Film accompaniment

For many years the pipe organ was used to provide accompaniment for films. The American Theatre Organ Society exists to help preserve and perpetuate the musical theatre pipe organ heritage that began in the early 20th century. Because the number of theatre organs has been greatly reduced, classically trained improvisers have started to accompany films on traditional church organs as one way to preserve and continue the art form. While film accompaniment may not require the contrapuntal skills to create a fugue, it poses other challenging demands for the improviser. Depending upon the movie, there can be long tension builds, sudden shifts of mood, and even the need to create a few sound effects. As an effort to catalog or discuss film accompaniment on the organ could be the focus of a whole other website, I have chosen to list below those organists already included here that also accompany silent films on a regular basis along with examples where available.

David Briggs
Scenes from The Phantom of the Opera

Thierry Escaich
Final Scene from ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (Piano)
Freder’s Nightmare from Metropolis by Fritz Lang
Final Scene of Metropolis by Fritz Lang

Peter Krasinski
How Peter Krasinski Approaches Accompaniment

Baptiste-Florian Marle-Ouvrard
20.000 lieues sous les mers (Georges Méliès)
The Kid (Charlie Chaplin)

Dorothy Papadakos
often accompanies the silent films of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton & Harold Lloyd.

Pierre Pincemaille
Pierre Pincemaille – the film FAUST of MURNAU – Saint-Ouen de Rouen

Mathias Rehfeldt
Nosferatu (1922) – Full Movie

Timothy Tikker

The King of Kings (The Criterion Collection)
Timothy Tikker provides organ accompaniment for the 1931 version of the film included in this DVD.

Todd Wilson
Chandelier Falls from Phantom of the Opera

Book:
Musical Accompaniment of Moving Pictures
A Practical Manual for Pianists and Organists, and an Exposition of the Principles Underlying the Musical Interpretation of Moving Pictures
by Edith Lang and George West
Available through Forgotten Books or Amazon.

The Silent Film Sound & Music Archive also offers a free download of the above title as well as several other instruction books for movie accompaniment.

International Organ Festival Haarlem 2014

StBavoHaarlem

In 1951, Louis Toebosch won the first International Organ Improvisation Competition. He was to be followed by Anton Heiller in 1952, Piet Kee (1953, 1954, 1955) and many other organists who later became internationally known names. Winning ‘Haarlem’ was, and is, the first step to an international career. Even just taking part in the competition has helped launch many a career, as the names of the numerous famous organists among the previous participants testify.

The final round of the 50th Haarlem Improvisation competition takes place this evening. The themes for the final round were composed this year by Louis Andriessen, who descends from a famous family of Haarlem musicians. Threefold winner Hans Haselböck (1958/59/60) wrote the theme for the first round. For the second round the renowned Dutch composer Roderik de Man provided material, accompanied by videos for the audience created by the sound and video artist Marcel Wierckx. The competitors have only one hour to prepare their improvisations with the help of a pencil and paper (but not an instrument).

Beginning from 22 applications from 11 countries, the following 8 contestants were selected to compete in the first of three live rounds from 14-18 July: Jacob Lekkerkerker, Geerten Liefting and Harmen Trimp (Netherlands), David Cassan (France), Lukas Grimm and Tobias Wittmann (Germany), Morten Ladehoff (Denmark) and Luke Mayernik (USA). Four have been selected to continue to the final round at St. Bavo’s Church.

The jury, chaired by Stephen Taylor, includes five internationally renowned organists: David Briggs (Canada), Jürgen Essl (Germany), Zuzana Ferjencikova (Slovakia/France), Gilbert Amy (France) and Jan Hage (the Netherlands).

A livestream may be available here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/orgelfestival.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

OldMacDonald A children’s song and nursery rhyme about a farmer named MacDonald and the various animals he keeps on his farm. Each verse of the song changes the name of the animal and its respective noise. In many versions, the song is cumulative, with the noises from all the earlier verses added to each subsequent verse. It appears to date from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century with several different variants and has subsequently been translated and adapted into many different languages including Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Hebrew, Japanese, and Korean.

See a list of other potential traditional song themes here.

Videos:
David Briggs – Prelude, Adagio and Variations on ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’ – Gloucester cathedral, Part I
David Briggs – Prelude, Adagio and Variations on ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’ – Gloucester cathedral, Part II
David Briggs – Prelude, Adagio and Variations on ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’ – Gloucester cathedral, Part III

Stephen Tharp

Stephen_Tharpx_May_2007Official Website:
http://www.stephentharp.com/

Having played more than 1400 concerts across 43 tours worldwide, Stephen Tharp has built one of the most well-respected international careers in the world, earning him the reputation as the most traveled concert organist of his generation. He is an important champion of new organ music, and continues to commission and premiere numerous compositions for the instrument. The first such piece was Jean Guillou’s symphonic poem Instants, Op. 57, which Tharp premiered at King’s College, Cambridge, England in February 1998. Works dedicated to him include George Baker’s Variations on “Rouen” (2009) and David Briggs’ Toccata Labyrinth (2006).

Stephen Tharp earned his BA degree, magna cum laude, from Illinois College, Jacksonville, IL and his MM from Northwestern University, Chicago, where he studied with Rudolf Zuiderveld and Wolfgang Rübsam, respectively. He has also worked privately with Jean Guillou in Paris.

Video:
Improvisation – St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

YouTube Channels

YouTube is a great place to visit in order to see and hear many different organists improvise. Some even have their own channels. Listed below are artists and other YouTube channels that include improvisation videos as a significant portion of their content.

Artists

Other Users

Playlists

Fugue

A fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition.

David Briggs – Fugue at St. Sulpice
Otto Maria Krämer – Suite Francaise – Fugue
William Porter – O dass ich tausend Zunge hätte – Fugue

David Briggs

DavidBriggsDavid Briggs is currently Artist in Residence at St. James Cathedral, Toronto.
Complete bio.

David Briggs has a YouTube Channel


Recordings:

Sounds French – David Briggs Plays the Organ of Blackburn Cathedral
Includes an improvised symphony by David Briggs as well as two improvisations by Pierre Cochereau transcribed and played by David Briggs.


Sounds Artistic
Includes an improvised suite of dances and Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky.


Organ Spectacular
Includes improvised Prelude, Adagio and Chorale Variations on Ein Feste Burg.


Briggs: Mass for Notre Dame
In addition to the choral music of David Briggs sung by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge under the direction of Stephen Layton, David Briggs improvised other parts of the traditional mass when the organ would play without the choir singing.


Hommage à Pierre Cochereau
Improvisations by George Baker, David Briggs, Thierry Escaich and Loïc Mallié.

Videos:
Fugue at St. Sulpice
Sortie at St. Sulpice
Offertoire at St. Sulpice
Sarabande Improvisée – St Wenzelkirche, Naumburg