I take the chorus of (good-humoured) disapproval that meets me in the pub as encouragement and indulge in them all the more!

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I once heard a very respected player - now DOM at an important northern parish church - put the Battle Hymn of the Republic up a semitone each verse when he was Assistant DOM at my local home counties cathedral many years ago. It was at a youth service and worked really well!

 

A

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A few years ago, the organ console in Truro Cathedral (at least during the summer break) displayed a stern notice admonishing visiting organists to refrain from altering the key of subsequent verses of any hymn. I cannot recall what penalties were threatened, but I gained the impression that they would be about as desirable as being trapped in a lift with Dale Winton....

 

For that matter, the old (and greatly lamented) Lewis/Walker organ in Saint Peter's Church, Eaton Square had a typed notice affixed to the console music desk which stated 'After playing German Romantic organ music, please wash your hands.' This, I believe, was posted by Peter Chase, who was director of music at that time - and one of my college professors.

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Not a screwed-up last verse but simply some great playing by Daniel Moult of "Thine Be The Glory" at St Mary, Redcliffe during the broadcast CE which I have just heard on Radio 3. The whole thing is well worth listening to on the i-player - especially as it seemed to draw opprobrium from some of the more fossilised on a R3 forum!

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It was certainly a stirring experience in the building. Fine singing from the MYC, too.

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Indeed, and with some interesting new music to boot.

 

I loved the final voluntary; how I wish that I could play such music (and had an instrument on which it would work!).

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...but simply some great playing by Daniel Moult of "Thine Be The Glory" at St Mary, Redcliffe during the broadcast CE which I have just heard on Radio 3. The whole thing is well worth listening to on the i-player - especially as it seemed to draw opprobrium from some of the more fossilised on a R3 forum!

 

Absolutely. There are certainly quite a few there, aren't there?

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There certainly are and I imagine that many DOMs read their twitterings with no more than a resigned amusement.

 

On the assumption that there are not 2 Wolseys practicing, your own postings bring a very welcome and knowledgeable balance to that particular forum. I am not registered to post on it but do keep an eye open for the few organ-related posts.

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That's very kind of you, handsoff. I don't contribute as prolifically as others appear to do, but there are occasions when the accuracy of some contributions needs correction, or a reactionary and uninformed view needs to be challenged.

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I once heard a very respected player - now DOM at an important northern parish church - put the Battle Hymn of the Republic up a semitone each verse when he was Assistant DOM at my local home counties cathedral many years ago. It was at a youth service and worked really well!

 

A

He even wrote it out - with a subtly different accompaniment for each verse (incl some nifty double pedalling) starting in Ab and ending up in B

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Does anybody know the trick in Horsley where you can slip down a third for the last line of each verse? I heard someone demonstrate this on an RSCM course in the mid-1970s but have never been able to recreate it. I can't even remember if it was a major 3rd or minor 3rd. Fairly sure it was more than a whole-tone though.

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I do transpose the last verse very rarely. And upwards, of course. No wandering around in the between-verses, though I like the modulations of Rutter's "Look at the world"...

 

....but what I wanted to tell you, is one of the most amusing memories of a misunderstanding:

Years ago, I was a visitor to a service in a small R. C. church in Northern Germany, diaspora, so. There is a modern song (well, from 1961), which is usually stepped up a semitone in every of its six verses.

And normally, this is done by making the final note of the current verse the third of the modulating dominant seventh chord to the next verse - making the final C of the C major verse the third of the A-flat 7 chord, modulating to the following D-flat verse.

Well, of course you know that. And it works best with songs, where the first and the last note are the base of the scale, as it is the case with that vertain melody.

So, it should have been:

 

danke-1.jpg

 

Well, the lady playing the toaster may have heard an explanation of this method. Once upon a time....

 

But, what did we hear on that sunday morning?

 

danke-2.jpg

 

This happened two more times (they did not perform all the verses), and every time congregation, singers group and organist celebrated that metric stop at a verse's end, the listening to that isolated magic chord, and then started the next verse a whole tone higher... :unsure:

It was so astonishing not to see ANYBODY with a trace of doubt, that this modulation rite was not the real thing...

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....but what I wanted to tell you, is one of the most amusing memories of a misunderstanding:

 

Years ago, I was a visitor to a service in a small R. C. church in Northern Germany, diaspora, so. There is a modern song (well, from 1961), which is usually stepped up a semitone in every of its six verses.

 

 

 

Yes. I went to Mass one Ash Wednesday in Northern Germany in 1982. It was an experience that, neither I or my children, will ever forget.

 

At the end of Mass we ended with that particular song which was transposed up for each of its innumerable verses - in exactly the way you describe!

 

As amusing as the transposition was the fact that my, rather small, children speaking little German were able, enthusiastically, to join in with singing the first word "Danke...................." on every line?

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Hi

 

The song was in the late, unlamented "Youth Praise" (1966). It was quite popular in some circles for a while, but I've not heard it for many years. Words M.G. Schneider, tr & adapted S. Lonsdale & M.A. Baughen. Music by Sneider, but the key changes in YP are attributed to D.G. Wilson.

 

It starts in E major and ascends a semi-tone at a time to A major. (The F# major verse was the downfall of many players!)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Horrible habit! I have very occasionally done it to a worship song/chorus thing and I always do it to At the name of Jesus to Camberwell - though i have a slightly extended interlude and go up a tone with some silly harmonies. Goes down a treat and is at least as tasteful as the tune itself. (If anyone wants a copy, PM me.) I dare say Bach would have treated Camberwell with a little freedom as well!

