SOPP542: Please can you direct me to any suitable organ music useful for devotions and quiet hours in the Catholic Church?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 542 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Maureen, and she writes:
Please can you direct me to any suitable organ music useful for devotions and quiet hours in the Catholic Church? I would possibly enjoy playing something around intermediate level as this would need to be learned as good sight reading at this stage.
I am enjoying your expertise and that of Ausra.
V: So, Ausra, do you know anything about Catholic liturgy?
A: Well, I know some things.
V: Probably, Maureen wants to know about music suitable for offertories and communions, and maybe some moments of adoration?
A: Yes, it could be, because where else would you play quiet music? I guess these two main spots.
V: Well, if I were summoned to play a Mass tomorrow, for example (we’re recording this on Saturday morning), I would obviously improvise.
A: Yes, that’s what I thought, that you never need any score, because you can improvise so well.
V: But, for people who don’t choose to improvise in public, yet, I recommend music like, maybe, how about Pachelbel Chorale Preludes.
A: Yes, those are nice! I’ve played most of them in the church. Not in a Catholic church, but in the Christian Scientist church as I was working back in Michigan.
V: Registration can be quite varied. You can play most of them in various dynamic levels. Right?
A: Yes! And I also had another collection of 80 Chorale Preludes by various, mostly I think, German composers. It was published by Edition Peters, and it was called “80 Choralvorspiele.” And these were also sort of almost sight-readable, not really too hard, and I played them on many occasions when I needed something easy but decent.
V: Well, probably César Franck’s “L’Organiste”
A: Yes, of course. That would definitely work.
V: We have fingerings prepared for that, too, if anybody wants to take advantage, and depending on your level, a lot of those pieces, too can be sight-readable..
A: Also, I think if you like Bach, then there is this “Neumeister” collection. This is very often forgotten by many organists and ignored by many organists, because it was discovered much later than other Bach pieces, and this collection survives from Bach’s teenage years, and it means that by studying this collection, you can get a better understanding of what stages Bach went through in order to become what he became! So look at that collection, as well. I think it’s published by Neue Bach-Ausgabe, yes?
A: Which is a Bärenreiter edition. Another thing that might work is Frescobaldi’s “Fiori Musicali.” Not all of those piece, of course, are easy, but some of them are really well suited for quiet moments of the Mass.
V: Not all of them are suited for quiet music, right?
A: Yes. Yes, definitely.
V: “Toccata Per L’Elevazione” for example. Those type of slow and toccatas full of suspensions, and in Italian, it would be Durezze e Ligature style.
A: Yes. And another collection to look at would be probably the Georg Muffat and his “Apparatus Musico-Organisticus.” It has many, many toccatas, and these toccatas are sectional, so actually in just one piece of music, you can find a few different sections, and you might use some quiet spots for Elevation or for Communion and for Postlude and Prelude, other places. So, these are very suitable pieces for a Catholic church.
V: Good. I hope this was useful to you, but Ausra also has something else to add.
A: Yes, and I remember that time when I was working regularly as a church organist in a Catholic church, I also sang a lot myself, especially during communion. That way, you wouldn’t have to play so much solo music. So that’s what Maureen can do, too, because I think most Catholics really appreciate singing, they don’t appreciate so much solo organ music. Especially during Advent and Lent.
V: Do you think the singing tradition is more like a Lithuanian/Polish tradition, more or less, than let’s say in Western countries?
A: Well, but think about all this Gregorian Chant, all of this heritage of Catholic music and Catholic church.
V: Yes, perhaps you’re right.
A: So, I think it just probably is forgotten because maybe not so many organists can sing in general nowadays, but I think that the cantor was equally as important as an organist in the Catholic church, so…
V: Yes… and make sure you learn to improvise. That’s a very handy skill later on.
V: Then you don’t have to search for new music. You can make up new music. And, when you learn new pieces, even softer pieces for Catholic liturgy, you can, of course, record yourself and submit them to our Secrets of Organ Playing Contest. Okay, this was Vidas
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: 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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