On my way to creating a complete cycle of psalms with refrains based on hymn tunes, I’ve decided to start a list of currently available settings with video recordings. This post will be updated as I have more material to include.
The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen hosts 10 high school graduations every year in addition to having our own Cathedral School 8th grade ceremony. While not all of the schools use the popular piece by Elgar, enough of them do that I’ve had to find ways to amuse myself while playing these short 32 measures over and over again. The longest procession for 270+ graduates takes 23-25 minutes! After my first rehearsal, I knew I would need to work out some pistons for different registrations, and I also thought about how to create other variations to keep my mind occupied.
The piece basically has a melody, chords, and a bass line. I have a right hand, left hand, and feet. Through the rehearsals and graduations, I have managed to become skilled enough to play any of the parts of the piece with any of my appendages. Thus you get the following video presenting the options:
Not a perfect rendition, but an exploration of the variety of ways I keep myself entertained when I have 10 graduations to play for each spring. First six presentations in order are:
1)RH tune; LH chords; Ped bass
2)LH tune; RH chords; Ped bass
3) Ped tune; LH Bass; RH chords
4) Ped tune; RH bass; LH chords
5) LH tune; RH bass; Ped chords
6) RH tune; LH bass; Ped chords
It’s not perfect and the solo trumpet is at the other end of the building, but I thought it might be entertaining for you to see how I entertain myself during this season of graduations.
After a few years of sitting figuratively “in the closet collecting dust,” I finally had an opportunity to brush up and record this composition for organ and brass quintet which I composed in 2014 for the wedding of my brother-in-law. This was written as the entrance procession for the attendants and bride to enter. There is a second movement for the recessional that I hope to get recorded as well.
A solo piece for soprano, organ, and trumpet written for and premiered at the Holiday Brass concert at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, MD on 29 November 2016. Video of the premier performance is below:
Downloadable score packet includes part for Trumpet in Bb and in C.
One of the challenges in the Roman Catholic Church is trying to find ways to encourage and enable the congregation to sing. Unless you use a seasonal psalm refrain, this generally means the congregation has a new melody to learn every week with the responsorial psalm. Sure, you can build up a repertoire over time, but there’s not a lot of repetition in the three-year lectionary cycle. One of the easiest ways to learn a piece is through repetition, so I decided to use hymn tunes as melodies for the psalms. This reinforces the singing of the hymns and gives something familiar to the people for the psalm. I created numerous of these settings while at the Cathedral in Albany and now am in the process of revising them (and perhaps finishing the set) to go with the new Revised Grail Psalms. We used the first of these new revised hymn tune psalms at Mass this weekend for Advent 2.
Psalm 72 – Justice Shall Flourish
Refrain based on EIN FESTE BURG with Gelineau-style tone by Wm. Glenn Osborne
When I composed the Audubon Park Psalter, my intention was that most all of the settings would be flexible enough to work in a traditional setting with organ and choir as well as a more contemporary setting with piano and guitar. While I have attempted to make recordings of the Contemporary Group at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen before, because I have been the one at the piano, it has been difficult to capture anything remotely balanced. This week, I was able to be out in the congregation, so captured the psalm while standing next to a pillar. Here’s the resulting video:
What I really appreciate is being able to hear the people sing, even though this is a new piece for them.
I also captured the psalm at the 11:00 Mass with the choir and organ:
My last lesson for www.organimprovisation.com featured instructions on transposition and suggested using a piece by Louis Vierne as the transposition exercise and a model for improvising. The piece is a relatively simple piece from the 24 Pièces en style libre: 1. Préambule.
After that, I followed the score as a model and improvised some imitation Vierne in F Major and in G minor. There are some hesitations as I searched for similar interesting tonal gestures without following exactly what Vierne did, but that’s why we practice. I decided to make this exercise my prelude this weekend, so there are two more that follow the score less slavishly in A minor and D minor as well.
Organists always love to make lots of sound. Improvisers typically use both hands and feet to play almost all the time while improvising. This weekend, I thought I’d do something a little different and play only one note at a time during the offertory.
Saturday evening, I improvised a slow monody thinking perhaps of a solo cello piece:
Sunday, I decided to aim at something a little more sparkly and bright:
Do you have the courage to improvise only a single melodic line?
Georg Böhm wrote three settings of the chorale Vater unser im Himmelreich. This past weekend at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, I played the first one as prelude. With a rhythmic repeated chord accompaniment and ornamented solo presentation of the melody, it has inspired many of my improvisations.
The other two settings could also be models for improvisations, though the last is much more complicated. The second setting is a duo while the last one presents each phrase of the chorale in quasi-fugal imitation.
One of the refrains that has survived from my first set of psalms written in 1995 with psalm tone and verses from the new Revised Grail Psalter. The choir is in a new location for this Mass, just over my right shoulder in the front area of the upper sanctuary. We have previously been in the back area of the upper sanctuary much closer to the organ.