TAO August 2016–New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Let there be no mistake about it—procrastination is an art, and I am a master. How about you? This year, let’s surprise everyone and get it together BEFORE the new season kicks in. But when summer heat is prevailing, how do you get going for a fall that seems awfully far away? Is it just me, or does everyone get motivated when they have something to look forward to? I wonder if music might hold the key.
Unless you have an organ professor in your congregation, you are the one and only expert in the field of organ literature around. You are more interested in organ music than anyone else. Why not take advantage of your deep knowledge of the field by finding some of your favorite pieces to play? Rekindling your love of music is one of the simplest ways to encourage your inner musician. We spend a great deal of our time responding to the tastes of the people in our congregations and the expectations of the musicians we work with. Make some time for the music that feeds you, yourself.
What about learning some new music to stoke the fire in your fingers? For me, the old adage, “So much music, so little time,” says it all. I love discovering the exciting array of creative new works that our composers bring to us every year. Here are some that you might enjoy.
Just because you work in a less-is-more musical environment doesn’t mean you have to compromise quality. Short works are in! Well-known composer, Mary McDonald, has two volumes of Go Out with Joy! (Lorenz 70/1889L & 70/1969L) with dynamic two-minute postludes covering the entire church year. Majesty and Triumph by George Blake (Lorenz70/1971) offers free works with similar per-minute postludial intensity. Michael Canales’ Inventions for Worship (Lorenz 70/1950L) with optional pedals is a colorful contribution to brevity. Canales’ Spanish heritage shows forth in his writing without falling into the stereotypes that often discourage use in liturgical settings.
Now here is something just for you. Composer Ad Wammes of Miroir fame has just finished a volume of chamber organ works. Commissioned by Carson Cooman, Triptych (Sacred Music Press 70/1983S) is a delight to play and to hear. Eight manuals-only pieces are divided into three groups: “Les Cloches,” “Joy,” and “Contemplations.” Typical of Wammes, there are no harsh harmonies to irritate your congregation. Instead, they offer delightful ostinati and some very catchy rhythms. Short and fun—keeps you young. I’m going to play couple of them now!
New music is evidence that the Spirit of creativity is alive and well, providing works that uplift and encourage God’s people in worship. The joy of creation is the subject of Alfred V. Fedak’s All Nature Sings (Lorenz 70/1957L). These easy pedal pieces cover all your favorite hymns of nature: “Bunessan,” “Hymn to Joy,” “Dix,” “Terra Beata,” Lasst uns Erfruen,” and “St. Elizabeth,” plus two original compositions based on Psalm 8 and 136. Fresh and light, Fedak writes well for the organ, as does Wayne Wold. He has just completed the fourth volume in his Light on Your Feet series (Ausgburg Fortress). These books are rich with newly edited classics by Boellmann, Pachelbel, Kuchar, J.C. Simon, and Vogler, along with two terrific new pieces by Wayne himself. Organists of great accomplishment need not disdain this volume. These are wonderful pieces that will add panache to any service.
Have you noticed how much work postludes with panache take? Let’s make a plan to get ahead on them before the season begins. Here are two volumes of Robert Powell’s Postludes on Gospel Hymns (MorningStar 10-781 & 10-214). These short and easy arrangements cover “Hanson Place,” “Solid Rock,” “Work, for the Night is Coming,” “Christ Arose,” “Message,” and “To God Be the Glory.” You can’t play gospel hymns all the time, I know. How about adding Four Trumpet Tunes by David Lasky (MorningStar 20-699) to your list? David always keeps things rhythmic and triumphant without pushing the beyond intermediate demands. So do the terrific pieces in The King of Heaven: Five Hymns of Praise by Anna Laura Page (MorningStar10-693). Within the same conservative harmonic and rhythmic boundaries, she shows again why classic hymns as “Amsterdam,” “Azmon,” “Hyfrydol,” “Lauda anima,” and “Old 113th” continue to inspire composers.
Are you planning a concert this year? There is nothing more motivating, as far as I am concerned. If you are looking for something new to play, why not consider David Dahl’s A Kingsfold Suite (MorninStar 10-779)? There is nothing too difficult among the six variations, and your audience will love the variety of tone colors and styles he has included. An exciting new “Grand Partita on ‘Ein Feste Burg’” has come to us from the imagination of Karl Osterland in A Wittenberg Collection (Augsburg Fortress). He has chosen to illustrate four fragments of the hymn text as a Fanfare, a Trio, a Totentanz and a Finale—all moderately challenging. What a wonderful audience pleaser! Another work of similar technical demand is the two movement Hymnos by Ronald Perera (E.C.Schirmer 8108). The first movement, “Star,” is a charming, imaginative arrangement of “Star in the East,” stylistically referring to its Southern Harmony roots. The second movement, “All Loves Excelling,” combines “Hyfrydol” with “Michael” along with snatches of several other familiar hymns. Clear registration will help the audience track all of them. They will enjoy the challenge. Sometimes a challenge is what we need to get motivated, so get in there and practice some new music.
Learning and performing music is not the only way to get ready for the coming liturgical season. As a practicing procrastinator, I can only rely on the many organizational systems I have developed over the years. I have already mentioned my month-by-month Monthly Service Music Planner. Have I mentioned my Music Diversity Accountability Planner? When I am planning music, I chart the styles I want to present regularly: classics, jazz, hymn tunes, and contemporary +/or evangelical. Keeping this list in front of me as I make my choices channels my thoughts and challenges me to keep looking for new ideas. I also use a Strategic Practice Planner that helps me list all the music I am considering so I can see which pieces will require little preparation and which will take more time and effort. If you would like to check out this system, just e-mail me at chris@christophercook.us and ask for my Procrastination Prevention Packet. Don’t put it off too long, now…there’s a new season ahead. Let’s get ready!

Comments ( 2 )

  1. ReplyGregory

    Hello: I really have enjoyed your writings on organ music, and you have suggested many work which I did not know about. I wanted to remind you of the three organ periodicals that Lorenz publishes bi-monthly: The Organ Portfolio, The Organist, and the Sacred Organ Journal. Although I can't claim to be unbiased (I am a contributor), all of the music in these journals is of high quality, even though some of it is quite easy. The magazines are now edited by the composer Carson Cooman. As well, I would like to mention my own works, and many of which are available on my sheet music Plus site: http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/search1?Ntt=Gregory+Hamilton if you see anything you like, I will be happy to send you a free pdf. All blessings, thanks for your work! Gregory Hamilton.

    • Replychriscook

      Thanks for writing, Gregory. I am always happy to recommend worthy publications, such as the Lorenz series. Unfortunately, I can only mention the subscriptions once in a while, and since I don't see inside them, I am unable to recommend specific pieces. I do thank you for mentioning your own works. I see you are quite prolific! I am preparing a future article on self-publishing composers, and I will keep the link to your materials. All the best!

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