Jump to content
Mander Organs
Westgate Morris

Playing every week!

Recommended Posts

Playing every week!

I know similar questions have been posted. Direct me to other posts if needed.

What do members recommend as good serviceable repertoire (old and new) for those of us in smaller parish churches with very little time. My other job seems to demand a lot more of my time as it pays for my addiction to organ playing.

( I have a degree in music, studied organ and for example, can play, BWV 549, not sure of AB grade)

The standard books like “easy preludes and postludes” at my local music retailer just don’t seem to hold my interest. J

 

I refer to a quote from a Guest-Cynic in 2007:

“I have an amateur organist friend who keeps making the mistake of really liking a piece, buying it and then getting bogged down because the choice is so firmly at the wrong level for him. A church organist does not have to play difficult pieces to do a good job, you do not even need difficult pieces to make a pleasing recital programme.”

 

Running out of time,

W

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, that's a wide open question!

 

Your situation is in some ways like my own - I likewise haven't done any organ grades and learn pieces mostly to play as voluntaries (some for my own personal pleasure, though!). There's no exact science to grades I guess, and my service playing is definitely better than my playing of repertoire. I keep a spreadsheet of organ voluntaries so that I can record what I play and when - some pieces are seasonal, while others can be played more generally - it helps to ensure you don't repeat things too often, and that pieces don't get forgotten.

 

You don't tell us what kind of instrument you have at your disposal - I have an instrument that is pretty well stocked so some of what I list may not be practical on your instrument. Nonetheless, here is a list of pieces I have used over time which may suit your requirements...

 

Andriessen - Theme and Variations (loud and impressive, but out of print - I found it in the City centre library!)

BWV 568 (Prelude in G) - if you have Novello its in the same book as BWV 549

German - Festive Trumpet Tune (needs a solo reed and modulates into six sharps - I found this slightly tricky at first but OK after a little practice)

Ireland - Alla Marcia (march-like, available in a Novello publication which contains Ireland's complete organ works for a reasonable price)

Jacob - Festal Flourish (could use a solo reed, but could also do without one)

Lang - Tuba Tune (clue in the name, its a bit trite, but worth an outing once a year, usually in August when most people are on holiday!)

Leighton - Fanfare (as easy as Leighton gets)

Mathias - Fanfare, Postlude and Processional (the first in OUP Ceremonial Music album, the others in the Mathias organ album published by OUP - the Processional is probably the best of the three)

Mendelssohn - Sonata movements - notably the Fugue from No. 6 which is easy and quite impressive

Purcell - Rondeau - in OUP Ceremonial Music again

Rutter - Toccata in Seven - in OUP 'Second Easy Album for Organ'

Whitlock - Paean (if you've a tuba!) - the Whitlock 'Shorter Organ Music' is pricey but worth having if you like his stuff, which I do

 

The Mushel Toccata isn't too tricky as they go, and usually goes down well.

 

I also throw in transcriptions every now and then, such as the Dambusters' March (from a piano score), Verdi 'Grand March' (I use Rawsthorne), Charpentier, Jeremiah Clarke etc.

 

Of course, you might play most of these already...I'd be interested to see what other contributors suggest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Philip. Exactly what I was looking for. I appreciate your suggestions.

I have the Andriessen, Whitlock and some retched old editions of the Mendelssohn. I used to collect all the music I could at used book sales so I have some goodies like the Andriessen but lots of poor music that I find myself playing because I can sight-read it as prelude and postlude. I really want to get playing some better rep. if I can – life is to short lol. W.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several of the Buxtehude praeludia are relatively easy - the D major, the G minor and the C major Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne. Similarly, any of the works of Georg Bohm (four or five praeludia and several sets of chorale variations) or Nicholaus Bruhns. I have an old French edition of Pachelbel's Chaconne in F minor which has proved invaluable over the years.

 

If your organ can make the right noises, most of the French baroque composers are available for free download. The noels always go down well at Christmas, especially Daquin's.

