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Guest delvin146

Now this might just be me, but I've been listening to several recordings recently of various churches and cathedral choirs as one does.

 

From what I can gather the trend in many of our cathedrals and parish churches is to take things as quickly as they can possibly go when accompanying a congregation where they get constantly blasted by a battery of reeds.

 

No don't get me wrong, I'm not against excitment in worship but I find this style when I hear it very uninspiring. When accompanying a hymn for example, I see no need for taking everything 1 or 2 in a bar all the time. Granted there are some that I do that with, but there are others where I feel a slower tempo is required where a tune has interest in intracasy. (Did I spell that correctly?) I think there are many out there who confuse tempo with excitement. I can't think of anything more unexciting than staccato hymns which lack cadential interest, breathing space for the congregation, melodic shape, appogiatura shades, and under-developed choral tone because no notes are held for long enough for it to develop or to shade notes away. So far as I am concerned things should roll. No wonder many complain that traditional hymns are boring when they're played with no expression whatsoever.

 

Personally I favour a more stately slower tempo, a good legato and plenty of breathing spaces between phrases without it dragging. This is not hard to bring off I find it very difficult not to do this. I've mentioned "Songs of Praise" before but it seems that this programme has influenced so many people nowadays they no longer know how to sing the good old fashioned way, with legato phrases. It's all "choppy" now.. I really really hate it. And what's all this speeding up in the third line all about?

 

Further to this it seems that organs in large buildings have nothing except a Swell Horn or Great Trumpet to offer. Diapason tone no longer seems sufficient to accompany a congregation on, or a nice principal or fifteeth minus reeds. I do sometimes use a trumpet tone reed or full-swell as a choke to start them off when they're cold first thing in the morning, but I tend to push it in when things have warmed up a bit. I find the oboe especially with sub is a more useful reed for hymn singing as it's not too loud and it just growls away without obliterating the singers in every verse. I suggest a very useful half-way house. Why can we no longer seem to have flutes mixed with diapasons and oboes for a bit of warmth when singing about the woes of Mary? I have no problem with trumpets and mixtures in last verses but why all the time? I tend to use one or other for half a verse sometimes - 2 lines either way before it starts to lose its effect. Box just slightly open with a growling reed and sub is also effective, gradually opening it during the last few lines with a lovely rallentando some of the time.

 

Have things changed because our organs have since the vintage age been built to have thinner basses, no foundations or guts, but lots of tinkly screamy stuff on top?

 

Perhaps I'm being cynical but there does seem to be a lot of this let's use maximum organ in every verse whenever possible and blast them out the door. I just felt I needed to have a moan, I just don't understand why people want to play like this. I sometimes use Swell Strings (with celestes) with octave coupler dropped onto the great with 8' 4' flutes. Sounds lovely in quieter verses for expression, but hardly anyone seems to do it so far as I can see. If the choir are trained properly they should be able to sustain the voices with the organ taking a more background role for contrast sometimes. Mind you I suppose I was asked to play on a 8' only so I chose Swell 8' flute with box closed. A complete disaster as you might expect - nobody does that anymore do they? I would have thought being asked to knock the organ back a bit would suffice. How can sopranos hear a single 8'? Being too extreme the other way I suppose.

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Interesting post. My reply is from the point of view of the congregation, because I don't play for services.

 

I agree about tempo. Fast tempos ruin the music, and in your third paragraph you have put your finger on why this is so. Another consideration is that not everyone in the congregation (as opposed to the choir) is vocally agile enough to keep up - and those of us who aren't well provided for in the wind department can't get enough air into the lungs to last the next line if the tempo is too fast. The same applies to psalms.

 

To some extent, it's the fault of the hymnbooks, which have switched from minims to crochets, which just encourages people to play faster. Messiaen had Le banquet Celeste reprinted in minims because he was appalled at how fast people were taking it, according to Jennifer Bate.

 

My own preference is for the organ to be played pretty loud for hymns so that the congregation sings up. It's one thing not to drown the singing, but the congregation do need to hear the organ to stay in time and in tune. It's a very dreary experience to have to sing at a mere murmur so that you can still hear the organ.

I'd even go so far as to say that, in most churches, if the organist can hear the congregation, he isn't playing loudly enough :)

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Interesting post. My reply is from the point of view of the congregation, because I don't play for services.

