Organists

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asb
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Organists

Post by asb »

There seems to be a need for Organists of all abilities to be able discuss specific points relating to their contribution to worship. I am starting this topic in the hope that less-experienced colleagues may be able to seek guidance, and those more experienced may be able to share their knowledge.

I hope someone will set the ball rolling; I would like to see this stay "on-topic", but obviously cross-related issues are bound to surface, and could if necessary be branched off into a new topic.

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VML
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Post by VML »

There are of course Organists and organists. There are those who can make full use of all the wonderful possibilities of any one of the great pipe organs available to them.

Then there are those who have come to playing the organ to fill the parish need for someone able to accompany the hymns when the last organist retired, died or moved away.

With luck this one soon discovers that hymns are not the only church music, especially if he or she has grown up in the choir.

I am in the second category, learning and aspiring to take small steps towards the right to be called a real organist.

The ideal parish organist comes somewhere between the two.

There was once a marvellous pianist who made his name as the accompanist to all the great classical singers on the radio in the days when live music was part of every day's broadcast output. He was Gerald Moore, and his autobiography was called, 'Am I too loud?'

Sympathetic accompaniment is an art that is often undervalued, and does not always come with virtuosity, or with the quality of the instrument.

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musicus
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Post by musicus »

Potentailly a very useful thread, asb - thank you. I will try to contribute some practical stuff myself before long.

And yes, let's keep to the topic!
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VML
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Post by VML »

I hoped my point was to encourage people who have been persuaded that they could make a useful contribution as parish organists, even though it is not their first instrument and they are working on the art of the possible.

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Post by dunstan »

VML describes my position perfectly. I learned the piano up to Grade IV in my teens (and the violin to Grade VIII in my late teens) in the late 1970s. After a couple of years in my current parish, I offered to hack my way through a couple of hymns on the odd weekends the organist was away: within six months she had unexpectedly and sadly died.

So I was left like a rabbit in front of the headlights. I took a series of lessons over 6 months, but still can't play pedals properly. If I was to put my back into it I could probably make my way through Grade IV organ.

But I keep my parish from falling silent with a pretty limited instrumental technique. If I put more time and effort into it, we would learn some new mass settings and choir motets, but we keep ticking over, and on a good day sound and feel like an assembly of people joined in song to praise God. That matters more to me than whether I can play Bach (which I can't, though I'm enjoying trying to learn a couple of simple pieces by Karg-Elert).
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Organists Training

Post by Leeds Cathedral »

To contribute to this topic:

The Diocese of Leeds offers free tuition to all its parish organists each term, which is usually led by the Diocesan Director of Music. These sessions always have a liturgy/music topic, and by focusing on a specific repertoire seek to develop amateur organists technical skills. Additionally, many parishes subsidise the costs of extra private lessons for their organists.

Further information can be found at http://www.directorofmusic.org/education.htm

Claudine Tat (Mrs.)

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VML
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Post by VML »

I would find it interesting to know if organists play with the other instruments used at Mass, or if parishes have a clear demarcation between the organ Mass and the instrument Mass.

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Gwyn
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Post by Gwyn »

I would find it interesting to know if organists play with the other instruments used at Mass, or if parishes have a clear demarcation between the organ Mass and the instrument Mass.

We have organ, clarinet, flute and oboe. Sometimes we all play, sometimes just organ - or any combination.

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Post by docmattc »

We often have a flute playing along with the organ, and on the occasions when our music group (guitars, flutes etc) play, I sometimes play along too, if the music needs bolstering. I prefer to play piano rather than organ with the group, partly because it blends better and partly because I can't always hear the organ with lots of other instruments around me and I'm likely to hit all the wrong notes when my ear isn't 'proofreading'. One of the key factors determining whether the organ can play with other instruments is going to be whether the organ is at concert pitch.



VML has hit the nail on the head, virtuosity and sympathetic accompaniment are completely different skills that don't always go hand in hand. The latter skill is more important than the former in a church musician.

