Kansas Here I Come!

Hello 2017!

I was planning a column for the Christmas season when they announced the appointment of two new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Their ordination was scheduled for January 19, so the crazy Advent-Christmas scheduled for a couple of weeks longer. The ordination even provided an improvisation challenge: how can you stretch an entrance procession to cover 500 people walking into the building?

Maybe it was only 450, but everyone in the upper and lower sanctuary as well as all the people in white on the right entered in procession. We did two hymns with interludes after every verse. What’s the longest procession you’ve played for? What did you do to keep the music interesting?

Kansas

As I was catching up on my reading after the holidays, I discovered that the American Guild of Organists has scheduled their next pedagogy conference, and its focus is improvisation! Organ and Improvisation Study in the French Conservatoire System will be held October 18 – 21, 2017 at The University of Kansas. I promptly signed up to attend. The lineup includes Olivier Latry, Michel Bouvard, Vincent DuBois and Philippe Lefebvre. More information is available at:
http://agopedagogyconference.music.ku.edu/
Please let me know if you plan to be there.

Simple Christmas Music

So the idea I wanted to get out for Christmas was based on one of the Orgelbüchlein chorales: Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich, BWV 605. The score (with a little alto clef for fun) starts like this:

At least in the US, virtually no one will recognize this as a Christmas tune, but the structure of the piece is simple enough that I thought it could be easily applied to Christmas tunes that people do know. The soprano is a straightforward presentation of the tune on a solo stop. The bass is a very simple harmonic bass with occasional passing tones. The interest of the piece comes from the treatment of the alto and tenor. The tenor has a dotted eighth and sixteenth note pattern while the alto fills in between the two tenor notes with either two thirty-second notes or a sixteenth note before finishing the beat with an eighth note.

The rhythmic pattern simplifies into or can be derived from a standard 4-part chorale harmonization very easily. I opened the hymnal at random and applied it to a few Christmas tunes: While Shepherds Watched (WINCHESTER OLD), How Brightly Shines (WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET), and Good Christian Friends, Rejoice (IN DULCI JUBILO). While Christmas is over, you could certainly do the same with tunes from other seasons.

NPM

In other news, I have been asked to lead an organ masterclass at the National Pastoral Musicians Conference this summer in Cincinnati. The masterclass will cover repertoire or improvisation according to what the student wishes to work on. If you’d like to participate, please check out the convention brochure.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that 2017 is off to a fabulous beginning for you.

Glenn


Newsletter Issue 62 – 2017 01 30

See the complete list of past newsletter issues here.

Sign up to receive future issues using the box to the right on this page.

Jean-Baptiste Dupont

JBDpress05Website:
http://www.jeanbaptistedupont.com/Page%20Home.htm

Born in 1979, Jean-Baptiste Dupont began his musical studies at the piano. He discovered the organ later, at the age of 12 and began organ studies at the Institute of Sacred Music of Toulouse. He graduated with distinction from the organ departement at the Conservatoire in Toulouse. His teachers have included Michel Bouvard, Louis Robilliard, Philippe Lefebvre, Jan Willem Jansen and Thérèse Dussaut. He received the 1st prize (improvisation) in St-Albans international competition in July 2009.

In April 2012, Jean-Baptiste Dupont became the organist of the Bordeaux Cathedral.


YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/organeux

Videos:
Jean-Baptiste Dupont – improvisation on the paintings of M.K.Churlionis
Jean-Baptiste Dupont – Symphonie improvisée playlist- St-Joseph, Bonn Beuel (Germany)
Jean-Baptiste Dupont – Improvisation at St-John the Divine, New York, NY

The Final C: COLOR!

While I did not plan for the series to end this way, it seems appropriate that on this day when American are waving their red, white and blue to celebrate Memorial Day, the topic of the newsletter is color. Whether you are from the USA or somewhere else, I hope you will take a moment to express gratitude to those who gave their lives to enjoy the freedom that you are able to enjoy today.

