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Martin Cooke

Remembrance

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It would be interesting to know what was played yesterday. At my church we have two morning services on Remembrance Sunday - a 9.00am Said Eucharist with hymns, and then the main Town Remembrance Service at 10.15am. The first of these isn't 'themed' towards Remembrance Sunday, using the readings for Third Sunday before Advent, but I slipped in David Blackwell's beautiful piece based on Thaxted at the Communion (OUP - Oxford Hymn Settings for Organists - Autumn Festivals). I played Harold Darke's Retrospection at the end, but if I am honest, it didn't hit the spot. I felt the moment required something quiet and meditative, but that just wasn't the right piece at that time, worthy of attention though the piece is. It's in that Novello album (1983) called Retrospection which I have only recently re-discovered. It also contains a super piece by William Harris - Fantasy Prelude - but that's not ready yet. 

There is no voluntary at the end of the 10.15am service as well all depart to go to the war memorial in silence - (but with a half muffled peal). Before, I played March from Scipio, RAF March Past, Elegiac Prelude on 'Jerusalem' - Charles Callahan - (well worth getting**), Royal British Legion March, Elegy (April 7th, 1913) - Parry, and Nimrod - arranged William Harris.

My aim with all of this is to make it interesting yet utterly suitable for the occasion, bearing in mind that there are people of all ages and all faiths present. I came home and watched a recording of the Cenotaph events and it was good to hear David DImbleby mention each piece that the band played, including the Skye Boat Song, The Minstrel Boy, David of the White Rock and Isle of Beauty, all of which were delightful. I have organ versions of the SBS, DotWR, and have just downloaded from IMSLP the basic music for the other two. If you don't know the George Towers arrangement of DotWR, it's really lovely and, and our friend David Drinkell said on this channel once words to the effect... preferable to RVW's version, perhaps.

I must say, too, that the new OUP album, Ceremonial Music for Organ II has some very suitable pieces in it for this occasion, though, one of them, the Elegy from the Downland Suite by John Ireland and arranged by Alex Rowley is available through IMSLP. This is a beautiful arrangement and the lush key of Db major helps atmospherically, too.

Whilst thinking of Remembrance, we also had an All Souls service recently, and I found the Dr Butz album of Elgar transcriptions arranged by Edward Tambling and splendid source for an arrangement of Sospiri. This also has Chanson de Matin, Chanson de Nuit, Salut d'Amour and the Imperial March in it, but I play these from other arrangements - Salut d'Amour from the old Schott Red Album! ANd I found this an ideal occasion to play John Rutter's newly published Elegy.

 

** This comes in a volume called O God beyond all praising published by Morning Star. This is seven pieces all by Charles Callahan who is very prolific. I use three of these -  the Jerusalem piece, and also those based on Thaxted and Repton. Recommended!

 

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I am grateful to those forum members here who have put so much thought into their Remembrance services - as I myself have done in my time when at the console.  Yesterday, though, we were at a local McDonald's for lunch as part of a day entertaining one of our little grandsons, and my wife and I were touched to find that they also had observed a two minutes' silence just prior to our arrival (though one wonders quite how 'silent' a place full of youngsters would actually have been!).  But the aspect of Remembrance I always recall most strongly is having been part of a family which lost members during both world wars, as so many families did, yet I was never really able to find out much about what had actually happened.  I am old enough to recall the devastation and austerity of my early childhood in a coal mining area, and can dimly remember an uncle who died in the early 1950s essentially from his experiences sustained working on the Burma Railway.  I also knew vaguely that another uncle had died during the war a few years before I was born.  He was 21, the son of my grandfather who himself still carried shrapnel around in his leg from the first world war.  He was also in the Home Guard in the second.  Yet nobody scarcely spoke of it, and this troubled me as a child and into adulthood.  I definitely knew I was not supposed to ask questions, so  I wonder whether others experienced this in their families?  It was obvious that, to their dying day, the subject never lost its rawness for my parents and others.

It was only a year ago that I finally discovered what had happened, decades after my parents and grandparents themselves had passed on.  Thanks to the internet, I found that my uncle had been shot while on guard duty in the small hours of the morning at Cultybraggan POW camp in Scotland which was reserved for particularly vicious nazis and is now a museum.  He was taken to the nearby Gleneagles Hotel which had been commandeered as a military hospital where he died some hours later.  I was even able to find a copy of his death entry dryly noted by the duty doctor doing his ward rounds, with my grandfather's so-well-known signature confirming his identity.  He and perhaps his wife must have travelled by blacked-out train all the way from the midlands to get there and back again, and I can only guess at his state of mind during that dreadful journey.  The next week a funeral notice appeared in a newspaper in his home town (a paper where the boy himself had been a Linotype operator before the war), together with another a few days later thanking friends and relatives for their expressions of sympathy.  This information was also turned up on the internet, together with a picture of his grave where he had been buried with full military honours.  Its beautiful headstone still looks as new as the day it was made, all wonderfully maintained to this day.  I am not sure who does this - it might be his former regiment, the Royal Artillery, or the British Legion - but I am grateful to them, and to a lady I've never met who keeps it tidy especially at Remembrance tide.

