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OUP’s new Funeral and Memorial Music for Organ


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When I finally decided to buy myself new copies of OUP’s Wedding Music and Ceremonial Music for Organ – the ones I had were stolen from the organ loft several years ago ? – I also noticed that a new Book of Funeral and Memorial Music for Organ would be released soon. So I ordered this as well and received my copy a couple of weeks ago.

The first thing I noticed after unpacking the album was that it was much thinner than both OBWM and OBCM (and that the back of my copy was damaged). The collection contains 28 pieces, arranged alphabetically by composer, with 12 original works and 16 arrangements (OBWM: 30 – 5/25; OBCM: 32 – 14/18). As an organist I understand that there are certain well known works that might appeal to the general public when played on the organ, however, I wonder whether arrangements of lesser-known pieces (or those that do not seem to be all that appropriate for a certain occasion) are really necessary, especially as the repertoire of original organ works has more than enough to offer.

Selection of music for an album intended primarily for funeral and memorial services (or any other occasion, for that matter) is, obviously, always influenced by one’s musical knowledge and preferences. There will always be a piece of music that one finds more (or less) suitable, however, at least a couple of choices in this new album seem a bit odd, at least in my opinion. (Bach’s Chorale Prelude on Nun danket alle Gott? Why not Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich, also from the 18 Chorale Preludes?) But I really don’t want to start a discussion about this.

As the editor points out “there is much overlap between music used at funerals and weddings” so the OBWM is suggested as a “companion volume”. Why then include the same arrangement of Bach/Gounod’s Ave Maria which can already be found in the OBWM? The inclusion of R. Gower’s arrangement of Elgar’s Nimrod also seems unnecessary since this same arrangement is included in the OBCM. Apart from questions concerning the selection of pieces there are also some other things that need to be mentioned.

First there is the issue of manual indications: I = Gt., II = Sw., III = Ch. What the editor suggests has nothing to do with the majority of neither British nor continental organs. Wouldn’t it be much simpler and clear to just use abbreviations instead of numerals? It is also somewhat inconsistent to have manual (and registration) indications for some pieces and none for others.

What I find most problematic about this new album is a number of notation errors (or weaknesses, if you will). I wasn’t able to play all of the pieces so far but I’ve already found a couple of errors, some of them more and some less obvious. Let me point out the ones I happened to notice:

– Elgar, Nimrod, b. 13, 2nd beat: F instead of G in the soprano;

– Fauré, Pavane, bb. 6–8 and bb. 27–30: second voice a third under the soprano missing (although this could also be a deliberate choice of the arranger);

– Mendelssohn, O rest in the Lord, b. 16, 3rd beat: natural sign (for F) instead of a sharp (for F♯) in the melody; bb. 15–16: suddenly there are two voices on the 4th beat in the solo melody which should in fact be in the accompaniment;

– Stölzel, Bist du bei mir, b. 1: octave parallels between soprano and tenor;

– Vierne, Berceuse, b. 15, 2ndbeat: D instead of B in the bass.

I wonder if these are the only ones. I wanted to draw attention to this since I hadn’t noticed so many errors in other OUP’s publications that I’ve been using.

In spite of my criticism, I find the collection to be quite useful. I will not be playing all of the pieces, at least not for funeral and memorial services, though (obviously, this applies to most other collections of this kind).

I would be interested to hear some other impressions. Anyone else who already has this?

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Goodness, that's quite a list of issues... and my own cursory look through the volume had picked up none of them, I'm ashamed to admit!

I have bought a copy even though I noted that I already had much of the contents in other guises - think all the Bach - (including God's time is best and Bist du), the Whitlock Folk Tune, the Parry pieces and the Fauré Pavane. In fact, of the 28 pieces, I already have 19 of them - but that won't necessarily be the case for younger organists, of course. (Though, I do wonder why any Bach Chorale Preludes are included - especially when so many of them could qualify for inclusion, and the same is true of other OUP albums - eg the Easter one, which contains O Mensch. Why not include a list of other music that could be suitable for funerals etc? And what SlowOrg says about Ave Maria is also true of Robert Gower's arrangement of I know that my redeemer liveth which appears (usefully) in the OUP Easter volume (which might also have been cited as a companion volume, surely) and occupies 6 pages of the 68. 

I bought the volume for the arrangement of Pavane pour une infante défunte, and also for Rebecca Groom te Velde Prelude on Crimond, and I shall use both. I'm less sure that I will have the patience to get my hands around the arrangement of the Adagio from Schubert's D.956.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A tiny bit of follow-up to the above...

I the last few days, I have purchased OUP's Bach Transcriptions for Organ, which has been arranged by Martin Setchell. This was published in 2014 only 4 years before the Funeral and Memorial Music for Organ album that this post is all about. But, again, I can't help wondering why this later volume includes different arrangements of some of the music that Martin Setchell included in his album only four years previously - eg: God's time is best and I stand with one foot in the grave. There seems to me to be a need for a little co-ordination over the contents of these albums. 

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