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ORGANISTS

Post by dmu3tem »

Organists and other instruments

Much depends on the type of organ/keyboard you have. If the Organ is electrical/digital it will usually have three built in advantages:

(1) An ability to transpose the pitch up or down at will.
(2) Instant response - as opposed to the delay you sometimes get with large organs relying on tracker action.
(3) All keyboards will have 'swell box' facilities.

In addition such organs are easier to combine and link up with other electronic instruments, amplifiers, mixers and singers using microphones.

Another factor is whether the organ has a pedal board or not. Pedal boards usually slow up tempi and make the whole sound more ponderous, thereby altering the way you handle other instruments. Manual organs I usually find are more flexible for combining with other instruments.

When combining organs, or, that matter, any keyboard with a melody instrument it is always worthwhile considering rearranging the music so that the organ/keyboard provides the accompaniment and the melody instrument the melody. This usually confers two benefits:

(1) A greater variety of accompaniments can be provided by the organ/keyboard as the right hand is not having to supply the melody. In turn this can often impart greater rhythmic drive to the accompaniment - especially if it is some sort of 'vamp' accompaniment.

(2) An avoidance of 'clutter' or 'mushy' tone colours caused by the melody line being played simultaneously at the same pitch by the organ/keyboard and melody instrument. 'Mushy' tone colours typically are produced when with a conventional four part block harmony hymn the melody is stated by a Clarinet as well as an organ using diapason/flute stops. If the accompaniment is 'separated' from the melody instrument this sort of thing is less likely to happen.

Thomas Muir
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VML
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Post by VML »

Thanks Thomas, that is really useful advice and exactly what makes this a very worthwhile thread.

V

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contrabordun
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Re: ORGANISTS

Post by contrabordun »

dmu3tem wrote:Pedal boards usually slow up tempi and make the whole sound more ponderous

shades of "the organ will now play..."?

Properly used, a decent pedal clavier can provide a great support to congregational singing - in the same way as an amplified bass guitar - and if you avoid legato playing it can impart rhythm and vitality. It all depends on how you play it.

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organists

Post by oopsorganist »

I think there is a problem being the organist and the musical director for want of a better word, because you can be isolated in the organ loft and not able to direct anything else. It's very remote for me. Also I cannot see what is happening in church and have no one to tell me ie if processions are delayed etc. I could do with an assistant to tell me when to stop and start..... lucky my PP will sometimes help out with such issues and say "Now we will have the offertory hymn" and so on. As a pianist I would so much rather by playing piano than hammering the organ which is a mighty scary noisy instrument to handle.
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asb
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Re: Organists

Post by asb »

This seems as good a topic heading as anywhere, and may "resurrect" it.

When playing a "strange" organ (ie in another church to my own) I often come across the most unhelpful, even bizarre, settings on the combination pistons. If there is a "spare" channel on a multi-level capture system, one can of course set up one's own settings. I have in my mind a "starting point" based on my "home church" organ ( which I adapt according to the instrument I am playing. At my own church, there are 6 pistons each to Gt, Ped and Swell, plus 6 Generals. I try to make the "default" channel as useful as possible to visiting players, with a logical build-up on each division: Great starting with 8' flute, then adding 4' flute, then diapasons 8 & 4, then 2', Mixture, then trumpet (pedal to balance in each case). Swell, soft 8', then 8 & 4 flutes, 8 & 4 diaps, 2' & mixture, add 8' reed, then 16' reed. On the generals I have useful "starting points" for accompaniment.

I would be interested to hear how others go about this.

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Presets

Post by dunstan »

I have a little instrument (digital) with just a single set of 5 presets.

Piston one is kept for "grab something quiet", so just a quiet 8' flute coupled to 16' pedal, and a quiet string for the swell

Then, in the same vein, 2-5 are for hymn accompaniment: 8'&4' Diapasons; add 2'; add mixture and 12th for thickness; add trumpet. It's then easy to use 2, 3, 4 between verses. Playing an offertory or communion hymn on the Swell, it's easier just to add and remove directly.
It's not a generation gap, it's a taste gap.

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