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Various thoughts from last Sunday

September 30, 2010

One of our singers last week was a bit under the weather, so instead of doing the Hassler, which has some rather exposed moments, we sang the Richard Terry Short Mass in C instead.  Terry’s Mass is about as utilitarian as I’ll get with music.  In many places it really isn’t all that interesting, and on the whole it is only saved by the organ accompaniment, which lends variety where the lack of melody fails us.  Even so, it’s a decent emergency fill in piece to have around when it’s needed.

The prelude was a selection that has been very near to me for many years.  Flor Peeters’ Aria originally appeared as the middle movement of his Trumpet Sonata, which as a player of that particular instrument I performed often.  It was rearranged for organ by the composer.  The registrations given by Peeters are peculiar and seemingly intended for a neo-Baroque instrument, so I take them under advisement, if you catch my drift.  Nevertheless, one does not simply say, “This piece was written for a trumpet, and so I’ll play the solo line on the trumpet stop.”  The label of an organ stop is of marginal importance; what matters more is what the ear tells you.  Moreover, an organ stop does not change tone colors at the command of the player as a wind instrument does, and so a fiery French reed will always be fiery.  There is nothing the organist can do about that, really.  For this Peeters piece, then, I typically employ a French Horn stop if it is available, since that more accurately reproduces the sound that a trumpet player would actually make in this piece.  At St. Paul’s, I used the Oboe; it was my only alternative besides the Trumpet, which was out of the question.

Every now and then, an organist and trumpet player will get together and do this piece, substituting the organ for the piano that would be employed in the full Trumpet Sonata.  I’ve only ever had the chance to do this once.  It was at an AGO recital in a faraway place.  I played trumpet and a friend of mine, who’s since died, was the organist.  It was a wonderful moment, and it was great fun playing the trumpet in front of my organist colleagues.  I always think of my late accompanist when I play this piece.  He was one of countless church musicians who are incredibly talented but hardly famous who bring more beautiful music to the world than most people realize.

We concluded last week’s Mass with Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s great hymn, Praise to the Holiest in the Height, the song which the author placed into the mouth of the angels in his The Dream of Gerontius.  The melody which we used was written by the aforementioned Richard Terry.  This was the last of a series of hymns which we put together as a tribute to Newman’s beatification this past September 19.

This coming Sunday we’ll sing the Hassler which we planned for last week.  More on that later.

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