Monthly archives "May 2017"

TAO June 2017–Of, By, and For the People

Playing Well with Others, Part 4

Of, By, and For the People

Music making is an art with a generous heart. When we invite more and more people into our circle of music friends, everyone benefits. As leaders, our challenge is to be ready with just the right choice of music that will encourage success. Let’s continue looking at the many wonderful resources available to us. Last month we looked at hymn-based literature for organ and solo instrument. This time we are going to survey non-hymn tune based works.
Let’s start with Bernard Wayne Sanders’ lovely Ornament of Grace (Concordia 977288WEB), a prize-winning work for the AGO’s 2008-2009 International Year of the Organ . I remember being surprised that such a simple, direct work would be presented among the many more elaborate pieces one encounters at these awesome biennial events. Since then, I have used it several times in concert, prelude or communion. Even though oboe or violin is called for, any instrument could take the solo line. Since its premier, Mr. Saunders has composed From Realms of Endless Day (Concordia 977369WEB). Flute or violin are called into service to express these four imaginative descriptions of the archangels. Trumpet would be a great choice, too. Of course, they are perfect for All Saints’ Day, but frankly, if you leave out the titles, they would be useful on any festive Sunday.
For years, well-known arranger, S. Drummond Wolff, has supplied the church with many volumes of his Baroque Music for Solo Instrument and Keyboard, Vols. 1-5. (MorningStar Music 20-950 on), as well as his Telemann for Instrument and Keyboard. (Concordia 976474WEB). If you have an enthusiastic soloist at the late beginning level, you can’t go wrong with these. With Mr. Wolff’s passion for the Baroque, this is just the beginning. Both publishers offer many more of his arrangements. Check them out.
Charles Callahan has arranged two very flexible volumes of Romantic music in Music for Organ and Solo Instrument (MSM 20-974). The first includes “Andante Grazioso” by Gaston Dethier for flute, oboe, violin, viola, or Bb clarinet; “Legend,” Op.5, #2, by Louis Vierne for upper C and Bb instruments, viola, horn in F or English horn; and a new musicological find, “Prelude in G” by Cesar Franck. The second set (MSM 20-601) includes Karg-Elert’s, “Chorale on Machs mit mir, Gott,” with parts for clarinet, viola, or cello; Debussy’s, “Petite Piece,” with parts for violin, clarinet, viola, or Eb alto sax; an “Adagio” by A. Guilmant and Edward MacDowell’s lovely, “Aria,” both including parts for upper C or Bb instruments or viola. All these useful selections require intermediate instrumental skill, with some moderately challenging rhythmic patterns, which you could teach by rote.
Not to be outdone by history, Mr. Callahan offers something from his own pen in the Gregorian-inspired, In Paradisum (MSM 20-766). His rich, reflective, and restrained writing creates a deep pool of repose for quiet preludes or communion times. Callahan also arranged a single piece, an Aria by Cesar Franck (MSM 20-772), which is much easier than the two sets mentioned above.
Let’s stay in the beautiful world of Romanticism for to explore some more real treasures. Here is Marcel Dupré’s Prelude for Flute or Violin and Organ (MSM 20—973 DNLD), transcribed from one of his solo piano pieces. Key signatures make this an early advanced piece. Cecile Chaminade’s Meditation for Solo Instrument and Organ (MSM 20-913) includes parts for C or Bb instrument. This beautiful lento movement, flows along easily, creating a dynamic arch that will leave your congregation ready to worship.
If you love Romanticism, you will love these two volumes of original compositions for violin and organ. Most of them are easily adapted to other instruments, the flute is the most likely alternative. An occasional octave transposition will avoid the shrieking high registers that some instruments bring with them. Kurt Lueders is the editor of Romantische Musik Fur Violine und Orgel. (J. Butz Muskverlag: Vol. 1, Heft 11; Vol. II, Heft 12). You will find Merkel, Guilmant, Riemenschneider and their friends in the first volume; while in the second, you will find colleagues of Gounod, Saint-Saens, Becker, and Flugel. There is nothing here beyond the abilities of intermediate players, while more advanced players will enjoy exploring the depths hidden just beneath the surface of these lovely pieces.
Twentieth-century composers have also found their way into the realm of solo instrument pieces with organ accompaniment. The little-known Suite for Organ and Violin by Ruth Watson Henderson is a delight waiting for download on the RCCO website ( Each of the three movements, “Dialogue,” “Dreams,” and “Dance,” is easily adapted as suggested above. So are the wonderful pieces in Pipings for Flute and Organ (Augsburg Fortress 9781451401929). Editor Teresa Bowers chose eight early advanced pieces from composers such as David Evan Thomas, “Carol Suite;” Aaron David Miller, “Estampie;” David Lasky, “Suite Brevis;” and John W. Jones, “A Welsh Tryptych.” Ms Bowers included a variety of styles, from lyrical to rhythmic, sure to please both worshippers and concert-goers. If you like these pieces, you will also enjoy the six works to be found in The Minnesota Organ Book (AF 9780800679118). Here, I think it might be best to honor the composers’ choices of instruments (violin, cello, flute, violin, trumpet, steel drums (!), they will add excellence to your repertory and excitement to your soloist’s repertory.
With this, we must call a halt to this survey of music for solo instrument and organ, knowing full well that there are many more treasures hidden here and there in publishers’ catalogs. The repertory is so large, that we limited our survey to organ accompaniment only. If you are comfortable on piano, then there is even more to explore. If you enjoy being overwhelmed, look at the deluge of resources on IMSLP under “Organ and one instrument.” I urge you to use these as starting points for your own search.
Over the past four months, we have looked at literature for organ/piano duet and solo instrument with organ accompaniment. Including other instrumentalists in our music making makes us truly “organists with benefits.” Interacting with musical peers gives us the opportunity to sharpen our own skills; interacting with learners gives us the opportunity to build their capacity; investing in new musical relationships builds our music ministries; excellent music encourages our congregations’ engagement in worship. These are truly the building blocks of music ministry. And, when do we need strong, vital music ministries more than now?
Surely, you have been a part of a conversation or two about recent national and international events. People are concerned that previously held cultural agreements are being overturned. It seems that what was once true yesterday is up for question today. Both sides of the political divide are anxious and fearful for the future. People are asking the same question, “Who are we becoming?” Many of us are hard put to find answers to such difficult questions. Not seeing hope, some of us are becoming discouraged. You might think that there is nothing musicians can do.
What do artists have to offer to this uneasy cultural landscape? I believe we artists have much to offer. In fact, the present situation might be our finest hour. The music we play is deeply rooted in our history. It is a reminder that our heritage has always included times of trial and doubt. We must remember that, by embracing our challenges, we have always found deeper insight into who we are as a people. As one of my friends observed, “There is no testimony without a test.” When we play, our music should speak of such faith and hope. Music gives us a strong, confident vision of who we are as whole human beings. It helps us remember whom we are intended to be. Our culture may be shifting underneath us, but the deepest part of us remains the same. We need reminders; we need encouragement; we need sonic messages that transcend politics. And, we need leaders to show us the way. We are those leaders, friends! Use your “lofty” position to build a powerful music ministry that embraces the challenges we are facing. Take heart—renew yourself, then practice and perform with heart so to remind those around you: we are one people, now and always.

P.S. Summer camp is for adults, too! If you are looking for a great opportunity to study organ and make new friends this summer, check out the San Antonio Chapter’s POE Plus website. Summer camp runs from June 25-30.