 

I agree about tempo. Fast tempos ruin the music, and in your third paragraph you have put your finger on why this is so. Another consideration is that not everyone in the congregation (as opposed to the choir) is vocally agile enough to keep up - and those of us who aren't well provided for in the wind department can't get enough air into the lungs to last the next line if the tempo is too fast. The same applies to psalms.

 

To some extent, it's the fault of the hymnbooks, which have switched from minims to crochets, which just encourages people to play faster. Messiaen had Le banquet Celeste reprinted in minims because he was appalled at how fast people were taking it, according to Jennifer Bate.

 

My own preference is for the organ to be played pretty loud for hymns so that the congregation sings up. It's one thing not to drown the singing, but the congregation do need to hear the organ to stay in time and in tune. It's a very dreary experience to have to sing at a mere murmur so that you can still hear the organ.

I'd even go so far as to say that, in most churches, if the organist can hear the congregation, he isn't playing loudly enough :)

 

 

I was once asked at interview the rather unexpected question, 'do I play soft enough for a congregation?'.

My answer was that the English (at least) seem to need a certain amount of 'covering fire' before they loosen up and start to go for hymns at all. I'm with Nick Bennett above to that extent.... play too delicately and a typical congregation will not often feel brave enough to sing up. Then, I'm with Delvin - a bold first verse (assuming it's a bold-ish sort of hymn) and the second very can very well be accompanied on less.

 

I have put my choir on unison first verses as a default setting anyway... they can set the thing going firmly before we get onto the niceties of singing in harmony.

 

The question of speed: I'd rather have a fairly brisk hymn, myself. I'm not referring to devotional/communion hymns, but those which ought to really lift the spirits and get a bit of adrenalin going but sometimes just drag horribly. I agree that you have to give sufficient pause in select places (often as much as an additional beat) to enable folks to breathe, but the slower the hymn, the more demands you are making on breath. Some hymns seem interminable if allowed to drag. Last year I played for a Carol Service for the Icelandic congregation in the Danish Seamen's Church here.... playing from all-Icelandic copies (and with the first chord omitted) in rehearsal with the visiting choir, it took more than a few seconds for me to recognise Adeste Fideles at the speed they were taking it! True, I promise.

 

As to rhythm: I set the speed and nobody else gets to change it - unless I'm very unlucky indeed and one voice in the distance 'takes over'. This rarely happens - people eagerly fall in with a strong pulse, it feels 'right' - or at least that's my opinion. One is not always lucky: at my last church, the choir (if present) were over quite near the congregation; when they were singing, they'd take my speed and the congregation would get it from them. However, there was one funeral and whatever I drew on the organ (buried, as it is behind the chancel) this one strident voice from a front pew firmly dragged the rest of the congregation further and further back! Mind you, over the years, I have known a few vicars who have tended to do that too.

 

The comment about accompanists often using Full Swell and Great to Mixture throughout congregational hymns: this is what I feel I have been hearing for years on the King's College Christmas broadcasts. I hate it - it's beating that poor congregation over the head in every verse. Maybe that's the only way they stay together... there must be some reason for it!

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I do agree that hymns more often than not are taken at speeds that feels uncomfortable for an ordinary member of the congregation. I no longer play for regular services and have been a member of my C of E congregation (and others) for a large number of years. Therefore, I can speak from the experience of being on both sides of The Loft.

 

For a start, I have got my students to sing. This provides a good basis for phrasing. But the greatest thing every organist needs to realise is that the words have a message. The tune is not the be all and end all - I think many folk doing the choosing often have this in their sights, albeit sometimes unintentionally. If a song is too fast to glean the poetry and meaning, things have gone awry. One must play surely for the folk towards the rear of the Nave, not the speed that the choir (who are nearby) can professionally trill. It so easily to leave the congregation behind, especially in those places where somebody conducts the choir. If there are passing notes in the tune written by the composer, they should be heard as they give a reasonable indication (in my opinion) of the speed required to make a musical rendition as pertinent as possible. Acoustic plays an important part too. If any have the luxury of being able to be a member of their congregation and listen, much someimes can be geaned about one's instrument and needs of the congregation. Perhaps a recording sometimes can

 

My other solution is always to revitalize the music and not just play the 4 part harmony designed (mostly) for Anglican choirs. Spiced-up with some continental practises of redesigning the accompaniment, but NOT the harmony, the overall performance is easily enhanced. Younger organists tend to feel that every verse should be orchestrated in a different way when it is the re-arranging of the harmony and accompaniment that adds difference. Too much use of thumb-werk is often the cause. Hand registration works wonders!