 

Max Drischner composed early baroque-style music in the twentieth century. His Nordische Fantasie in A minor sounds impressive and is dead easy. There's a sizeable collection of chorale preludes, too, including a very fine one on 'Lobe den Herren'. A pupil swiped my copy some years back. Published by Schultheis of Tubingen.

 

Peter Hurford's 'Laudate Dominum' suite, especially the last movement 'Exurgat Deus'.

 

One often finds or inherits old copies of 'The Red Album', 'The Blue Album' and so on. Most contain at least something worth playing - like Hollins's 'A Trumpet Minuet', Brewer's 'Marche Heroique' or Reginald Goss-Custard's 'Chelsea Fayre'.

 

Howells's 'Master Tallis's Testament'.

 

Weinberger publishes a massively useful collection of five pieces arranged or composed by Alan Wilson called 'Music for an Occasion'. It includes Susato's 'Mohrentanz', Praetorius's 'Springtanz' and a very useful arrangement of Purcell's Chacony in G minor.

 

S.S. Wesley's 'Choral Song' (I find Watkins Shaw's edition benefits from further thinning of the texture).

 

S. Drummond Wolff's 'Purcell Suite' includes 'When I am laid in earth', 'Fairest Isle' and a couple of lesser known trumpet tunes. I don't know if it's readily available outside North America.

 

Theodore Dubois' Toccata and Fiat Lux. 'Marche des rois mages' is amusing at Epiphany. All this and more available free online.

 

If your congregation likes Lefebure-Wely's Sortie in E flat, they will also like Scotson Clarke's 'Marche aux Flambeaux', and it's easier to play....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Try the Orgue or Harmonium pieces by Langlais, Litaize etc. for interesting pieces with optional pedal parts. From the USA the music of Craig Phillips (Selah) and Daniel Gawthrop (Dunstan House) is contemporary but not threatening and from Scandinavia the hymn based music of composers such as Egil Hovland is quite refreshingly different. Likewise a great deal of similar music from the Netherlands (Monnikendam, Strategier and contemporary composers such as Sietze de Vries - more usually known for his improvisations). From Canada there are the volumes of approachable music from Rachel Laurin (Wayne Leupold) and the Swedish composer Fredrik Sixten is also producing some good pieces though more often for those of quite advanced technique.

 

All the collections edited by Anne Marsden - Thomas are excellent as are the new anthologies edited by David Patrick from OUP. There is a lot of good new music on the books of Animus, fagus-music.com and Encore Music I also keep an eye on reviews in Choir & Organ and Organist's Review. A browse of the website of AFNOM (Annual Festival of New Organ Music) can reveal some interesting repertoire from composers such as Huw Morgan.

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm often in a similar position to Westgate Morris, and by dint of experience have found over half a century or so of trying to 'entertain' the average congregation that they much prefer things which either they know anyway, or (if they don't), numbers which have 'a tune'. It is easy to sense whether one has engaged them, particularly at the beginning of a service, by assessing the dB level of their conversations and other noise-making activities. There is an inverse correlation between sound pressure level and their interest as you begin a new piece.

 

OK, so what does one play? I've found Kevin Mayhew does (or did - I assume the items I'm about to mention are still in print) a range of useful and attractive pieces (which on the whole engage me as well as the listeners!). Examples are "The Essential Organist" and "The Organist's Collection" (many volumes available here).

 

"The Little Organ Book" (Banks) in memory of C H H Parry contains some beautiful stuff IMHO.

 

Then there are the many shorter pieces by Guilmant (despite the unkind things I said about him recently in another post!), such as his variations on Handel's works. Franck, Karg-Elert and Alfred Hollins also wrote books full of stuff for either harmonium or organ, and some (though by no means all) is worthwhile if one exercises a bit of taste and judgment.

 

Also "113 Variations on Hymn Tunes for Organ " by GTB (Novello).

