Organ Report: March 26, 2006
Opening Hymn: #5 High on a Mountain Top
This is one of those bold, majestic hymns that I like so much both to play and to sing. The first measure can be a little tricky in the pedals - that arpeggio doesn't necessarily fall naturally under the feet. I tried it a couple of different ways, first playing it simply right-left-right-left, starting with the left foot, so that the right foot ended up playing G, setting things up naturally for the rest of the hymn. The other "fingering" (footing?) that I tried was playing R toe-heel, L toe-heel, R heel-toe. This felt a little more awkward, but at the same time actually sounded smoother.
This hymn was also an opportunity to pull my favorite mixture stops and really let the organ fill the room with sound. One really nice way to create a dymanic feeling to a verse in a hymn and keep pushing the hymn forward (only when the text and the mood call for it, of course) is to pull the mixture stops on the swell, couple the swell to the great, and drop the swell expression pedal all the way down. When you first start the verse, you'll get the full sound of the great, and little swell, if any. As the verse goes on, you gradually push the swell expression pedal forward until, near the end of the verse, it meets the level of the great expression pedal. This will gradually bring in the mixtures and create a wonderful brightening motion-like effect in the sound of the organ. Try it!
Sacrament Hymn: #99 Nearer, Dear Savior, to Thee
Oddly enough, I don't recall ever playing or singing this hymn before. Maybe it's just a mental lapse, but this hymn was completely new to me. You learn something new every day, I guess.
From a technical perspective, this hymn is reasonably simple. The tenor part is child's play, and the pedals are a simple I-IV-V with a few passing tones filled in. This actually, in my opinion, would make it a good practice hymn for someone who is just getting used to playing the pedals (after "How Gentle the God's Commands" - learn that one first).
Special Musical Number: "A Window to His Love" by Julie de Azevedo
Our wonderful ward chorister/choir director, who is a musical theatre professor at the local university, sang this. I accompanied him on the piano, not the organ, so it doesn't have much relevance to this blog, but I just wanted to say that it's a nice piece of music. "Mormon pop" is typically cheesy and forced, but this one I appreciated - a nice one to add to the repertoire of anyone who regularly sings and/or plays in church.
Closing Hymn: #267 How Wondrous and Great
This is another great majestic hymn - It's not often we get two of these in one meeting. It has two slightly technical elements that many musicians on many instruments should be aware of. The first is the dotted-eighth/sixteenth note pattern that appears in the second and fourth lines. There is a tendency to turn that into a set of triplets, because that's how a congregation will tend to sing it. Resist the tempatation! Rhythmic accuracy is the most important part of accompanying - even if you have to choose between playing the right notes and playing the right rhythms, choose the rhythms!
The second thing is the pickup notes in the second and fourth lines - this stemmed quarter note with an eighth note dropping out of it is a classic organ/piano figure, and is often played incorrectly as two eighth notes. Be sure to hold the quarter note for its full value. If you were singing this hymn, as a soprano you would sing a quarter note E. As an alto, you would sing the two moving eighth notes. The organ needs to reflect that, or we lose the melody, and it begins to sound choppy.
Postlude: "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" by J.S. Bach
It just seemed like a good time to play it again.