 

Thanks for waking me up on this dreary Monday morn. But you might think it should be a real case of letting a sleeping dog be put down.

 

Best wishes,

N

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Guest Andrew Butler

An interesting and useful topic. We can all learn from each other all the time. I haven't got time now to comment in depth, but I am sure that Kings know what they are doing in that acoustic. I am not sure that it is gt-mix + full sw all the time though; they do drop the level (more than I might dare!) for some verses. Incidentally, is it just me, or on the TV recorded service they do, do the 16' manual flues seem to be on more...?

 

Different buildings/instruments dictate different approaches. I am playing for a funeral here http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D04826 later in the week. The organ is buried in a side chapel and you have to play almost flat out to make the thing heard.

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Guest delvin146
An interesting and useful topic. We can all learn from each other all the time. I haven't got time now to comment in depth, but I am sure that Kings know what they are doing in that acoustic. I am not sure that it is gt-mix + full sw all the time though; they do drop the level (more than I might dare!) for some verses. Incidentally, is it just me, or on the TV recorded service they do, do the 16' manual flues seem to be on more...?

 

Different buildings/instruments dictate different approaches. I am playing for a funeral here http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D04826 later in the week. The organ is buried in a side chapel and you have to play almost flat out to make the thing heard.

 

I think as has been said before on another thread that manual 16's are incredibly useful for underpinning things. Used sparingly I think they add a kind of cushion to the voices together with some confidence. I think the point about passing notes in setting a hymn tempo is also paramount. A good example might be Rockingham (English Hymnal Harmonisation) - take it fast and the harmonic rhythm gets totally destroyed. It has to be 4 legato phrases so far as I'm concerned.

 

I also very pedantic about the keys I play hymns in. I cannot abide "Helmsley" (Lo! he comes) in another other key apart from A flat, to me the intervals sound all wrong in G as it is printed in most modern book and the tune seems to lose any kind of excitement. Simarlly "Crucifer" (Lift high the cross) has to be in D. It sounds dreadful in C. Again is this just me, or do others agree?

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Guest delvin146
Interesting post. My reply is from the point of view of the congregation, because I don't play for services.

 

I agree about tempo. Fast tempos ruin the music, and in your third paragraph you have put your finger on why this is so. Another consideration is that not everyone in the congregation (as opposed to the choir) is vocally agile enough to keep up - and those of us who aren't well provided for in the wind department can't get enough air into the lungs to last the next line if the tempo is too fast. The same applies to psalms.

 

To some extent, it's the fault of the hymnbooks, which have switched from minims to crochets, which just encourages people to play faster. Messiaen had Le banquet Celeste reprinted in minims because he was appalled at how fast people were taking it, according to Jennifer Bate.

 

My own preference is for the organ to be played pretty loud for hymns so that the congregation sings up. It's one thing not to drown the singing, but the congregation do need to hear the organ to stay in time and in tune. It's a very dreary experience to have to sing at a mere murmur so that you can still hear the organ.

I'd even go so far as to say that, in most churches, if the organist can hear the congregation, he isn't playing loudly enough :)

 

Ha. Your final sentence. Personally I like to have a mix within the same hymn, but I don't do the same thing all of the time. I might for example give the organ a swamping lead in verse 2 for example, and cut right back for 3 to put the choir in the limelight rather than the organ. I'd hope to train the choir to lead when the organ cuts back to a couple of flutes. I might then bring more organ on for last verse and take the lead again. I think it's about variety and trying to make them interesting.

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Guest delvin146

Advent 2006

 

Not sure if this link will work. It's the way I played St. Botolph at our Advent last week, without too many harsh reeds except in final verse. Hopefully it shows that a full congregation can be supported on a firm foundation of fluework without a reed all the time. A tendency for the third line to be rushed unfortunately. Misses the beauty slightly I think. Some verses chopped for file length. I hope it makes the point about letting the choir lead in the middle verse.