Registration

While registration is an issue of competency, it also is an aspect of color. In the first issue on Competency, I expressed the need for an organist to be familiar with the registrations and combinations of organ stops available to him or her. Even a small organ of 12 stops offers 220 combinations of three stops! (You can check the math or try other numbers here.) While not all of these would project a sense of competency, I believe we fall into registrational habits and often fail to exploit all the colors an instrument may offer us. Instead of simply pulling out the 8′ Flute as a solo, why not try using a 4′ down one octave or a 2′ down two octaves? That 16′ reed in the swell might make a lovely 8′ solo stop if you play an octave higher. Using “non-traditional” registrations like this can also increase your mental dexterity and make it easier for you to play a melody or theme with the left hand or pedal.

Melody

Speaking of melody, a layer of color can come from melody notes that are non-chord tones and the contour of the melody itself. Every style (see The 3rd C: Coherent) has a set of rules for the relationship of melody to harmony with guidelines for how to treat non-chord tones. One simple exercise that was given to me by Philippe Lefebvre for finding colorful melodies was to hold a chord with the left hand and only play notes not in the chord with the right hand. It will take trial and error to discover which notes of the scale work best with what sort of chords, but let your ear be your guide. Perhaps the simplest rule I ever heard for non-chord tones came from Gerre Hancock in his admonition “Salvation is always a half-step away.” If you play something that sounds a little off, chances are there is a note right next to it that will sound better, and if you can repeat yourself and play it again, you become convincing and colorful at the same time!

Harmony

A lot of my instruction in improvisation has focused on building and creating my own harmonic language. One of the ways to do this is to take a colorful harmonic progression from a written composition, memorize it, and then transpose it into all possible keys. Here’s a sample from the first movement of Louis Vierne‘s Symphonie no. 3:

VierneHarmonySequenceSm2
The pedal part is an ornamented pedal point. (We could consider it a melodic way to add color to a static note!) The manuals could be simplified by only playing beats one and three of the chords. With these adjustments, we have a progression ready to transpose into all other keys and will be adding a new way to color a pedal point to our harmonic vocabulary.

What passages from repertoire do you find colorful? Examine them closely, simply if necessary and transpose them to make them part of your improvisational vocabulary. I’d love to know which composers and pieces you find inspirational.

Happy Memorial Day!

May all your improvs be colorful!

Glenn Osborne


 
Recent additions to organimprovisation.com:

The Store

has been greatly expanded. There are now over a dozen method books and over fifty recordings with a separate section now for Pierre Cochereau!

Organists:

Themes:


 
Newsletter Issue 5 – 2014 05 26
See the complete list of past newsletter issues here.
Sign up to receive future issues using the box to the right on this page.

László Fassang

Fassang_368x800Official website:
fassang.hu

YouTube Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEfvVAaafNKJGav583-Pxnw


A native of Budapest, László Fassang was born into a musical family and began to study the organ at age thirteen under the tutelage of István Baróti. He graduated from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in 1998, having studied piano under Ilona Prunyi and organ with Ferenc Gergely and István Ruppert. Fassang then entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied organ with Olivier Latry and Michel Bouvard, as well as improvisation under Loïc Mallié, Philippe Lefebvre, Thierry Escaich, and Jean-François Zygel. In 2002 he won the Improvisation Gold Medal at the Royal Bank Calgary International Organ Festival and Competition. He is represented in the US by Karen McFarlane.

Recordings:

László Fassang au grand orgue de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres
Includes repertoire by Alain, Bach, Liszt, Vierne and an improvisation.

The Art of Organ Improvisation – The Four Seasons (Vol. 5) was recorded at the Palace of Arts in 2008 and released by the German company Organ Promotion.