 

I sometimes even just play a medley of hymns quietly, with a segway from one to the next. On one occasion I did some of the Sankey and Moody hymns, and was particularly moved when a very elderly lady came up afterwards, supported by her grand daughter, to say with eyes full of tears how much she had enjoyed it. Sometimes it's good to know one has got it right.

 

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few that you might find useful:

  • Dyson: Variations on Old Psalm Tunes: there's three sets of them. Tuneful and approachable.
  • virtually anything by Denis Bedard
  • Dupre: Entrée, Canzona et Sortie: not nearly as difficult as his other stuff, very useful
  • Franck: Pieces Posthumes (sp?) - on IMSLP
  • Johnson: Trumpet Tunes
  • Karg-Elert: 20 Preludes and Postludes Op.78
  • Peeters: Chorale Preludes Op.68 - 70
  • Willan: Six Chorale Preludes
  • Dupre: Tombeau de Titelouze
  • Nibelle: 50 Pieces

All material which I've used, and found rather invaluable!

 

VA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks again for more suggestions. I didn't know Rachel Laurin was publishing with Wayne Leupold. I will have to look into her approachable rep. She is a very fine organist!

I had lots of training in French Baroque and love the stuff... need to get some out again.

Daniel Gawthrop and Egil Hovland - I would like to take a closer look at some of their organ works.

 

W

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

BWV 568 (Prelude in G) - if you have Novello its in the same book as BWV 549

 

Except, of course, that it's not by Bach. In the earlier source it doesn't have anyone's name attached to it. It does follow a piece that is attributed to Bach - the Little Harmonic Labyrinth - but that's an opus dubius so even that ascription can't be trusted. The piece is none the worse for that though.

 

The Mushel Toccata isn't too tricky as they go, and usually goes down well.

 

But do get a version that replicates Mushel's original, not the duffed up one from OUP. I find the version in the Peters volume of Russian and East European organ music more easily readable than smaller print of the whole suite.

 

I refer to a quote from a Guest-Cynic in 2007:

“I have an amateur organist friend who keeps making the mistake of really liking a piece, buying it and then getting bogged down because the choice is so firmly at the wrong level for him. A church organist does not have to play difficult pieces to do a good job, you do not even need difficult pieces to make a pleasing recital programme.”

 

What sound advice that is. A lot of the pieces being suggested above (e.g. Dupré?) are not what I would recommend for someone "with very little time" (to practise, I assume). I am not aiming at anyone in particular - this is just a general rant into cyberspace - but there are some organists out there who seem to be quite oblivious of how painful it is to listen to bar upon bar of wrong notes. I appreciate that this is very delicate territory and I am certainly not criticising those "reluctant" organists who are genuinely doing their best against sometimes considerable odds (I have a long-standing adult pupil in this category, but that is another story) - but I am convinced that many not-so-reluctant organists really could do better if only they took their performances seriously. So often I have had the impression that I was listening to an organist who would have been really enjoyable to listen to if only they had stuck to pieces that they could guarantee to play accurately and musically. I don't care if it's manuals-only music. Talking of which:

 

I don't think anyone has yet mentioned John Stanley's voluntaries. There are loads of good early English voluntaries (Boyce, Greene, Reading...) but you only need so many and Stanley is probably the best starting point.

 

Sticking with early music, Zipoli's organ pieces are both quite easy and really worth airing. The canzonas and other imitative pieces are best used sparsely, but the pastorale and offertory are fun and the two elevation pieces are wonderfully atmospheric.

 

With pedals, book 1 of Cecil Armstrong Gibbs's Six Sketches for Organ presents three pieces which are really not difficult and need only a modest organ. They won't be to everyone's taste. The first, Lyric Melody, borders on the schmaltzy, but I like it. I really must get hold of book 2 sometime.

 

Buxtehude, Bruhns and Böhm have been mentioned. There is also Lübeck, whose P&Fs in C minor, F major and D minor are approachable (I love the D minor with it's incessant repeated notes in the fugue).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I unashamedly play very few of the 'greats' from the organ repertoire mostly because a lot of other organists play these pieces far more effectively than I could ever hope to do. But, I do have a large-ish repertoire of worthwhile pieces that I enjoy playing, which may not necessarily all be of top musical content but which I can play quite well and which people seem interested in hearing. I can put a reasonably well balanced recital together - though I don't enjoy doing this very much - and have enough pieces readily available for service use - or alternatively will improvise.