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I very much agree with the general opinion above. With one or two exceptions, I am not in favour of taking hymns quickly. Whatever happened to nobility?

 

A hymn is an amalgamation of words and music. Its speed needs to be governed by both. This will vary from hymn to hymn. There is - or should be - no question of "one size fits all". The ideal speed will be one that allows the congregation to give full vent to its lungs while at the same time maintaining the forward movement sufficiently to prevent dragging.

 

Speaking of momentum, I am very much against pausing at the end of each line, even momentarily. It may, very occasionally, be necessary to introduce an extra beat to allow a breath to be taken, but is the congregation is to feel confident in what they are singing it is important that a regular pulse be maintained throughout the verse. It helps if the beat is kept going between the verses too - congregations soon get used to it and it does away with the need to dwell (even if ever so slightly) on the first chord until they catch up - or leave them behind. This means that, as the organist, you have to be very quick with your registration changes, but no one should be holding up the singing while they fumble for stops anyway.

 

As to registration, I agree with Paul that, no matter how good the choir is, what the congregation need is a firm support from the organ. It all depends on the words, but by and large I play the first verse fairly loudly and reduce somewhat for verse 2. But I would never dream of using célestes + 8ve coupler for a hymn, not even during the communion.

 

As an illustration of the importance of support, last year sometime I was playing a processional hymn during a nave service in Rochester Cathedral. By verse three or four it seemed to be running itself reasonably well so I reduced the organ to Gt OD2 & Principal plus Sw to Mixture, which I felt was as quiet as I dare go. By now the choir had reached the back of the nave. It seemed OK to me (as far as you can judge anything sat virtually inside the organ on the screen), but afterwards I was told that this was virtually inaudible from the back of the nave. Very instructive.

 

But Rochester is a fairly large space to fill with sound. In a smaller, more intimate building with a lusty congregation perfectly capable of leading the organist if they want to, such a thing would probably not be an issue.

 

As for reeds, I must hold my hand up and admit that I probably do over-use them a bit. I probably include the Sw Trumpet, or full Swell in verse 1 more often than I need to and I do have a tendency to play last verses using at least Gt to Mixture + full Swell, or even the Gt reeds too (unless the words dictate otherwise).

 

These are my views, but whether they are valid is probably not for me to say. Ask DHM - he has had to suffer the results! :)

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Advent 2006

 

Not sure if this link will work. It's the way I played St. Botolph at our Advent last week, without too many harsh reeds except in final verse. Hopefully it shows that a full congregation can be supported on a firm foundation of fluework without a reed all the time. A tendency for the third line to be rushed unfortunately. Misses the beauty slightly I think. Some verses chopped for file length. I hope it makes the point about letting the choir lead in the middle verse.

 

I like the tempo.

 

However, I think it's interesting that for much of the hymn the congregation (or is it choir?) is flat. Verse 1 is probably the best in this regard - my ears and laptop speakers aren't quite good enough for me to work out the registration differences, but the v1 registration sounds a bit brighter, which, in my experience, is the thing that helps congregations stay in tune.

 

Lots of 8' tone doesn't help some differentiate between what they're singing and where the tune really is. Same reason why some choirmasters advocate playing along staccato and an octave below when teaching tunes to trebles - they can more readily hear the pitch when it's not in the octave that they're singing.

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I very much agree with the general opinion above. With one or two exceptions, I am not in favour of taking hymns quickly. Whatever happened to nobility?

 

A hymn is an amalgamation of words and music. Its speed needs to be governed by both. This will vary from hymn to hymn. There is - or should be - no question of "one size fits all". The ideal speed will be one that allows the congregation to give full vent to its lungs while at the same time maintaining the forward movement sufficiently to prevent dragging.

 

Does anyone play hymns at the speeds RVW advocated in the original English Hymnal? Opening it at random now I see Dix marked c=96, Stuttgart m=66, Crüger m=56. [m=halfnote (blanche), c=quarternote (noir) for our US (francophone) friends].

 

I have a feeling that average speeds are creeping up generally and also younger players are faster than older ones. Obviously such a trend would have to stop eventually, if not be reversed, but I don't agree that untrained voices require slower speeds than trained choirs. Anyone can sing The Hokey-Cokey or Knees Up Mother Brown at a fair lick.

