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Simple Repertoire


Vox Humana
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There are a lot of "reluctant organists" out there. We've quite a few in our organists' association. They don't claim to be any great shakes; they don't even claim to be musicians. They do their best, but they are people who don't have a secure technique and who are easily thrown by performance nerves, unfamiliar organs, etc. Their repertoire is invariably a bit limited, so how would you expand it?

 

We're talking really simple here - around ABRSM grade 2-3. I know the various anthologies by C. H. Trevor, Robert Gower and Anne Marsden Thomas. What else would you recommend? Bear in mind that they are not dedicated musicians, so won't fork out for a thick volume that contains only one or two pieces that they can play.

 

I'll start the ball rolling with the two Bärenreiter volumes of chorale preludes by Carl Piutti. Or at least vol. 1. Nobody would want both and vol. 1 is by far the better. The pieces are generally quite attractive, if very short, and many are easy. The downside is that they need someone who knows what's what to correct all the misprints (I seriously wonder whether the volumes were actually proof-read at all).

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
There are a lot of "reluctant organists" out there. We've quite a few in our organists' association. They don't claim to be any great shakes; they don't even claim to be musicians. They do their best, but they are people who don't have a secure technique and who are easily thrown by performance nerves, unfamiliar organs, etc. Their repertoire is invariably a bit limited, so how would you expand it?

 

 

Is it imperative that they use the pedals? I ask because some folks think that organ music without pedals doesn't count! I firmly disagree.

 

If you as the teacher or they as pupils don't mind appearing to be 'less of an organist' then the music does become quite a bit easier - and in many cases more attractive to the listener!

 

My list would include several well-known French names - but encourage your pupil to listen to recordings so that they realise that there's a certain amount of code going on in the way things are not exactly fully notated! Clerambault, de Grigny, Balbastre, D'Aquin - just avoiding the odd very fast manual displays, maybe.

 

English: The first names that come to mind are William Walond, Samuel Wesley, Stanley of course - some of the most attractive music ever written! There's a book of Boyce Symphonies arranged for manuals only available from Mayhew. Plenty more stuff, of course! A propos of nothing much: What's this fixation about Caleb? He wasn't the worst - just had one of the most amusing names. [Off at a tangent: I 'm collecting a complete programme by people with ridiculous names - Oliphant Chuckerbutty, of course, along with choice morsels of Scheidt, Krapf, Jean Louis Battmann.....]

 

German: J.G.Walther, Buxtehude's manuals-only stuff - or you could build towards some of the big works with simple pedal parts. Pachelbel's Canon is a great target piece for an early stage student - such a simple and repetitive pedal line and everyone appreciates the results once the effort has gone in.

There's lots more Pachelbel - it's all good. Plenty of lesser composers wrote good stuff around the same time - any organ with an 8 4 2 chorus can do them justice.

 

For something more contemporary, I think the Mayhew collections are worth a look. These bits and pieces may not all be 'art work' but they're a great deal better than almost anyone improvising, or secular organ music which is 'easy play' but queasy to listen to in church. Some of the Mayhew stable might just be described as merely very good 'professional' composers [if you know what I mean] but this doesn't make their work less useful.

 

It is a pity that nobody seems to be editing quite like Trevor did. I even saw something (of his) re-issued recently with his helpful remarks - basic registration tips etc. removed. Some pratt at work!

 

How many out there ever urge their Organists' Association to have bring and buy sales of unwanted organ music? I love these and have always tried to encourage them in any association I have been a member of. I've picked up some splendid stuff, but more than this, it's an opportunity for the rather timid players to pick things up, flip through and then ask a friend 'worth playing?'. We can't all hear music in our heads - I couldn't for years!

 

Last comment - sorry I've droned on - there's so much out there that's never played and it's not all rubbish by any means. Too many snobs - the organ music equivalent of poseur wine-tasters. Too many people saying (like I saw Olivier Latry in print) that there are only a few composers worth playing. In his case he flipping named them too - a total of about three. Marvellous player, but what a thing to say!

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Guest Andrew Butler
For something more contemporary, I think the Mayhew collections are worth a look.  These bits and pieces may not all be 'art work' but they're a great deal better than almost anyone improvising, or secular organ music which is 'easy play' but queasy to listen to in church.  Some of the Mayhew stable might just be described as merely very good 'professional' composers [if you know what I mean] but this doesn't make their work less useful.

 

 

Hear, hear. One hears a lot of "Mayhew-bashing", but Paul's comment is very sensible and true. I am currently going through an "I can't improvise" patch (ever since doing, though I say it myself, a thumping good one during the incencing of the Altar at Midnight Mass last year - subsequent efforts made even me squirm) and find the Mayhew collections invaluable for "fillers".

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Is it imperative that they use the pedals?  I ask because some folks think that organ music without pedals doesn't count! I firmly disagree.

 

If you as the teacher or they as pupils don't mind appearing to be 'less of an organist' then the music does become quite a bit easier - and in many cases more attractive to the listener!

 

 

 

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Well now, several weeks (months?) ago I discovered some rather startlingly good music written for organ or harmonium, and I posted details of this. No-one responded.....I suppose it didn't have pedal parts.

 

I am not saying that ALL the music of Ferenc Kutor is easy....far from it....there are fugues and things.

 

However, for anyone who wants to move from being a pianist to a reluctant organist, I have never come across anything better the music of the Hungarian composer Ferenc Kutor, which may explain why this prolific composer (who wrote tangos, operas and all sorts of stuff, including "village music" and choral music) has a web-site devoted to his memory.

 

Here are the links:-

 

http://www.artisjus.hu/kutorferenc/kepek/Preludiumok.jpg (Music cover photograph)

 

http://www.artisjus.hu/kutorferenc/egyhazi.html (mp3 files of music under heading Orgonaművek:)

 

I very much doubt that this music is in print, but I guess it might be readily available to anyone who may wish to dig a round a little.

 

Take the trouble to listen to some of this music from the mp3 files, which in many cases, is possibly worthy of being included in recitals.

 

It impressed me anyway, but then, I'm easily impressed ;)

 

MM

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I'd imagine that the OUP C H Trevor 'Old English Organ Music For Manuals' series might be pretty indispensable... The Faber 'Early Organ' series is a bit more esoteric.

 

The Flor Peeters Chorale Prelude volumes also contain a lot of useful stuff; they're expensive new, but often turn up second hand.

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Yes, I'd agree with the CH Trevor recommendation.

 

Leon Boellman's 'Heures Mystiques' are absolutely invaluable.

 

I'm also a big fan of Barenreiter's 'Vox Humana' - at least, the French volume, haven't tried the others - which has a lot of easy stuff and can grow with you as you become more confident.

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