How to play marches on manuals only
Yesterday one of my subscribers, Dr. Steven Monrotus wrote me a following message:
"Thank you for sending the valuable suggestions and public domain scores for performance, they're helping a great deal. Could you please suggest marches for manuals only. At times I perform on an instrument without pedals where marches and processionals are needed with full sound, sometimes for long stretches without a pause. Any suggestions or scores you could send would be very much appreciated. Thank you very much."
It's great that people like Steven are finding at least some usefulness to these ideas and scores for sight-reading. Many of them are church organists who may or may not have an organ with pedals in their churches. That's a bit of a problem when it comes to wedding services.
You see, for regular church service on Sunday you can easily find quality and playable repertoire (much of which is for manuals only). But for weddings when you play an instrument without pedals, you need to take a more careful look at what's available.
One idea which I often find useful when I have to play a pedal piece on one manual is to experiment with outer voices only - soprano in the right hand and the bass (pedal part) in the left hand. Because these two voices often are the most important ones in the piece, there are instances where it works beautifully (Bach's Largo and Aria in D major for example). I played this march this way (the original is for the orchestra: Jean-Baptiste Lully - Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs (Le bourgeois gentilhomme), especially from 1:52 in this video).
If you're looking for marches without pedals, then Guilmant's "Practical Organist" first comes to mind. Besides marches, there you will find fine short compositions suitable for liturgical organ playing, such as communions, versets, offertories, postludes etc. Every piece is skillfully composed and could also be used for recitals. It's perfect as a preparation for more advanced organ sonatas by Guilmant. Also The Oxford Book of Wedding Music for Manuals is an authoritative collection which might be worth considering, too.
For those of you who already have the famous marches in their collections but they need pedals to be performed on the organ: Can you still play them from the original organ scores?
The answer is yes, if you could do the following trick. In places with pedals, assign three voices for the right hand and one for the left hand. This disposition will be similar to basic basso continuo (thorough bass) performance practice where you play three upper parts with the right hand. In doing so these chords sound in closed position as opposed to the version when you place two voices in each hand (often this means open position).
What does this theoretical rule mean in practice? When you have to play Mendelssohn's Wedding March (p. 47) for a wedding, play the bass line with the left and the top voice with the right hand. Then for the same right hand add the missing two middle voices in closed position. Basically this will allow you to avoid unnecessary doublings of voices which are common for thick chords played by both hands.
Therefore, this technique will help you preserve the original harmony while making it playable on the organs and keyboards of all sorts without pedals.
Sight-reading for today:
Das ferne Land, Op.26 (Distand Land) by Adolf von Henselt (1814-1889), a German composer and pianist. This piece is a romance for voice and piano but here you can practice an organ arrangement by W.J.D. Leavitt.
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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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