 

Michael

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Does anyone play hymns at the speeds RVW advocated in the original English Hymnal? Opening it at random now I see Dix marked c=96, Stuttgart m=66, Crüger m=56. [m=halfnote (blanche), c=quarternote (noir) for our US (francophone) friends].
Many of VW's speeds are too slow IMO, but I don't see anything wrong with Dix at c=96. Obviously size of building and congregation has a bearing on speed. If I am playing a hymn for a congregation of 20 in a small parish church I am unlikely to take it at quite the same speed that I would for 1,000 people in a cathedral (though, depending on the hymn, the difference might not be all that great).

 

I have a feeling that average speeds are creeping up generally and also younger players are faster than older ones. Obviously such a trend would have to stop eventually, if not be reversed, but I don't agree that untrained voices require slower speeds than trained choirs. Anyone can sing The Hokey-Cokey or Knees Up Mother Brown at a fair lick.
Of course they can, but would they sing it at the same speed if they were part of a group of people consciously singing to fill a building as a body rather than as individuals.

 

I am not an avid football supporter (I avoid all sports more energetic than snooker) so I may have a false impression, but, from what I have heard, crowds singing to fill a stadium do so at tempi that are fairly sedate. I wonder why that is? Would they sound better if they sang at twice the speed?

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Guest delvin146
Many of VW's speeds are too slow IMO, but I don't see anything wrong with Dix at c=96. Obviously size of building and congregation has a bearing on speed. If I am playing a hymn for a congregation of 20 in a small parish church I am unlikely to take it at quite the same speed that I would for 1,000 people in a cathedral (though, depending on the hymn, the difference might not be all that great).

 

Of course they can, but would they sing it at the same speed if they were part of a group of people consciously singing to fill a building as a body rather than as individuals.

 

I am not an avid football supporter (I avoid all sports more energetic than snooker) so I may have a false impression, but, from what I have heard, crowds singing to fill a stadium do so at tempi that are fairly sedate. I wonder why that is? Would they sound better if they sang at twice the speed?

 

Strangely enough from what I remember from the odd match, they tend to naturally favour a nice legato :)

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Strangely enough from what I remember from the odd match, they tend to naturally favour a nice legato <_<

 

 

If you allow for the number of voices, variations of pitch and variations of speed (allowing for distances between!) what you have in a match situation is the vocal equivalent of Mantovani's strings. No wonder they sound legato.... a wonderful resonance too.

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I like the tempo.

 

However, I think it's interesting that for much of the hymn the congregation (or is it choir?) is flat. Verse 1 is probably the best in this regard - my ears and laptop speakers aren't quite good enough for me to work out the registration differences, but the v1 registration sounds a bit brighter, which, in my experience, is the thing that helps congregations stay in tune.

Yes. I agree that Delvin's speed is fine. The accompaniment in v.1 is strong enough to support the singers too - and without drowning them. A good start! I was less convinced, though, by the quieter, more flutey combination in v.2 - I couldn't help noticing how the ensemble and tuning become less secure.
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Guest delvin146
Yes. I agree that Delvin's speed is fine. The accompaniment in v.1 is strong enough to support the singers too - and without drowning them. A good start! I was less convinced, though, by the quieter, more flutey combination in v.2 - I couldn't help noticing how the ensemble and tuning become less secure.

 

It's all about training my dear, all in good time <_<

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The organ at King's isn't that loud by today's standards, and it certainly isn't incisive. I expect it has some difficulty keeping a big congregation in the ante-chapel together, and that it needs to be played at full bore for the Nine Lessons and Carols.

 

Although I've never been at the back of King's College Chapel when it was full, I have been at the back of the nave at York Minster for a packed midnight mass, and it was chaotic. The organ scholar was accompanying the service, and he decided to play all the hymns presto. The front half of the congregation couldn't keep up with the organ. But at the back of the nave we couldn't hear the organ at all over the singing, so our tempo became detached from both the organ and those at the front of the nave. Thus there were three separate tempi going on simultaneously. During the last line of each verse we became aware that the front of the congregation had paused for breath between verses, and that the organ was already ploughing into the first line of the next verse, so we abandoned the last line of each verse in an attempt to catch up - though by the time we had taken a breath we were already late coming in!

