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Philip

Repertoire Question - Passiontide

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So this will seem very out of season, but I'm planning ahead!

 

On the evenings towards the start of Holy Week (before the Triduum) we always have some kind of activity in church in the evening to help mark the week. Last year this included Stations of the Cross, although on one evening it was just the Church being open for an hour of prayer (which I read as his nibs not having anything else planned!). I was considering offering to do some organ meditations which could be interspersed with readings for next year. I haven't yet approached his nibs to see if he is in favour of the idea (I think he'd run with it) but I first want to think about the music I would play, and whether I'd have enough suitable material.

 

Ideas that I've come up with so far (which are completely random)...

JSB - O Mensch Bewein, and possibly the CP on O Sacred Head

One of the Brahms Chorale Preludes?

Howells - one of the Psalm Preludes, perhaps Set 1 No. 1

Dupre - Crucifixion (this would need some learning, hence why I'm starting early!) - but I couldn't use it in a normal service

Messiaen - Jesus accepte la Souffrance (so its from 'La Nativite' - the suite is about Christmas but this has Passiontide connections, and is easier than the Dupre)

 

I'm sure there's other suitable music out there that would fit in which I'm not aware of, or even that I know but hadn't thought of, so I'd welcome any suggestions. I imagine I'd want no more than 6 pieces in total, with a contrast of volume, style and a range of themes. I find its always worth consulting the knowledgable folk on here when this kind of query arises, so I'm hoping you'll be able to help again!

 

Thanks in advance.

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I'm all for including some Brahms. Some more suggestions, none of which should take much learning:

 

Bruna - Tiento de falsas 2° tono

It's in Faber's Early Organ Series - vol.6, I think. I wouldn't use the inferior score on IMSLP.

 

Bach - the three Kyrie settings from Clavierübung III

 

Bach - O Lamm Gottes unchuldig BWV 618 (Orgelbüchlein)

When you look at Bach's manuscript the double pedalling of the canon (on a 4' stop) seems so obviously logical that I'm surprised none of the main editions suggests it.

 

J. L. Krebs - Ach Herr mich armen Sünder

A plaintively expressive prelude on the same melody as Herzlich tut mich verlangen. This performance gives the general idea:

 

Buxtehude - Ach Herr mich armen Sünder

 

Samuel Rousseau - Élégie (from Douze Pièces pour Orgue)

 

Samuel Rousseau - Lamento (ditto)

 

Samuel Rousseau - Offertoire funèbre (Quinze Pièces pour Orgue)

 

Ropartz - Prélude funèbre

 

Dubois - Déploration (from Dix Pièces pour Grand Orgue)

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Hi

 

I've done something similar a couple of times. I used readings from the Bible plus some meditations interspersed with organ music (& one hymn). I can let you have a script if you message me with your e-mail address.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I suspect this isn't helpful and that I'm liable to be shot down - but it's a thought!!

 

Have you thought of having the organ silent during Holy Week? - except for the Gloria on Maundy Thursday thereby making it's impact even more dramatic when it really makes it's presence felt at the Gloria on Holy Saturday night - and have you thought of dramatically improvising before it on an idea from the Gloria whilst candles and lights are filling the church with light!

 

As a reflection on the three evenings before the Triduum we used to sing unaccompanied Compline. On the Monday a chamber choir sang, made up of volunteer excellent reading members of the full choir, on Tuesday the men sang unaccompanied plainsong and on the Wednesday, after full choir practice, the full choir sang. A goodly number of the congregation would turn out on all three nights more than, I suspect, for a Meditation with readings but, of course, that might be different where you are! 'His nibs' didn't/wouldn't have to think too much about it - but it makes for a hell of a week for those members who turn out every night!

 

Having said all of that the three evenings of Holy Week do lend themselves to meditative ceremony to which reflective organ music would be splendid - especially if put together with some helpful notes for the congregation!

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Vox - many thanks for the suggestions. I shall examine them in more detail over the next couple of days.

 

Tony - thanks also - PM sent.

 

SL - I admire the sentiment, but I don't think this would work in practical terms at our place, given the amount and type of music in the Maundy Thursday/Good Friday services (you can't sing a congregational mass without accompaniment, and the vicar certainly wouldn't approve of unaccompanied hymns). I do tone it down somewhat (eg this year - no solo reed in Lent apart from Weddings and Stainer's Crucifixion where marked in the score) and there is always suitable improvisation before the Gloria at the Vigil Mass. I'm loathed to ask our volunteer choir to work any harder than they do already, what with five services in four days from Thursday to Sunday!

 

Helpful notes for the congregation - absolutely. It would be a careful boundary between making it seem like notes for a concert, but I think it would most certainly be necessary to include, for example, the texts on which Chorale Preludes are based, or some exposition behind the structure of the Dupre or Messiaen.

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Yes Philip, I hear exactly what you are saying!

 

We used to sing Missa De Angelus on Maundy Thursday which worked unaccompanied and which the congregation would sing without organ. The Liturgy of Good Friday didn't really allow for the insertion of hymns although we used to sing Passion Chorale (along with Taize chants!!!) during communion.

