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OUP's new volume - Holy Communion - (Hymn settings for Organists)


Martin Cooke
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This plopped through my letter box this morning having just been published. It's volume 7 in the series that most forumites must have come across, but David Bednall has now taken over as joint editor from David Blackwell. Those who know the series will recognise many traits and the general formula but there are a number of new composers. 

As each page turns, so I think I have met the best item in the volume, but no... this is a volume of music that keeps on giving. There are so many highlights that it is both impossible and invidious to list them - especially since all contributors are alive, and at least one is a member of the Mander forum! But, I heartily recommend it. Unlike one or two of the other volumes, I don't believe there is a dud piece here and there is a lot to learn from it stylistically, as well. OK, I won't be playing every item this side of Christmas, some are easier than others - one begins in E flat minor, for example, but it's not difficult writing. Many of the pieces are really quite exciting, if they are written in that idiom, others are gentle and tranquil and ideal for the distribution and all are ideal to help with worship at the present time. 

One aspect of this series that some may struggle to appreciate especially in terms of value is the fact that probably half of the contents are based on hymn or song tunes from the other side of the Atlantic, and, actually, in this case, there are three or four that are British but are based on less formal hymns - Living Lord, for example and Christ be our light, and a couple that I don't know of that genre. I hope I can encourage forumites to cast aside reservations that such contents might put in your mind. I think congregations will love many of these pieces but perhaps a bit of explanation or the words from the US hymns printed in the pew sheet may help with the listeners' appreciation. 

Those of you who have, like me, been on this forum a while, will know that I have been very keen on this series from the start. Please remember that I am nothing to do with OUP and whilst I know and have met a couple of the composers across the series, I have nothing to gain in recommending these volumes, and I write this only as a result of the joy I have experienced in playing through this volume today.  As I have said before, there is huge scope for the use of hymn and chorale preludes in worship at the moment when hymns cannot be sung. I am already looking forward to revisiting the Advent and Christmas volume where many of my favourites lurk. 

I have a couple of other recommendations to make and will post again shortly. If only I could stop buying new music!

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On 12/10/2020 at 11:35, timothyguntrip said:

I have a couple of these volumes - the Autumn Festivals volume will soon prove a useful resource. I think I may order this one on the merits of Martin's recommendation - and do keep them coming!

How's it going Tim? Tbh, now I have got into them, one or two of them seem less worthy of exploration than others, but I find with all these albums that I come back to them a couple of years on and find that something grows on me afresh. 

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Some of the weaker (but still perfectly acceptable) pieces in this series resemble written-down improvisations - but that’s fine because they give me ideas for my own improvising!

I do so agree that the standard of the series is high - much better than similar volumes from other publishers (one in particular, whom I shall forbear to name).

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just got a copy of this (from Amazon, after giving up on Blackwells ever having it in stock). I played Michael Bedford's Liebster Jesu this morning - a lovely, gentle piece. 

It does seem to have more American material than the earlier volumes, and of the "British tunes", a fair few aren't ones we sing regularly at our church. That said, on a quick play-through, David Bednall's Hyfrydol is striking, Malcolm Archer's All for Jesus is enjoyably rumbustious, and Kerensa Briggs's Gibbons Song 46 has an intriguing C20th French air to it. I like the look of Phillip Cooke's two pieces, too, though I worry that the sustained note clusters may not work too well on a digital organ.

The introduction describes this volume as "the first in the series to address general, non-seasonal needs" so hopefully there'll be more. 

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