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Tertius Noble


Martin Cooke
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Catching up on my reading, I have finally reached volume 40 of the BIOS Journal - 2016. In it, there is a very interesting article about the organ music of T Tertius Noble of York Minster and St Thomas Fifth Avenue fame. I have virtually no organ music by him - there's the piece in the Novello Canterbury Album, a couple of bits and pieces in IMSLP and then I picked a Choral Prelude on Melcombe on eBay a few years back. I am very keen to get hold of a copy of his piece Autumn written in 1932 but publish by Schmidt in the USA. I am sorry that this request also appears on the 'other site' but I just wonder if anyone here can assist. It seems that a lot of his pieces that were published by Schmidt were taken up by OUP and published over here, but, sadly for me, only those written between 1923 and 1927. Can anyone help? If anyone has copies of his other choral preludes especially those on well-known tunes, I would be very interested in seeing copies. Many thanks in keen anticipation of your help!

Martin.

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John Scott Whiteley has recorded Autumn. (Naxos) Have you thought of contacting him. I suspect he might have quite a number of the Choral Preludes too! And if he hasn't he might be able to point you in the right direction.

You could even try speaking to FJ who, I have always found to be most accommodating!

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Tertius Noble also composed and published in two volumes of 100 and 50 respectively “Free organ accompaniments to well-known hymns” for use in this country.  I haven’t seen them, but they seem to be readily available.  After moving to St Thomas’, New York he published a similar edition based on hymn tunes used in America, which I have. Some inevitably overlap: examples Breslau, Bangor, Stuttgart, Hanover, Adeste Fideles, “Hark the Herald“, St Anne, Eventide, etc., and some familiar hymns and carols in their American tunes and settings, e.g., “O little town of Bethlehem”, our National Anthem as “My country ‘tis of thee” and, inevitably, his own “Ora Labora” of which a former Rector of St Thomas’ said it “is sung all over America”. 

Several pieces are extended and can be used as a short prelude or interlude, e.g., “In Babilone”.  They vary in difficulty, but all are very fine.

Unfortunately I can’t quote the publisher details for the American edition.  Having had the house upside down trying to find it yesterday, I think I must have left it at church where I last played in February.

Noble achieved respect and recognition in America.  “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church” (from the official website of the Episcopal Church in America) contains a half-page about him.

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Many thanks for these ideas, folks. I'm a bit reticent about contacting JSW to ask a favour like that. Why, I can't help but feel, should he want to fiddle about with a scanner - assuming he has one - for someone he's never heard of and is unlikely to be in need of a favour returned?

Good to see reference above to 'Ora Labora' - not a tune I knew until I was having a rummage on the St Thomas website (or, more likely youTube) one day and found a recording of it accompanied by Gerre Hancock who then went on to improvise a voluntary on it - I think it might have been his last service at St Thomas. OK - here it is - worth a listen. 

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There's a fine arrangement of Ora Labora in the "Love Divine" hymn-anthem booklet published by the Church Music Society and OUP - we sang it for Harvest last week. It also includes Maurice Bevan's wonderful Corvedale ("There's a wideness...") and a Howells rarity, so a good buy all round, plus a (to my mind slightly unconvincing) Francis Jackson hymn.

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/love-divine-9780193953697?cc=gb&lang=en&

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“Ora labora” is awesome. With the text of “Come, labour on” it’s a real tear-jerker - in the very best sense of the word.

Its in New English Praise (as is “Corvedale”), and has a fine descant added by Simon Lindley.

For the last few years this has been a firm fixture for our final Evensong of the choir year.

(“Servant[s], well done!”) 

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Of course it’s not unknown for later composers to substitute their own descant in place of the original composer’s, although some contributors on earlier threads here have disapproved of such things!  It may be that there was a copyright issue in this case.  I don’t know whether ‘Ora Labora’ appeared in the UK Volumes of “Free organ accompaniments to well-known hymns” by Tertius Noble.  His own descant in the US version is very fine.  I wish I could track down the publisher’s details.   

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I'm not sure whether or not this will be much help, but my copies of the 50 and 100 Free Organ Accompaniments are published by Alfred Publishing Co, Inc in the USA - "alfred.com" (who have been assigned all rights by the original publisher, J. Fischer & Bro.).  For what it's worth, my copies arrived within a few days of my ordering them from Amazon UK!

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  • 3 months later...
On 01/10/2020 at 07:32, Martin Cooke said:

Good to see reference above to 'Ora Labora' - not a tune I knew until I was having a rummage on the St Thomas website (or, more likely youTube) one day and found a recording of it accompanied by Gerre Hancock who then went on to improvise a voluntary on it - I think it might have been his last service at St Thomas. OK - here it is - worth a listen. 

