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Length of voluntaries.

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I’ve recently been reflecting on the ideal length and style of an after service voluntary. Longish, major pieces are fine for high days and holiday, but a reasonably concise offering seems more likely to hold the attention of those who are interested in listening on most Sundays. It’s interesting that the timings given in that wonderful resource, Stainer’s “The Village Organist”, are usually between 2 and 4 minutes. What do others think?

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That's about right. Here's an opening benchmark from St Paul's Cathedral's Information for Visiting Organists playing Evensong (where, of course, Stainer was): "[...] Since the focus of Choral Evensong is the choral music, the staff organists normally conclude weekday services with reflective voluntaries. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to play something which develops the style or compositional period of the choir's music. 2'30" is a safe minimum to cover the procession back to [...] the Dean's Aisle, while 4'30'-5' is the upper limit. Sunday and major festivals tend to be on bigger in scale..." 

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I am sorry to introduce a cynical note, but it depends entirely on where you play. In most parish churches the ideal length is however long it takes for the bulk of the congregation to reach the tea and coffee urns at the back of the nave.

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Then there is my main church, where the priest asked me a few months ago to only play quiet voluntaries, as "Some people have tinnitus"    In my usual pig-headed fashion, I have not played a voluntary at all since!  (Apart from a couple of occasions when I had received requests for special occasions)

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My congregation although small, like about 5 mins but don't mind a bit more. What matters to them more is whether they can enjoy or appreciate the music. Sadly much of what I want to play doesn't fall into that category like a larger scale JSB Praeludium played on beautifully clean 8 & 4 Principals which just doesn't cut it for them. A corresponding Fugue delivered in the late 19th / early C20th style however goes down really well and coffee cups are always put down to give me a short show of appreciation.

The congregation love their organ and are proud of it despite it not being very large or visually impressive and they want to hear it used.

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5 hours ago, ajsphead said:

Sadly much of what I want to play doesn't fall into that category like a larger scale JSB Praeludium played on beautifully clean 8 & 4 Principals which just doesn't cut it for them.

By contrast, in my experience in a variety of places (including village churches) there are only two composers who almost invariably occasion favourable comments, and one of those is Bach (not sure I dare mention the other ... viz Lefebure-Wély!).

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On ‎2‎/‎8‎/‎2018 at 13:06, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

By contrast, in my experience in a variety of places (including village churches) there are only two composers who almost invariably occasion favourable comments, and one of those is Bach (not sure I dare mention the other ... viz Lefebure-Wély!).

Or Caleb Simper?  ;-)

 

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My personal record was about two bars of the Widor (on an electronic played through the church sound system) before the person on the sound desk decided to turn me down to almost nothing. Who needs swell pedals when you can have a sound desk?

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