As I said, until last year I knew none of this, but it is the sort of stuff that matters about Remembrance Day for me and countless others, and I am so pleased that we still celebrate it so that those who were lost are not forgotten.  I realise none of this is directly about the organ and its music, but it is the backdrop of much which is about the organ at this time of year.

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I am also very grateful to the forum and to members contributing to this and its linked thread.  I offered to play the Last Post and Reveille at the Remembrance Service at which I was playing (there was no bugler) and this offer was accepted.  From the feedback I heard, it was truly appreciated and credit is due to forum members for helping me realise this could be done.  Credit is also due to Conacher's for their beautifully snappy Tromba on the organ I was playing, which fulfilled its solo role perfectly.

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So, Chris. did you play this 'straight' as it were... just the tune? Or did you harmonise it? (I think I have seen Last Post in harmony in a volume of The Village Organist, though not Reveille.)

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Like Martin we had two services. We did a slightly abridged Eucharist half an hour earlier, for which I played Parry's Elegy before and JSB's Kyrie Gott heiliger geist (BWV 671) after.

Our second service, which is the civic service for the town/borough, works the opposite way round, starting at the war memorial with the silence etc and then filing into church. I played an assortment while the filing took place including Nimrod (arr. Gower from OUP Ceremonial Music), Angel's Farewell, St Anne Fugue, Rawsthorne Aria, Parry's Memorial Piece from the Little Organ Book and possibly others that I've forgotten. To go out it was Widor's Marche Pontificale - not a remembrance piece at all but with the grandeur for a big service. It took until the end of the repeat of the main theme for the dignitaries to have left, and nearly to the end of the whole thing before the church was clear. Last year it was BWV 546 - Prelude and Fugue.

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22 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

This information was also turned up on the internet, together with a picture of his grave where he had been buried with full military honours.  Its beautiful headstone still looks as new as the day it was made, all wonderfully maintained to this day.  I am not sure who does this - it might be his former regiment, the Royal Artillery, or the British Legion - but I am grateful to them, and to a lady I've never met who keeps it tidy especially at Remembrance tide.

War Graves (the standard ones with a white headstone) are maintained by the War Graves Commission - we had 6 in our graveyard at Heaton.  Private graves are the responsibility of the family.  I'm not sure if the WGC do anything with them.

 

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In the event, a young lady trumpet student was engaged to play the Last Post and the Rouse, although the 2 minute silence was truncated to about 40s. (Timing is always precarious at these events; the length of the hymn and the names of the fallen in 2 world wars and subsequent conflicts being relatively few in number from the village, all conspired to leave us 6 minutes short of 11a.m - so another 2 minutes could have felt like overdoing it.)

I was filling in, it is an instrument with peculiarities, and it was a short-notice thing, so I went for the possible rather than the ideal.

I began with  Prelude in the Phrygian mode (Tallis) followed by Cantilena (Karl Jenkins).

After the last hymn I played a piano-reduction of Nimrod with additional pedals in the way we all do with hymns.

I'm glad I went prepared to play the bugle part on the organ if necessary! Even wearing a watch with a second hand - I wonder how others time the silence discreetly.

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On 11/11/2019 at 19:45, Martin Cooke said:

So, Chris. did you play this 'straight' as it were... just the tune? Or did you harmonise it? (I think I have seen Last Post in harmony in a volume of The Village Organist, though not Reveille.)

I just played the melody line as if it were played on a bugle.  I think it was the power and character of the individual stop that carried this off, though I quite appreciate that other instruments without a similar stop could create an equally effective sound.  I just appreciated that the organ could take the place of a bugler and still add dignity at a very solemn moment.  May be it helped that the organ had been tuned four days before and was in good voice!  

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22 hours ago, mjgrieveson said:

Even wearing a watch with a second hand - I wonder how others time the silence discreetly.

AN interesting point this! The chap in charge at our war memorial used his phone to time everything. And that's what I do in church when I am playing a programme of music before a service, but you live and learn. I assumed I could use my iphone clock but that doesn't have all important seconds. I downloaded an exact time app which has seconds and then it is just a matter of making sure the clock doesn't lock and fade in settings. I have tried to find a small dignified looking digital clock with seconds on to no avail. 

