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Mander Organs
Ronald Bayfield

Vierne's "Carillon de Westminster

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The most difficult bit is surely that sustained A in the left hand while the remaining fingers play a series of sixteenths. It starts OK but after a few bars you need to stretch a ninth. I find the easiest way is to use the left thumb in succession for GAG GBG etc. My question is: Vierne was quite a little man and probably have small hands. How did he play it? 

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Another possible work around depending on the organ is to play the held A in the pedals as well as the written pedal line. Possibly controversial but playing two naturals with the thumb wasn't possible on a heavy tracker action for me.

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Being about to play it on Wednesday lunchtime on a fairly heavy tracker action, I can't help wondering (regardless of Barker levers), whether even Vierne might have succumbed to temptations of the Notre Dame acoustic and not held all the As?  Heresy, I know....

Alternatively, there's this unlikely kind of solution (at around 1 minute in)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93JiXloIhn4

and, (off-topic, sorry!), best wishes from Tim to Ron who I assume is he who often covered my absences from Brighthelm Church around 1996-2005.

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9 hours ago, Ronald Bayfield said:

Vierne was quite a little man and probably have small hands.

By no means a reply, Ron - but maybe this will be of interest - http://parismuseescollections.paris.fr/fr/musee-carnavalet/oeuvres/mains-de-l-organiste-louis-vierne-jouant-sur-un-orgue-a-cinq-claviers

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Uncanny!  I've been thinking about posting on this very aspect of the Carillon de Westminster for the past couple of weeks.  The best I can think of is to hop the thumb around, as suggested above, but it's not a very satisfactory (or safe!) way of doing things.  I tried holding the A on the Pedal, but it doesn't really come off at Fredericton Cathedral.

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 I have rather small hands but can manage this. My fifth finger holds down the A most of the time while being in front of the keys rather than above. Towards the end of the sixteenth notes when I start using my thumb more than once in each group (Page 43, System 2, Bar 1, Beat 2) I then move my fifth finger back to the top of the key surface.

I've attached a copy with some fingering in in case it is of interest, although I know everyone's hands are different.

Vierne Carillon Fingering.pdf

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Recently I read that William Herschel, when auditioning for a post at Halifax Parish Church, placed a small lead weight on the lowest key and another on the key an octave higher (he got the job). I suppose you could try this, although you’d have to be jolly careful. Judging by the number of assistants/ observers  hovering around in Parisian organ lofts, I wouldn’t be surprised if some organists don’t resort to a little help from them. Why forgo a brilliant musical effect, just because your hands are too small?

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8 hours ago, Zimbelstern said:

Recently I read that William Herschel, when auditioning for a post at Halifax Parish Church, placed a small lead weight on the lowest key and another on the key an octave higher (he got the job). I suppose you could try this, although you’d have to be jolly careful. Judging by the number of assistants/ observers  hovering around in Parisian organ lofts, I wouldn’t be surprised if some organists don’t resort to a little help from them. Why forgo a brilliant musical effect, just because your hands are too small?

Oh, I don't know. Why would they? That passage is perfectly doable in the way the OP describes. I have a wide enough stretch (an octave and a fourth - just) that I can manage it with a straight succession of fingers, but I really should have learnt it using consecutive thumbs for the furthest notes because it is far more comfortable - and I would defy anyone to detect any slight non-legato that might result.

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