 

I don't go to football matches either, but I imagine the crowd just knows what speed things are sung at, and that the congregation in the Minster does too, and the organ simply isn't powerful enough to gee them up to any great extent - Tuba Mirabilis or no Tuba Mirabilis.

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The organ at King's isn't that loud by today's standards, and it certainly isn't incisive. I expect it has some difficulty keeping a big congregation in the ante-chapel together, and that it needs to be played at full bore for the Nine Lessons and Carols.

 

Ummm.... no - the full organ is more than adequate for the chapel. I doubt that anything approaching the tutti is used during the Nine Lessons... - with the exception of the extra voluntaries which usually form part of the radio broadcast. In any case, it is not possible to tell from the broadcast, since this does not give a true picture of the balance in the building.

 

One only has to consider the wind pressures of the Pedal and G.O. reeds* (with the Solo expression shutters fully open), to say nothing of the Solo Tuba. This is not a quiet organ!

 

 

 

* Approximately 450mm for the Pedal and G.O. reeds and 375mm for the Solo Tuba. These are quite heavy pressures by English standards, although not approaching some of the pressures used at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, for example. This is, of course, rather an exceptional building. However, for the record, the G.O. reeds at King's College speak on a pressure which is 75mm higher than that used for the G.O. reeds at Liverpool. This would largely compensate for the attenuating effect of enclosure of the ranks at Cambridge. Of course, I realise that pressure alone does not guarantee great power. One should also take into account scale, the thickness of the tongues, the size of the foothole opening in the boots, whether or not the pipes are hooded and a number of other factors. Notwithstanding, the full organ at King's, Cambridge lacks nothing in either volume or carrying power.

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Re King's.

 

I am not suggesting that it's undervoiced, but neither is it one of those organs that make you gasp at its sheer volume, as happens with (say) St. Eustache, Haileybury College or the Stahlhuth organ at Maria Laach, to name but a few.

 

If you wanted your hearing damaged in Cambridge, the place to go was not King's but John's, where you sat opposite the instrument and hoped the chamades were going to get some use. Even if they didn't, it was pretty loud, and a far brighter sound with much more impact than the gentler, smoother sound down the road.

 

Don't misunderstand me though, I think King's is a wonderful instrument. In fact, over the years it has gone up and up in my estimation. Sitting in the choir stalls from 5.30 until 7.15 on a Saturday evening in Full Term is my idea of heaven!

 

I notice from the college web site that the queue for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols will be admitted to the college grounds at 0500! You gotta be keen ... or a member of the College.

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Yes. I agree that Delvin's speed is fine. The accompaniment in v.1 is strong enough to support the singers too - and without drowning them. A good start! I was less convinced, though, by the quieter, more flutey combination in v.2 - I couldn't help noticing how the ensemble and tuning become less secure.

 

For me the speed was a little on the slow side, not by much, but I’d have liked it a little faster. I liked the accompaniment for v2; it gave the choir a firm foundation but didn’t swamp them. Unison for first and last verse is always a good idea; it provides a good lead and bookends the hymn. I did notice a BIG voice (congregation I hope) that sang out of tune for the whole thing.

 

<_<

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I was once asked at interview the rather unexpected question, 'do I play soft enough for a congregation?'.

My answer was that the English (at least) seem to need a certain amount of 'covering fire' before they loosen up and start to go for hymns at all. I'm with Nick Bennett above to that extent.... play too delicately and a typical congregation will not often feel brave enough to sing up. Then, I'm with Delvin - a bold first verse (assuming it's a bold-ish sort of hymn) and the second very can very well be accompanied on less.

 

I have put my choir on unison first verses as a default setting anyway... they can set the thing going firmly before we get onto the niceties of singing in harmony.

 

The question of speed: I'd rather have a fairly brisk hymn, myself. I'm not referring to devotional/communion hymns, but those which ought to really lift the spirits and get a bit of adrenalin going but sometimes just drag horribly. I agree that you have to give sufficient pause in select places (often as much as an additional beat) to enable folks to breathe, but the slower the hymn, the more demands you are making on breath. Some hymns seem interminable if allowed to drag. Last year I played for a Carol Service for the Icelandic congregation in the Danish Seamen's Church here.... playing from all-Icelandic copies (and with the first chord omitted) in rehearsal with the visiting choir, it took more than a few seconds for me to recognise Adeste Fideles at the speed they were taking it! True, I promise.