 

Our choir was a volunteer choir also and I do think it depends on how you sell something as to whether you can ask for more. One year we had eleven sung services, seven with full choir, the rest with different combinations of the choir, with attendant choir practices beforehand between Palm Sunday and Easter Day. On the Easter Monday we flew to Rome and, as well as singing Palestrina in the Cathedral at Palestrina, we sang in three of the major Rome Basilicas and to Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in the course of the week - we all survived, somehow kept out of the Divorce courts and had wonderful memories!

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Vox - many thanks for the suggestions. I shall examine them in more detail over the next couple of days.

 

Tony - thanks also - PM sent.

 

SL - I admire the sentiment, but I don't think this would work in practical terms at our place, given the amount and type of music in the Maundy Thursday/Good Friday services (you can't sing a congregational mass without accompaniment, and the vicar certainly wouldn't approve of unaccompanied hymns). I do tone it down somewhat (eg this year - no solo reed in Lent apart from Weddings and Stainer's Crucifixion where marked in the score) and there is always suitable improvisation before the Gloria at the Vigil Mass. I'm loathed to ask our volunteer choir to work any harder than they do already, what with five services in four days from Thursday to Sunday!

 

Helpful notes for the congregation - absolutely. It would be a careful boundary between making it seem like notes for a concert, but I think it would most certainly be necessary to include, for example, the texts on which Chorale Preludes are based, or some exposition behind the structure of the Dupre or Messiaen.

 

Philip - it appears that you improvise.

 

A couple of years ago, on the Monday of Holy Week, we had a service of music and readings from the Gospels' narratives of the passion. I arranged for two curates to read certain passages (in chronological order) and interspersed these with musical commentaries on the Minster organ, which I improvised. The church was in darkness, except for access lighting near the entrance, the lights on the choir-stalls and the candles on the High Altar.

 

The lighting and the passages from Holy Scripture (which were read beautifully) created a particularly reverent and reflective atmosphere, which I hope was matched by the music - although, since I sought to portray what had been read, it was not always quiet or reflective, but was (I hope) descriptive.

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Philip - it appears that you improvise.

 

A couple of years ago, on the Monday of Holy Week, we had a service of music and readings from the Gospels' narratives of the passion. I arranged for two curates to read certain passages (in chronological order) and interspersed these with musical commentaries on the Minster organ, which I improvised. The church was in darkness, except for access lighting near the entrance, the lights on the choir-stalls and the candles on the High Altar.

 

The lighting and the passages from Holy Scripture (which were read beautifully) created a particularly reverent and reflective atmosphere, which I hope was matched by the music - although, since I sought to portray what had been read, it was not always quiet or reflective, but was (I hope) descriptive.

 

 

That sounds stunningly beautiful!

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That sounds stunningly beautiful!

 

Indeed - but somewhat beyond the scope of my improvisation skills, unfortunately! I can cope with a 45 second fanfare, and can indulge in some 'Cathedral waffle' to cover gaps in the liturgy, but I'm afraid proper musical commentaries on biblical passages are out of my league!

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Several years ago I had the good fortune to sing at Chartres for the Mass. Whilst the Eucharistic Prayer was being spoken, the main organ provided an improvised luminous and mysterious backdrop that blended with the incense and refracted light from the stained glass - it was quite unforgettable !

 

I never dared to suggest to my PP at the time that we try it. The closest we came to it was a co-ordinated run at the Sanctus. I would play the two bar introduction quietly as he reached the end of the preface '...for ever praising you and singing:' so that the choir actually sang HOLY HOLY HOLY right on the button.

 

H

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Whilst the Eucharistic Prayer was being spoken, the main organ provided an improvised luminous and mysterious backdrop that blended with the incense and refracted light from the stained glass - it was quite unforgettable !

 

 

I count myself as fortunate in being permitted to do this - one of our more tasteful features in liturgical music, potentially, anyway! I believe the practice is now not permitted in the RC church - so, sadly, the Cochereau-type Elevations are a thing of the past.

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Several years ago I had the good fortune to sing at Chartres for the Mass. Whilst the Eucharistic Prayer was being spoken, the main organ provided an improvised luminous and mysterious backdrop that blended with the incense and refracted light from the stained glass - it was quite unforgettable !

 

Everything about the Cathedral at Chartres (with the possible exception of the orgue de choeur) is wonderful and the improvisations at Mass are usually out of this world!!.

 

I was there on the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption a few years ago, it fell on a Saturday. We had High Mass with the Bishop followed by a spectacular lunch and then Vespers which began in the little church just down the road. It was packed to the rafters and, after the Psalms had been chanted a huge statue of Mary appeared and was carried in procession, through the city streets, to the Cathedral. As it arrived at the West door there was a fanfare and the Magnificat began. After Vespers had finished there was a break and then an organ recital. I expected that the majority of people would leave but they stayed, the cathedral was full for the recital and, very clearly, at the end, there was a lot of affection for Patrick Delabre, the Titulaire.