Easter 1929 at St Thomas Church:  If you follow the link to the video referred to in Martin’s post above, in the right hand column there is a YouTube recording in which you can hear and see excerpts from a service at Easter 1929 from St Thomas’, New York with Tertius Noble playing the Ernest Skinner organ of 1913.  Don’t be put off by the noise beforehand during the street scene outside St Thomas’.

The two hymns are instantly recognisable and the short anthem is “The Risen Christ” by Noble.  At one point there is a momentary glimpse of Noble at the Skinner console. 

I wasn’t allowed to embed the link to the St Thomas’ video, but it can be viewed readily.
 

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My goodness, those hymns are high!  Although, to be fair, it doesn’t seem like the congregation are expected to join in.

I must confess that I’m not a fan of the sound of the choir.  Not a value judgement - just a personal preference.  Bairstow’s choir, recorded two years later, sounded similar.

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I have, at long last, located my copy of the American edition of Tertius Noble’s “Free organ accompaniments to well-known hymns”.  

Firstly, “The strife is o’er, the battle done” appears as no 20 in his collection to the tune “Victory”, of course, and it is in the same key as it presently appears in ‘Common Praise’!  Noble adds the metre 8.8.8 with Alleluia, Palestrina and the direction “With dignity”; f throughout and ff for the Alleluia.  

“Jesus Christ is risen today” is no 22; “Easter Hymn” 7.7.7.7 with Alleluias; Lyra Davidica 1708 Revised 1749; key C major; direction “Broad, not too slow”; f throughout.

So there are some possible clues.  When Brizzle mentioned the high pitch, I wondered whether we were hearing the recording in ‘real time’.  Interestingly, one of the comments on the YouTube video makes the same point and it does seem a feasible explanation.  There was clearly substantial editing, so I can’t comment about gathering notes.  The verses do appear to follow in quick succession.

On viewing again, and looking closely, one can see Noble ‘conducting’ from the console, and quite vigorously, during the anthem.

I don’t know which hymnal was in use in 1929, but it certainly wasn’t ‘The English Hymnal’ from the numbers on the hymn board as the choir procession enters.

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On 23/01/2021 at 22:48, Brizzle said:

My goodness, those hymns are high!  Although, to be fair, it doesn’t seem like the congregation are expected to join in.

I don't have much experience of the US but, from what I have seen , it seems rare for a congregation to join in. I've often seen services/Masses with a Cantor at the front, singing through a microphone, a choir in a back gallery and, in between an almost mute congregation. Having said that I'm sure it isn't like that everywhere and my experiences may very well be coloured by RC liturgies although, before the virus, I regularly watched Washington National Cathedral where the congregation seemed happy to leave it to the choir (on the Chancel steps!).

I only listened to two of the hymns 'The strife is o'er' and 'Jesus Christ is risen today' - I didn't think they were unduly high but remember that this was 1929. The tessitura was higher in those days . Even in the 1950's/60's, at school, we sang hymns encompassing a top E or even an F!!!!

Interesting video though!

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S_L:   Please see my (admittedly long-winded!) comment directly above.  As far as I can tell, Tertius Noble was using his own arrangements in the hymn accompaniment - there were only the two hymns - and they are both in the same key as in present-day use.   I think there is a feasible explanation for the high pitch.

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21 minutes ago, S_L said:

I only listened to two of the hymns 'The strife is o'er' and 'Jesus Christ is risen today' - I didn't think they were unduly high but remember that this was 1929. The tessitura was higher in those days . Even in the 1950's/60's, at school, we sang hymns encompassing a top E or even an F!!!!

Interesting video though!

Thinking about tessitura and the change over the years... I wonder what brought this about (the change).

I have seen Easter Hymn in D major somewhere which, of course means a top F sharp. but the only 'high' hymn I remember back in Ancient and Modern Revised days is Austria in F. 

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1 hour ago, Martin Cooke said:

Thinking about tessitura and the change over the years... I wonder what brought this about (the change).

I have seen Easter Hymn in D major somewhere which, of course means a top F sharp. but the only 'high' hymn I remember back in Ancient and Modern Revised days is Austria in F. 

We used 'Songs of Praise' at school. E was commonplace - and F not that unusual (St. Gall, Shanghai, Vruechten, Londonderry, immediately come to mind)

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Possibly we should have a separate thread on the pitch of hymns, but this forum has a long and noble tradition of going off topic ....

It’s a question that has long puzzled me.

In the case of Welsh (and I believe English) chapels the situation is quite clear. The pitch tends to be on the high side because historically the whole congregation sang in harmony. Thus in the standard modern Welsh hymn book, Caneuon Ffydd, Fs are commonplace. I’m not sure how alive the tradition is in regular Sunday worship as I only ever play for funerals in chapels, where there seems to be a mix of unison and harmony singing.