 

I did once transpose the last verse of Amazing Grace up a perfect fourth - but only because I wished to kill it stone dead. It worked - we have never had to sing it since. (Whilst I would not normally resort to such an extreme course of action, I detest this hymn absolutely.)

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I do transpose the last verse very rarely. And upwards, of course. No wandering around in the between-verses, though I like the modulations of Rutter's "Look at the world"...

 

....but what I wanted to tell you, is one of the most amusing memories of a misunderstanding:

Years ago, I was a visitor to a service in a small R. C. church in Northern Germany, diaspora, so. There is a modern song (well, from 1961), which is usually stepped up a semitone in every of its six verses.

And normally, this is done by making the final note of the current verse the third of the modulating dominant seventh chord to the next verse - making the final C of the C major verse the third of the A-flat 7 chord, modulating to the following D-flat verse.

Well, of course you know that. And it works best with songs, where the first and the last note are the base of the scale, as it is the case with that vertain melody.

So, it should have been:

 

danke-1.jpg

 

Well, the lady playing the toaster may have heard an explanation of this method. Once upon a time....

 

But, what did we hear on that sunday morning?

 

danke-2.jpg

 

This happened two more times (they did not perform all the verses), and every time congregation, singers group and organist celebrated that metric stop at a verse's end, the listening to that isolated magic chord, and then started the next verse a whole tone higher... :unsure:

It was so astonishing not to see ANYBODY with a trace of doubt, that this modulation rite was not the real thing...

 

 

Ha! So did the congregation manage the last verse without tears of effort streaming down their faces?

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I also recall being shown how to get Horsley down a perfect fourth (I think I remember how to do it) but my recollection is that it was at a seminar on RCO tests in the early 70s at Kensington Gore with either Douglas Hopkins or John Birch.

 

Having recently spent three and a half years in a congregation where the final verses of hymns are almost always re-written in any combination of key, harmony or tempo, not to mention adding descants, I have become rather allergic to such things. It has been a joy in recent weeks to go to Mr Wolsey's own establishment and to Portsmouth cathedral where good taste and restaint are both displayed and very welcome.

 

I always tell young players not to do anything that will either irritate people or put the congregation off singing.

 

Malcolm

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Rather belatedly I am coming to appreciate why the late Sidney Campbell so disapproved of last verse re-harmonisations. ("I know I wrote one for the RSCM book," he said, "but that was because Gerald Knight asked me to." And very good it is too.) I suspect his distaste was for the reasons Malcolm outlines. You very rarely hear them done well. Too often what you hear is a chord or two altered in the first couple of lines and then nothing but the hymn-book harmony, leaving you with a sense of anti-climax and wondering what point the organist thought he was making and why he bothered. If you are going to do anything like that, it must be capable of standing on its own as music, i.e. it must have proper and purposeful musical direction, otherwise it won't have any musical point. On the other hand, if you go to town and re-harmonise the whole thing, it will almost certainly disorientate the congregation. I have no doubt that this is mainly because congregations are in general musically indolent, inadequately attentive and dislike anything that jolts them out of their comfort zones, but whether that justifies kicking them musically up the backsides is a moot point. (They tend to prefer their Christmas carols plain and simple too.) Striking a happy mean requires great taste and judgement. I used to think I had it; now I'm fairly certain I haven't.

 

It is different in Germany where the chorale books are in unison and every verse is given a different harmonisation by the organist. That is a rather different thing and I have never heard it done less than well. I imagine this works precisely because it is the norm and the congregations are used to it and expect it.

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Many years ago I sat in awe and wonder at the console at St Albans for a Choral Evensong while Peter Hurford re-harmonised (very tastefully I might add) a selection of the verses of the hymns.

 

A

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My good friend who is organist at the church to which I allude recently managed to reharmonise Benson to include the Petrushka chord. I was glad not to have been there that day.

 

Malcolm

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My good friend who is organist at the church to which I allude recently managed to reharmonise Benson to include the Petrushka chord. I was glad not to have been there that day.

 

Malcolm

 

Indeed. There is also the slightly distressing (accidental) quote from Auld Lang Syne, in Darke's Communion Serivce, in F*. (Yes, I know that this is not a hymn - but it still bothers me.)

 

 

 

* Gloria - second system, bars three to five, treble line.

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We don't use the organ at every service at my current church, and when we do it's normally just for the opening and/or closing hymn. This morning the final hymn was "How great Thou art". I took the last verse up a semitone and was somewhat surprised by the number of people coming up to me afterwards commenting on what a cracking job the organ did to it. Whether that's because of or in spite of the key change I didn't enquire, but then I don't often do keychanges.

 

The modern worship song "My Jesus my saviour" (which I should add I play on keyboard not organ) rather lends itself to a minor third uplift halfway through the final chorus - in other words from the home key of Bb major to Db major. The chord at the end of the fourth line is F major second inversion -> F major root -> tonic first inversion, which lends itself to being changed to F major second inversion -> (F major root -> Ab major dominant seventh) modulating into the new key of D flat first inversion. Just make sure you practice with the other singers first if you ever try that trick!

 

I can't remember the hymn but I once did accidently go down a fourth when I meant to go up a semitone. The result was certainly interesting if unrepeatable.

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