Today's question was posted by Sandra, our Total Organist student. She's wandering if she can modulate from one key to another for the last verse of some hymns. Is this an acceptable practice?
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Vidas and Ausra
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Vidas: Hello, guys. This is Vidas ...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: We are starting the 12th episode of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today's question was sent by Sandra. She wants to know, "Is it okay to change the key in some of the last verses in some hymns." Basically, can you modulate, can you change the key? What do you think, Ausra?
Would that be okay?
Ausra: You could do that, but maybe not too often, maybe just on special occasion, but if you do it to every hymn, then each of the hymn will sound like pop music, because if you listen to pop songs, that's what they do, in the last verse, they just go a step higher. You can do that, time after time, but maybe not very often.
Vidas: On special occasions, like festivities, right?
Vidas: When the hymn tune probably is well-known.
Vidas: Let's say, in Resurrection, "Jesus Christ is Risen Today", for example, and of course everybody knows the hymn very well, and the organist could play then the last verse maybe a whole step or a half step higher. What would you prefer? Half step or a whole step higher?
Ausra: I would prefer a whole step, actually, higher.
Vidas: Could you explain to our listeners why?
Ausra: It sounds much better that way. If you go only half a step, it will give you sort of sense of chromatic scale that wouldn't sound so well.
Vidas: Because let's say the original key is C major, and then you go to C sharp major.
Ausra: It's not so good.
Ausra: But from C major to D major, that's better.
Vidas: Right. Because C major and D major are more closely related, right? They have more common notes than C sharp major and C major.
Ausra: Sure. Yeah, more common notes.
Vidas: What about the idea of having a modulating interlude between those two verses?
Ausra: Well, you could actually do that, but usually these kinds of modulations by whole step just go pretty straight forward without any actual intermediary episode.
Vidas: Some of the hymn settings, in some of the solemn occasions, they have those instrumental interludes, like brass would play and modulate, right? Or the organ.
Ausra: If it's a hymn festival, then definitely you could do that.
Vidas: But we are talking about the special occasion, not every Sunday?
Ausra: Sure. Yes. Even it depends on what kind of hymn you have, because if it's an ancient hymn written in Dorian or Phrygian mode and you do this kind of modulation, I think it would sound too foreign. So it really depends on the music.
Vidas: Yeah. Modulation has to be organic. What kind of modulation would you use if you go from C major to D major, let's say?
Ausra: If you are doing interlude, maybe you could go to a key that is related to C-major and D-major, and then apply middle key.
Vidas: Intermediate key?
Ausra: Yes, intermediate key. That's right.
Vidas: What would that key be? A minor, maybe?
Ausra: I would probably go maybe to G major.
Vidas: G major, right?
Ausra: Yes. That would be easy way to do.
Vidas: I see, because G major is just one sharp apart from both C major and D major.
Ausra: Sure. Yes.
Ausra: G major is a dominant of C major and it's a subdominant of D major, so it should work fairly well.
Vidas: Right. What if you went from C major to D minor and then to D major? Would that be okay?
Ausra: That's also a possibility.
Vidas: You can just switch modes, then?
Ausra: Sure, yes.
Vidas: Okay. What about from C major to C sharp major? With harmonic modulation probably?
Ausra: Yes. You should have harmonic modulation maybe through dominant seventh chord or diminished seventh chord.
Vidas: Right. So you play a dominant seventh chord in one of the keys, which is related to C major, right?
Vidas: But the bottom note should be the lower sixth scale degree of C sharp major, right?
Ausra: That's right, yes.
Vidas: So you play A natural in the bass, right?
Vidas: Then you probably would need to play dominant seventh chord to D minor, right? A C sharp E G?
Ausra: You have to change it harmonically and it will lead to you to the cadence of a new key.
Vidas: You see, guys, how advanced this stuff can be, if you are using different and very distant keys like C major and C sharp major, and C sharp minor, too, by the way.
Vidas: It's a possibility, if you want to modulate a half step apart. This way, your modulation could be quite natural and colorful, too. Ausra, what are you practicing today?
Ausra: I am working on the Mendelssohn Variations in D Major, and I continue learning Piece d'Orgue by Bach.
Vidas: How is that going for you?
Ausra: Actually, well. I think already launching over the manual part since I don't have pedals right now.
Vidas: You are playing on the piano, right?
Vidas: Are you imagining the pedalboard and playing on the floor?
Ausra: Not yet, but I will do that, eventually. Yes.
Vidas: Sort of pretend that you do have a pedalboard and imagine you do pedalboard?
Vidas: That's good. I think the motor motion of the muscles are very important to get used to. Then when you have the chance to play the real organ, your feet will pick up very easily.
Vidas: Right. I'm sitting in the middle of the graduation ceremonies here in my church, and Ausra is in our summer cottage. We are talking on the phone now, and I am now practicing the long choral fantasia by Dietrich Buxtehude, “Nun freut euch, lieber Christen g’mein”. I'm kind of getting better with this piece, although it's a long piece and has a lot of echo passages. I think it's getting there. Wonderful, Ausra. You are spending your vacation very creatively.
Ausra: Yes, I hope so.
Vidas: Yeah. Guys, I hope this answer was useful for you. If you want to ask more questions, please send us either by email or write in comments. Any way is fine. Ausra, would they benefit from subscribing to our daily blog?
Ausra: Sure. I think so.
Vidas: That's the best way to contact us, right?
Ausra: Yes, it is.
Vidas: When they enter their email address and first name at www.organduo.lt, they become subscribers, and our post gets delivered automatically to them. Then they can reply and ask us questions even more, right?
Vidas: We'll be glad to answer. Wonderful. This was Vidas ...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Remember, when you practice ...
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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