 

I agree with much that Vox H writes above - there is nothing worse than listening to music badly prepared - someone - 'can't remember who - once wrote that there should be fewer organists and more musicians playing the organ. If we stick to what we are able to play there is still much that can be played even for those of modest technique.

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I don't care if it's manuals-only music. Talking of which:

 

I don't think anyone has yet mentioned John Stanley's voluntaries. There are loads of good early English voluntaries (Boyce, Greene, Reading...) but you only need so many and Stanley is probably the best starting point.

 

 

I endorse this very sound advice. A great deal of early music for manuals only is musically worthwhile and well worth learning. I play quite a lot of it and not only because my pedalling technique is perhaps not as good as it should be. My regular organ has a very noisy pedalboard and can detract from the musical experience for the listener. I use pedals in hymns because the congregation seem to appreciate the 16' tone and sing more lustily when it is used but for voluntaries I guess that about 60% of the repertoire I use is pedal-free.

 

Matthew Camidge wrote some good music and after hearing Ian Ball's CD including Camidge's 2nd Concerto in G Minor I was inspired to dig out my old copy and relearn it. The 4 movements can happily be used as separate pieces.

 

The final advantage is that I can practice at home on a relatively cheap Casio full-range keyboard and avoid freezing in a chilly church.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When considering how well or otherwise a piece is played in real time in church or at a live recital, I sometimes think it's easy to forget that the standard against which we judge the performer today is perhaps excessively high. This is doubtless because of the influence of recorded music, which is not the same thing at all on account of the ease with which a perfect recording can be produced using multiple takes and sophisticated digital editing. A typical CD will often have hundreds of edits, inserted afterwards to make it as perfect as possible.

 

This means that even the most proficient and famous professional players can slip up when playing live. As just one example, I well recall the time at a Proms organ recital at the RAH when the performer (a very well known player and pedagogue) came to a dead stop in the middle of 'the' Toccata. The slow hand clap at the end was just awful.

 

As a frequent recital-goer I could mention many other examples but will not because it's not really the point. Anybody can make mistakes, and in the days before editing of recordings was possible the standard was actually quite poor by modern standards. Some of Alcock's extant recordings on 78 rpm records are frankly terrible - even he said that he disliked playing them either to himself or in the presence of friends. In the latter cases he used to cough discreetly when the howlers were coming up!

 

So, given this applies to the professionals, I don't expect perfection from amateurs either. Of course, there is a lower tolerance limit below which we should not go, and it just is not good enough when the organist in a church can't play the hymns properly. But beyond that I try to relax my standards somewhat, otherwise one is continually disappointed.

 

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I sometimes think it's easy to forget that the standard against which we judge the performer today is perhaps excessively high. ... A typical CD will often have hundreds of edits, inserted afterwards to make it as perfect as possible.

 

I should clarify. While I don't disagree with your main argument, I can promise you that I was not applying excessive standards to the people I had in mind. The odd slip doesn't worry me and I doubt there is a player who is entirely infallible all the time. I think it takes a very special kind of pedant to have his whole experience ruined by a transient slip or two. However... Envisage a joint recital by half a dozen or so people. The first player chooses a piece of uncomplicated Victoriana, little more than a succession of chords with a melody on top. The first chord is correct, but barely another in the whole piece is even recognisable. The playing is so inaccurate that it is quite impossible to divine what the composer intended by way of either melody or harmony. The piece sounded completely atonal. I really am not exaggerating. It may well be that this performer was totally overcome by nerves and went to pieces, but that fact is inescapable that everyone would have been better off had the performance not taken place. The ensuing performers were little better. One even confessed that he had not practised his offering but had only decided what to play while in the car on the way to the event. I find this cavalier attitude is a good deal more reprehensible than efforts of the first performer, who was no doubt doing the best he could manage - I happen to know that this cavalier chap is perfectly capable of playing very well, so why did he present us with a scrappy, unrehearsed offering instead of something that he could play safely? Only one person gave an acceptable (actually really rather good) performance and he was an FRCO. Him apart, it really was a miserable event.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Early English repertoire (Stanley et al) is nice - but you do need to work through how to handle the passages that drop below the low C of modern organs (and IMHO, bodging these notes on the pedals doesn't really work). Of course, if you happen to have a GG-compass organ, as I do here at present, ,,,,,,