In Anglican hymn books pitch has been sliding downwards during the twentieth century. The old Standard Edition of Ancient and Modern reflects the nineteenth century norm: Es are normal and Fs not uncommon. The English Hymnal is a shade lower and perhaps initiated the trend. Ancient and Modern Revised is similar - Fs are rare. The New Standard edition, as mentioned, rather overshot and was criticised for this at the time it came out. Common Praise and the New English Hymnal are more moderate. Mayhew if anything goes further than the New Standard.

Assuming people’s voices haven’t changed (and bearing in mind that many Victorian organs were on the sharp side), what does this shift reflect?

Did Anglicans once (but a long time ago) sing in harmony, and the pitches in Victorian hymn books reflected this? Or did those pitches reflect an aspiration that congregations should sing in harmony, but it never really caught on (whereas it did in chapels)?

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Hi

I read somewhere that on average, people are bigger now than in previous generations, and hence, on average, have naturally lower-pitched voices.  Add to that the fact that there's far less singing in society, and certainly music teaching in schools has deteriorated (witness the row made by many so-called school choirs consisting of kids bawling at the tops of their voices that often appear on TV news programmes before Christmas.  Hence many are neither taught how to sing, and many just don't sing other than in church.  I guess the 2 factors together are behind the lowering of pitch.

Given that many older organs also are sharp (I have a Harmonium that's a semi-tone sharp to A=440 for example) maybe that's another factor.

Not sure that there's any easy answers.

Every Blessing

Tony

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The case of Goss's Praise, my Soul is interesting.

It was originally published in two versions (Brown-Borthwick Supplemental Hymn and Tune Book, 1869).

The first version is in D and sets five unison verses, each with a different accompaniment. This reflects the tradition where hymns and metrical psalms were sung in unison, with the organist varying the accompaniment (including the harmonies) for each verse. S.S. Wesley's A Selection of Psalm Tunes: Adapted Expressly to the English Organ with Pedals (1842) is a good example, and later in the nineteenth century Stanford was praised for the artistry with which he did this sort of thing in accompanying undergraduate hymn singing in Trinity College chapel.

The second version is in E and is "Arranged for Four Vocal Parts" (possibly by the composer, as the harmonies do not correspond with those of any of the five unison verse accompaniments). This is clearly the basis for the harmony version we sing today for verse 2, though with some differences. A footnote states, "This Tune, as harmonised for four voices, is transposed to E, as the key of D would be too low for the basses." Does this suggest that singing in harmony perhaps encouraged the adoption of higher keys in hymn books? It's worth noting that the keys in Wesley's Selection, intended to accompany unison singing, are on the lower side compared with e.g. the Standard Edition of Ancient and Modern (tho' higher than we might prefer today).

(Incidentally, of Goss's five unison accompaniments three are those printed in modern hymn books; the one for verse 2 has been supplanted by the harmony version, and the one for "Frail as summer's flower we flourish" has been discarded along with that verse. If anyone wants to revive them, Brown-Borthwick is available via Google Books.)

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I agree that people sing less than they used to slightly lower pitches are now considered more comfortable. I've noticed that the melody of a number of modern worship songs goes quite significantly into what I would consider the alto register, and as a tenor I find it more comfortable to sing up the octave.  It also occurs to me that many film scores with choirs from the same era also sound quite high pitched (and screechy to my ears). Perhaps that's how tastes have changed over the years.

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39 minutes ago, Choir Man said:

I agree that people sing less than they used to slightly lower pitches are now considered more comfortable. I've noticed that the melody of a number of modern worship songs goes quite significantly into what I would consider the alto register, and as a tenor I find it more comfortable to sing up the octave.  It also occurs to me that many film scores with choirs from the same era also sound quite high pitched (and screechy to my ears). Perhaps that's how tastes have changed over the years.

At the risk of meandering even further than normal from Pipe Organ-related matters one of the early discoveries of making movies of musicals was that the traditional soprano and tenor roles that carried so well in theatres didn’t work well on screen, particularly when the soprano was in close-up. As a result in the 1936 film of Show Boat all the soprano songs are transposed down by about a third. Many female pop singers sing in the low alto or tenor register and many “worship” songs are similarly pitched. It’s also true to say that most untrained singers don’t fit into the traditionally gendered SATB categories. Tastes and physiologies have changed but life-styles and musical experiences have changes too.

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A singing teacher I once met had a lot of pupils who were older teenagers coming to him with little singing experience. He complained that they all wanted to sing in the same area regardless of sex (the upper tenor and lower alto area), and had great difficulty in accessing the upper part of their voices (girls) or lower part (boys). Even more frustrating was the fact that the favoured area was rarely the best part of the voice.

2 hours ago, innate said:

It’s also true to say that most untrained singers don’t fit into the traditionally gendered SATB categories.

Even experienced / trained singers don’t fit very well into these categories. Most men are baritones and most women mezzos and have to be shoe-horned into bass or tenor, contralto or soprano. Which does rather make one wonder why the categories developed in the first place ....

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