 

As to rhythm: I set the speed and nobody else gets to change it - unless I'm very unlucky indeed and one voice in the distance 'takes over'. This rarely happens - people eagerly fall in with a strong pulse, it feels 'right' - or at least that's my opinion. One is not always lucky: at my last church, the choir (if present) were over quite near the congregation; when they were singing, they'd take my speed and the congregation would get it from them. However, there was one funeral and whatever I drew on the organ (buried, as it is behind the chancel) this one strident voice from a front pew firmly dragged the rest of the congregation further and further back! Mind you, over the years, I have known a few vicars who have tended to do that too.

 

The comment about accompanists often using Full Swell and Great to Mixture throughout congregational hymns: this is what I feel I have been hearing for years on the King's College Christmas broadcasts. I hate it - it's beating that poor congregation over the head in every verse. Maybe that's the only way they stay together... there must be some reason for it!

 

Paul, you make some excellent points. I must agree with you, particularly regarding King's, Cambridge. Someone also mentioned the preponderance of sub-unison tone on the claviers - something which I have also noticed. I value sub-unison tone and use appropriate stops whenever I feel that the sound will be enhanced - or that additional gravitas is required. However, the Christmas broadcast from King's seems to be littered with muddy and unnecessarily heavy registrations. Of course, it is possible that the recording engineers have done something strange to the balance....

 

Incidentally, is there a King's tradition of only ever using the Pedal Double Ophicleide for the last note of a loud piece?

 

Whilst I am not foolhardy enough to start a book (which may result in me having to part with my hard-earned cash), I am fairly certain that the 32p reed will be used on the last chord of Once in Royal David's City. It will probably also get an airing on the last chord of O Come, all ye Faithful - or Hark! the Herald Angels Sing as well.

 

Is there a sensor in the organ which automatically draws the 32p reed at the end of a loud piece - or is it an unwritten rule amongst organ scholars that it must be used at these times?

 

I would be interested to know.

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Is there a sensor in the organ which automatically draws the 32p reed at the end of a loud piece - or is it an unwritten rule amongst organ scholars that it must be used at these times?

 

I would be interested to know.[/font]

 

I thought that it was a medical condition - some sort of specific nervous involuntary leg movement towards the 32ft reed reverser pedal. Embarassing if it happens away from the console though!

 

AJJ

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My own preference is for the organ to be played pretty loud for hymns so that the congregation sings up. It's one thing not to drown the singing, but the congregation do need to hear the organ to stay in time and in tune. It's a very dreary experience to have to sing at a mere murmur so that you can still hear the organ.

I'd even go so far as to say that, in most churches, if the organist can hear the congregation, he isn't playing loudly enough :D

 

I find that "loud" = "fast" and "soft" ="slow down" with a lot of Catholic congregations. I do however think there is a tension between trying to reflect in one's playing the mood of the words and providing sufficient support for the congregation. In the hymn "Dear Lord and Father" for example, the verses about the "Sabbath rest by Galilee" and the "still dews of quietness" must be allowed to contrast with the final verse which speaks (temporarily) of earthquake wind and fire, at which point I generally go full organ and coming right down at the end for the calm after the storm.

 

In accompanying settings in most cases the Gloria and Sanctus will require more power than the Kyrie or Angus Dei (assuming that you are trying to encoiurage your congregation to join in with the choir in these).

 

Best

 

Peter

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Is there a sensor in the organ which automatically draws the 32p reed at the end of a loud piece - or is it an unwritten rule amongst organ scholars that it must be used at these times?

 

I would be interested to know.[/font]

 

 

I have a theory, a theory which is mine and which I have the ownership of....

and my theory is..

 

with that acoustic and that 32' reed (BTW I still hate you referring to everything as if it were French!) the last note is the only place where its use cannot 'muddy' the music. You get the fabulous echo clean and only on one fundamental note, instead of a chord of G appearing for a little while to be a 6/4. Horrors!

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