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Hi

I've taken a fair number of Remembrance services in my days as a Baptist Minister.  Timing is an issue - especially in one church where the service was held at the war memorial and a clock on the village school across the road chimed the hours - and wasn't always right!  As to the 2 minutes silence, a watch with a second hand works well enough - or possible a stop watch discreetly placed on a lacturn.  More recently, when our Remembrance services were in church, I used a countdown timer I downloaded from the web on a netbook computer.

Personally, I don't think an odd few minutes error is that important, especially on Remembrance Sunday, but at Ashdon for a few years I lead a short service at the war memorial actually on the 11th, mainly for the benefit of the upper classes in the school (the vicar refused to do it!).  For that I did make sure I was dead on time.  I then had a complaint that I was a few seconds adrift on the Sunday - it happened to be my turn to lead the village service - I just  pointed out that I'd made sure we were dead on time on the 11th, which really is the more significant time IMHO.

Every Blessing

Tony

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23 minutes ago, Tony Newnham said:

Hi

I've taken a fair number of Remembrance services in my days as a Baptist Minister.  Timing is an issue - especially in one church where the service was held at the war memorial and a clock on the village school across the road chimed the hours - and wasn't always right!  As to the 2 minutes silence, a watch with a second hand works well enough - or possible a stop watch discreetly placed on a lacturn.  More recently, when our Remembrance services were in church, I used a countdown timer I downloaded from the web on a netbook computer.

Personally, I don't think an odd few minutes error is that important, especially on Remembrance Sunday, but at Ashdon for a few years I lead a short service at the war memorial actually on the 11th, mainly for the benefit of the upper classes in the school (the vicar refused to do it!).  For that I did make sure I was dead on time.  I then had a complaint that I was a few seconds adrift on the Sunday - it happened to be my turn to lead the village service - I just  pointed out that I'd made sure we were dead on time on the 11th, which really is the more significant time IMHO.

Every Blessing

Tony

How astonishing, both that the vicar declined to lead such an important occasion and that somebody should grumble about the odd few seconds here or there.

Regarding accurate timing though, it's possible to buy new Chinese analogue wrist or pocket watches very cheaply which almost invariably have a sweep seconds hand.  Either quartz or mechanical versions are made, and they can be found online or even on market stalls at prices starting from around £20.  They are usually identical to the much more expensive ones in retail jewellers' shops but tend to be the rejects from the factory's quality control system for one reason or another, often simply that the mechanical ones don't keep time to better than a few minutes per day.  Presumably it would be more expensive to regulate them carefully than to sell them on.  (Their movements are also identical to those often sold today under former 'posh' brand names such as Rotary).  Like others here, I have found watches useful in church services generally but tend to carry a cheap one around in case of loss or damage.  I also sometimes use one with a sweep seconds hand to time beats when tuning an unusual temperament by ear.  One feels an empathetic connection to the tuners of yesteryear when doing this, rather than using an electronic tuning device or phone app!

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I found Desk Clock - Analog Clock in the App Store recently.  And used it for a funeral where timings of the music were critical. It has a second sweep hand. And is accurate to the second. (And free!) The screen stays on (and overrides the phone screensaver). 

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10 hours ago, AndrewG said:

I found Desk Clock - Analog Clock in the App Store recently.  And used it for a funeral where timings of the music were critical. It has a second sweep hand. And is accurate to the second. (And free!) The screen stays on (and overrides the phone screensaver). 

This sounds like a good solution, though I prefer to have my phone switched off during a service.  But I should admit that my predilection for mechanical pocket watches is because I just like them, and sometimes they actually come in useful!

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3 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

  But I should admit that my predilection for mechanical pocket watches is because I just like them, and sometimes they actually come in useful!

I quite agree. I love mechanical watches and have several, of both pocket and wrist varieties with an especial fondness for those of the latter with automatic winding movements although the winder boxes take up too much space (apparently!).

No Patek Philippe yet but I'm working on it... 🙏

 

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3 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

This sounds like a good solution, though I prefer to have my phone switched off during a service.  But I should admit that my predilection for mechanical pocket watches is because I just like them, and sometimes they actually come in useful!

It works well in Airplane mode. (Otherwise I was nervous of it going off mid service!!)

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Reminiscing about timing for the 2 minute silence - I recall Douglas Guest used to have 2 watches when I was a chorister at Westminster in the 70s.  One was a wrist watch and the other an old fashioned pocket one on a chain.  Both were synchronised to Big Ben early that morning.  

We would process to the Unknown Warrior's grave during the service.  And then in the run up to 11 would sing an anthem (I forget which) - but we could alter the length by at least 4 different timings - depending on the repeats (i.e. sing first half, sing all, +repeat half or repeat complete) - which he would signal as we sang. He always timed to perfection finishing the singing just moments (sometimes it was only 1 or 2 seconds!) before gun salute to mark 11am.

Following the 2 minutes we would sing his setting of "For the Fallen" - which I have always found very beautiful.  (Strangely he isn't known for writing much else).

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