 

Please avoid the later "arrangements" of this repertoire with filled-out harmonies and added pedal parts! The various musical Wesleys material is also worth a look.

 

 

Every Blessing

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that it's right to have the original versions and to play them, but there are times when the occasion or the instrument makes the use of a filled-out arrangement with pedals more effective. I have several examples of the period in both types of arrangement and play both, according to what seems right at the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Leighton's Fanfare was mentioned earlier (I think it was set by AB for Grade VII at one time, but it would have been an easy choice at that level). 'Easy Modern Organ Music' also contains Arnold Cooke's Impromptu, which is a beautiful little piece - Hindemithian but with a leavening of lyricism. Mathias's Chorale and McCabe's Nocturne are worth a look, too.

 

If you like the Cooke, you'll like the slow movements of the Hindemith Sonatas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. VA thanks for the list - I am trying to track down Nibelle: 50 Pieces. DD I will have a look a the Hindemith. Does anyone know about the OUP Easy Modern Organ Music albums? Are they now combined into one book?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does anyone know about the OUP Easy Modern Organ Music albums? Are they now combined into one book?

They're long out of print but can be ordered in "authorised photocopy form" as a single combined volume (try Allegro Music if not OUP themselves) or, if you just want a particular piece, separate off-prints are also available.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The Organist" & "The Organ Portfolio" by Lorenz Corp. Older isuues widely available at Ebay.com. Mainly for non-professional organists. Oldest issues available at Sibley music library. Search there "The Organist" and you'll find several collections, "The organist's quarterly journal", "The village organist" etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I should clarify. While I don't disagree with your main argument, I can promise you that I was not applying excessive standards to the people I had in mind. The odd slip doesn't worry me and I doubt there is a player who is entirely infallible all the time. I think it takes a very special kind of pedant to have his whole experience ruined by a transient slip or two. However... Envisage a joint recital by half a dozen or so people. The first player chooses a piece of uncomplicated Victoriana, little more than a succession of chords with a melody on top. The first chord is correct, but barely another in the whole piece is even recognisable. The playing is so inaccurate that it is quite impossible to divine what the composer intended by way of either melody or harmony. The piece sounded completely atonal. I really am not exaggerating. It may well be that this performer was totally overcome by nerves and went to pieces, but that fact is inescapable that everyone would have been better off had the performance not taken place. The ensuing performers were little better. One even confessed that he had not practised his offering but had only decided what to play while in the car on the way to the event. I find this cavalier attitude is a good deal more reprehensible than efforts of the first performer, who was no doubt doing the best he could manage - I happen to know that this cavalier chap is perfectly capable of playing very well, so why did he present us with a scrappy, unrehearsed offering instead of something that he could play safely? Only one person gave an acceptable (actually really rather good) performance and he was an FRCO. Him apart, it really was a miserable event.

 

Oh God - they visited your church too?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Oh God - they visited your church too?

 

Haha! It was worse than that. I went along of my own free will in the faint hope that the event might be vaguely enjoyable. I have forgotten what I was on that day.

 

It gives me the greatest pleasure to confirm that I no longer have a church. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Haha! It was worse than that. I went along of my own free will in the faint hope that the event might be vaguely enjoyable. I have forgotten what I was on that day.

 

It gives me the greatest pleasure to confirm that I no longer have a church. :)

 

Ah - but do you still have an anorak?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...