 

The next morning we went to the earlier Mass, not the High Mass, which was sung to Plainsong in the choir. Towards the end of the Kyrie an man who was directing the small group of singers approached my son and I and asked us if we would like to join them for the Gloria!

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We regularly use Chartres as a stopping off point en route up or down France and frequently this happens over a Sunday. I can vouch for the imaginative use of music at the Cathedral - especially in the 'big' services such as Easter and Assumption. To me the organ there feels much more part of the ceremonies in its nave position rather than if it were far off on a west gallery. As well as the organ festival there is also a regular series of concerts both in the Cathedral and in other churches in the town. Chartres is one of our favourite places!

 

A

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Bach - the three Kyrie settings from Clavierübung III

 

Sloppy proof reading again. I actually meant the three short settings. I wouldn't play the longer ones unless I was fairly certain of having a musically sophisticated audience.

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Everything about the Cathedral at Chartres (with the possible exception of the orgue de choeur) is wonderful and the improvisations at Mass are usually out of this world!!. ...

 

 

Ah - so you have played this execrable 'instrument', too?

 

I once had to play it for a concert (including a large-scale improvised set of variations). It is, without doubt, the worst organ I have ever played. and those enclosures which house the pipes (with their propped-up lids) look like nothing so much as a row of coal bunkers.

 

This is probably the only organ which I have wanted to burn.

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Ah - so you have played this execrable 'instrument', too?

 

I once had to play it for a concert (including a large-scale improvised set of variations). It is, without doubt, the worst organ I have ever played. and those enclosures which house the pipes (with their propped-up lids) look like nothing so much as a row of coal bunkers.

 

This is probably the only organ which I have wanted to burn.

 

I conducted a professional concert in Chartres Cathedral a few years ago and was given a private tour before the rehearsal which included the orgue de choeur and the opportunity to spend as long as I wished playing the Grande orgue. I don't know if you've been up there but there isn't a lot of space and the view is a bit scary!. The acoustic doesn't make it the easiest instrument to play! I think the orgue de choeur has been out of action for some time now, it seems, due to the renovation of the choir - which now looks completely amazing. Like AJJ I often stop in Chartres on my way home or back to the UK - i shall be there a fortnight today!

 

Can you really not think of a worse instrument?

 

..................... but I have strayed the thread off topic - for which I apologise!

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pcnd - Aren't you forgetting Calne Parish Church? :P

 

David - not at all - I doubt that I could ever forget this instrument. However, the orgue de chœur at Chartres is far worse.

 

In fact, infinitely worse.

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Resurrecting this (wrong word for Palm Sunday!), I'm doing this tomorrow night. Organ music will be

 

Buxtehude - Ach Herr mich armen Sünder

Howells - Psalm Prelude Set 1 No 1

JS Bach - O Mensch bewein

Dupre - Crucifixion

Craig Phillips - Reflection on 'Were you there?' (from the OUP Hymn Settings Lent & Passiontide book)

 

With five readings on the theme 'The Suffering Servant'.

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Dupre - Crucifixion (this would need some learning, hence why I'm starting early!) - but I couldn't use it in a normal service

 

 

I'm interested to know why you couldn't use it in a normal service!

 

I expect all know this recording!

 

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I'm interested to know why you couldn't use it in a normal service!

 

I was thinking in practical terms. We don't have an Evensong or similar where I could use this during Passiontide, and after a Sunday morning service the impact would be completely lost (the Stabat Mater at the end would be inaudible if registered as suggested! Which tonight it will be, of course).

 

I wasn't ruling it out on grounds of style or content particularly, although after tonight his nibs may take a different view! I have accompanied all the pieces with a brief explanatory note to put them in context, which I feel with the Dupre in particular is important.

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Well, it went down really well, his nibs said it was one of the best Holy Week things he'd been to in a long while!

 

We just had simple opening and closing prayers, and then five readings and the five pieces with pauses for silence inbetween. Overall it lasted just under an hour, which seems about right. I was careful not to use the Passion Gospel as its heard (in two different versions) elsewhere in Holy Week so we had two biblical readings and three non-biblical. The Dupre provoked some comment as you'd expect, but nothing particularly adverse given the context.

 

I'll have to think about something similar next year I suppose, so some more of the ideas above may well come into use. Does anyone have any experience of Alan Ridout's 'Seven Last Words' or 'Stations of the Cross'? One of these might be suitable. I think Tournemire's 'Sept Paroles' would be a bit too long for the context and for me to learn!

 

Incidentally, listening to the YouTube link above I'm struck by the variety of speeds people take Crucifixion at. I have John Scott's fabulous double CD from St Paul's (he couples the Trompette Militaire for the big chords) where the performance weighs in at under 7.5 minutes. Plugging it into Spotify I get (amongst others) Phillippe Lefebvre who takes 10:49 and David Briggs at almost exactly 10 minutes! How many pieces can have such a different in playing time? For the record my interpretation is much nearer John Scott's.

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