Ausra: And today’s question was sent by Dan. He writes:
“Hi Vidas, I’m curious as to what the piece is that you have at the opening and ending of every SOP podcast? It sounds quite interesting. Is it something which you’d improvised? If so, that’s very cool. Take care. Dan.”
So Vidas, could you explain more about this piece?
Vidas: When we started doing these organ training posts and podcasts, at first I didn’t know what kind of introduction and ending to include with the interviews that our guests provide. But I thought it would be cool to do an excerpt of my own piece. So basically, this is an excerpt, beginning and ending, of my Communion from the Mass for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. This is called Laetare Sunday. And...do you remember the story of how it came into existence, this piece? Have I told you?
Ausra: I remember that maybe our friend asked you to for some music, to compose...or not?
Vidas: Yeah, our colleague and friend Paulius Grigonis at one time--this was, I think, back in 2011--was going to go and play for a mass for the fourth Sunday in Lent, at one monastery in a small village of Lithuania. And they have just a 1-manual and pedal organ with a few stops. And he asked me what kind of music he should choose. So it’s always tricky to find some music for a small organ, right, Ausra?
Vidas: Yes, it might be tricky.
Ausra: So what I did--I’m always eager to suggest ideas, and one idea was, “Maybe I could compose something for him! And then maybe I could expand this composition into a Mass!” So I started doing this, and of course he was intrigued; and I created a few movements, and I will be linking this to this piece into the description of this conversation so that people can click and check out the score and the video on YouTube. So basically, yes, this is an excerpt from the Communion. It is composed in a modal style. Do you know how I choose some of the modes, Ausra?
Ausra: No. I wondered how. Is the entire cycle of this mass based on one particular mode, or on different modes?
Vidas: Basically, I took a Gregorian chant collection--I think it’s called Graduale--and then I found the chants for that Sunday, the collection of chants: Introit, Offertory, and Communion, that I knew people would be using in that monastery. So I used the melodies for the pieces that I created. And therefore, I used the modes of the pieces, you see.
Ausra: Okay. So, how many movements does this Mass consist of?
Vidas: It has four movements, because at the end it also has a postlude: Introit, Offertory, Communion, and Postlude. It’s like an organ mass; you could perform it on any Sunday, I guess, when you don’t have a choir, for example, and want to play more organ music. But since Gregorian chants melodies don’t usually have like, postlude themes for that (they usually have Introit, Offertory, Communion, and some other parts which were sung in the past, like Alleluia and Gradual), but I had to come up with some melodies for the postlude, too. So what I did is: I used, I think, all of the melodies which were present in this collection--Introit, Communion, and Offertory--and combined them in the Postlude; I think that’s what I did. But I only have 3 pieces: Communion, Offertory, and Postlude, available for the public, because the Postlude is in handwriting, in autograph.
Ausra: So you have to work on it, to make it available for the public!
Vidas: Yeah. I was kind of hesitant to complete the Postlude, because when Paulius was checking out my previous compositions (Introit, Offertory, and Communion), he found this music rather complex; and he had to practice a lot. And of course, postludes usually have to be longer and maybe sometimes more virtuosic; so he had a lot of trouble. So I don’t think he played my Postlude at that mass. But he played, I think, those 3 opening movements.
Ausra: And another thing that I’m curious about is: this Mass is based on Gregorian chant, yes? And it’s composed for Lent time.
Ausra: So what about the Catholic church, in Lent--because you’re not supposed to play solo organ music during that period...?
Vidas: That’s a tricky question, because this particular Sunday...There are 2 Sundays in Lent and Advent in which you can play on the organ. In Lent, it is Laetare Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday; and in Advent, it is the third Sunday in which it is allowed to play. So I kind of was lucky, that of course Paulius was invited on this occasion, for Laetare Sunday, right, for the fourth Sunday; and basically, those monks were willing to listen to solo organ music, as well.
Ausra: That’s nice. I know about Advent--that you know, Catholics are much more free about Advent in general, about music during Advent; but I thought they are very strict about Lent, and I didn’t know about this particular fourth Sunday.
Vidas: Mhm. Laetare Sunday is very joyful Sunday, apparently, because of the text; and it has some joyful texts, and therefore it is allowed to play on instruments, you see--not only sing Gregorian chants of choral polyphony. So...but I’m not sure if everywhere around the globe the Catholic Church has the same rule. You see, local churches, local dioceses, have their own regulations, probably; and it doesn’t necessarily apply to global Roman Catholic Church. We traditionally have had those strict regulations, and organists didn’t play during Lent and Advent; but I think now this is changing, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, the world is changing.
Vidas: And in our church, we have one stop which is called Timpani, right?
Ausra: Yes, yes!
Vidas: Have you tried it?
Ausra: Yes, I’ve tried it. I like it very much.
Vidas: Which is apparently suited for processions during Lent and Advent, when the organ sound was not allowed. It’s like a drum.
Ausra: Yes. When I had the last organ demonstration, I demonstrated that particular stop, and told this story.
Vidas: So people are very curious…
Vidas: “What are those two pipes doing outside the instrument?”
Ausra: I know, I know! And it’s quite difficult to explain!
Vidas: And it’s really interesting why they are outside the case. Why do you think it’s so?
Ausra: I think that in this case, they add more sound.
Vidas: Because they are outside the organ case, right?
Ausra: Yes, yes. You can hear them better.
Vidas: And they are, I think, 2 bass wooden pipes, tuned on D and D♯. But not 16’ D, but maybe 8’ D, right?
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: Not very low pipes. So, how could people adapt this timpani sound to their organ if they don’t have such a stop? Can they play something with their feet?
Ausra: Yes, you could hit like 2 notes in the pedal at the same time, and do a sort of tremolo.
Vidas: Uh-huh. Because what happens, if you hit 2 adjacent notes in the bass in the very low register, like C and C sharp, or D and D♯, depending on your key of the piece, right?
Vidas: It has to fit the key--it could be F, G, E, any kind of low-sounding pitches. If you do those 2 notes that are a half step away, what kind of vibrations can you hear?
Ausra: A sort of undulating sound--it’s truly a little bit like timpani, maybe!
Vidas: Like a drum.
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: Because they’re not in tune, and they produce vibrations. Isn’t that the same principle that Unda Maris stop and Vox Celeste stops use?
Ausra: Yes, I think it’s quite similar.
Vidasa: Only, those Unda Maris and Vox Celeste stops are primarily used in the treble range, right?
Ausra: Yes, and this is a low range.
Vidas: Exactly. So guys, experiment with those stops that are available to you, and you can expand a lot of your organ possibilities this way, imitating instruments that are not present in your church. And if you would like to check out this Communion, here's is the link where you could listen to the video and see the score as well.
Ausra: Yes, it’s a lovely piece.
Vidas: Thank you. I will try to continue a few more of them. I kind of feel that this modal style fits well with chant themes, and they fit in the liturgy as well. All right…
Vidas: This was Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.