Course Of The Moon: Live Improvisations
László Fassang, piano, and Lé Quang, saxophone

Video:
László Fassang – Improvisation on ‘Dies Irae’ – Biserica Reformată de pe Ulița Lupilor
Olivier Latry, László Fassang and János Pálúr – Sortie Improvisation – Notre Dame de Paris

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

Prelude

Preludes usually serve as introductory movements in multi-movement works, though they also may stand alone. The formal structure varies widely. The title may also refer simply to the piece of music played at the beginning of a worship service.

Example videos:
Philippe Lefebvre – Prélude – 01.05.2011 – Notre Dame
Loïc Mallié – Entrée improvisée – La Trinité, Paris
Olivier Penin – Prelude – St. Clotilde
Pierre Pincemaille – Prélude – St. Denis
William Porter – O dass ich tausend Zunge hätte – Prelude
Johann Vexo – Messe du dimanche soir 07.04.2013 – Prélude
Johann Vexo – Vêpres 07.04.2013 – Prélude

Philippe Lefebvre

philippelefebvreWith the encouragement of Pierre Cochereau, Philippe Lefebvre began organ studies at the Conservatoire de Lille before entering the class of Rolande Falcinelli at the Conservatoire de Paris. He won the premier prix for improvisation at the international Lyon competition in 1972 and then the grand prix for improvisation at the international Chartres competition. In 1976, he was appointed organist titulaire at Chartres cathedral. In 1985, Philippe Lefèbvre was awarded the post of one of four titulaires des grands orgue of Notre-Dame, Paris alongside Yves Devernay, Olivier Latry and Jean-Pierre Leguay, following the death of Pierre Cochereau.
Full bio.


Recordings:

Mallié – Lefèbvre : Improvisations à l’ogue

Videos:
Prélude – 01.05.2011 – Notre Dame
Sortie – 19.04.2009 – Notre Dame
Sortie – 01.05.2011 – Notre Dame
Offertoire – 01.05.2011 – Notre Dame

Olivier Latry & Philippe Lefebvre – Variations Pt. 1

Olivier Latry & Philippe Lefebvre – Variations Pt. 2
Olivier Latry, Philippe Lefèbvre, Vincent Dubois, Paolo Oreni and Kalevi Kiviniemi – Improvisation-à-cinque – St. Joseph, Bonn Beuel

Charles Tournemire (Philippe Lefebvre plays) – Victimae paschali laudes – Chartres Cathedral, France

Olivier Latry

Festival Musica: Olivier Latry, concert d'orgue Messiaen aÃÄ l'eglise ST PaulProfessor of Organ in the Conservatoire de Paris.
In 1985, at 23 years of age, Latry was awarded the post of one of four titulaires des grands orgue of Notre-Dame, Paris alongside Yves Devernay, Philippe Lefèbvre and Jean-Pierre Leguay, following the death of Pierre Cochereau.
Full bio.


Recordings:

Olivier Latry: On A Sunday Afternoon at Washington National Cathedral
This recording features Olivier Latry’s 2007 recital on the pipe organ in Washington National Cathedral and includes works of Louis Vierne, Felix-Alexandre Guilmant and two improvisations by Latry.

Videos:
Sortie – 18.09.2011 – Notre Dame
Sortie – 10-09-2011 – Notre Dame
À la Bach – Notre Dame
Communion – 29.03.2008 – Notre Dame
Olivier Latry – Organ Blessing Versets – Our Lady of Refuge, Brooklyn, NY
Olivier Latry – Improvisation on The Simpsons Theme – Toronto
Olivier Latry with Vincent Dubois, Paolo Oreni and Michael Bottenhorn – Happy Birthday – St. Joseph, Bonn Beuel
Olivier Latry & Philippe Lefebvre – Variations Pt. 1
Olivier Latry & Philippe Lefebvre – Variations Pt. 2
Olivier Latry, Philippe Lefèbvre, Vincent Dubois, Paolo Oreni and Kalevi Kiviniemi – Improvisation-à-cinque – St. Joseph, Bonn Beuel