In my yesterday's post How to play marches on manuals only I proposed the following way to play marches on manuals - 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). Therefore, this technique will help you preserve the original harmony while making your marches playable on the organs and keyboards of all sorts without pedals.
In response to this post, Oswin Grollmuss asks if in this way there might be an artistically responsible interpretation of the March in C major of Léfébure-Wely as well? Could this be a technique to transfer other pedal pieces to manuals only?
In other words, can you take any organ piece with pedals and in the event you don't have pedals at your disposal, could the result of this piece played on manual only would still be meaningful?
I don't think this March can easily be played without the pedals. More than that, it needs two manuals - because right from the beginning there is a melody in the tenor range which sounds on the solo reed stop.
The problem with other pedal pieces played in this way on manuals only is that often their are quite polyphonic and this technique works only in homophonic chordal texture. In polyphonic style, several voices form a coherent musical image. You can't really exclude any voice and you can't successfully transfer tenor one octave higher.
In general, the technique of playing one voice in the left hand and three in the right hand works for organ arrangements of orchestral or piano music. And it has to have a strong melody in the top voice.
Having said that, you could experiment with this March by playing the beginning melody in the soprano with the right hand one octave higher, the bass and chords in the left hand. Play the chords one octave lower.
But if you really want to play original pedal pieces without pedals, find a partner and play them with four hands. This is both fun and easy - you can play the entire Bach's Orgelbuchlein this way - two parts (one in each hand) for each of you. I have done this together with my wife Ausra when we play organ duets in some remote village church on the small organ without pedals and we still want the listeners to appreciate the beauty of Bach's Aria in D major, for example.
Sight reading for today:
Grand Plein Jeu Continu (p. 1) by Jacques Boyvin (1649-1706), a French Classical organist at Rouen Cathedral and composer from his Premier Livre d'Orgue (1689). Grand Plein Jeu registration in French tradition basically means a 16' based principal chorus with mixtures as opposed to Grand Jeux which is meant to play with Cornets, Trompettes, and Flutes without the 16' stops. The indication of pedals at the beginning here comes from the editor Alexander Guilmant.
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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.