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Thread: Offertory hymn continuation techniques

  1. #1
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster
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    Offertory hymn continuation techniques

    Hi all

    Could anyone advise how to continue on from the last verse into an extemporisation as is normally the case at the end of the offertory hymn?

    Is anyone able to explain the techniques to me?

    Thanks all
    Nicht Bach sondern Meer

  2. #2
    Commander, Assistant Conductor
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    If you aren't used to improvising, I think you should start by using music composed for interludes. There are many published volumes of this stuff. The music is usually organised according to key, and it tends to be the sort that can stop and start at several points. Choose a piece with the same key and time signatures as your hymn, and hopefully the same character. Then glide discreetly from the hymn into the interlude.
    When you become more confident, you will be able to free yourself from the music and to play a few bars yourself. Eventually you may find yourself playing for some length of time without any help from a score. I believe that, when extemporising on an offertory hymn, the rules are quite liberal, and it isn't expected that you play strict variations in the Mozart fashion. The important thing is to maintain the mood and eventually to return to the original key.

  3. #3
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flute'n'Pedal View Post
    . . . music composed for interludes. There are many published volumes of this stuff. The music is usually organised according to key, and it tends to be the sort that can stop and start at several points.
    One such publication is titled "Play Something, Quick".

    I own a similar product with nearly the same title and use it at times for the more complicated modulations from one key to another.

    For the short 'interludes', I always improvise - a learned talent - anyone can start improvising by just "noodling around" with chords and simple melodies.
    Kh ~~.
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  4. #4
    Captain of Water Music JONESEY's Avatar
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    I have recently started down the improvisation road ... with the new service I play for I have to play a short piece while the Vicar walks back from the centre of the church after the Gospel reading.
    I started by playing a short piece, then progressed on to playing a small piece of the choir anthem, and recently picked a chord and did some elementary improvisation on it.

    Fast forward to this Sunday and I finished my playover before the first hymn and the Vicar told me the mic had failed and he needed to change batteries in it - I just carried on from the chord I had finished on and played for another 1-2 mins without thinking about it.

    I'm not saying what I did made any musical sense or not, I don't know - I do know for the first time I felt almost comfortable improvising!!!

    Try it - you'll find you can learn it quite quickly. If I can ... I'm sure you can!!!!!
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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Great going, Jonesey ... and congratulations on being adventurous.

    You will get more comfortable doing this as time goes on ... then in a few years, it will feel just as natural as playing from a score.

    Keep up the great work .
    Kh ~~.
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  6. #6
    Captain of Water Music JONESEY's Avatar
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    Thanks Lars - it is a more difficult step than I thought it would be.
    The most difficult thing I found was actually having the courage to try it when the congregation are there and (hopefully) listening.

    Another service on Sunday will give me more opportunity - I'm looking forward to seeing what happens this time!!

    Tim
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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi Tim,

    Hope you've had the courage to try some 'improvs' in your church.

    Last week (April 3) I needed to "fill" a rather long void after an instrumental solo during communion. Here's the improvisation as it came out ... not rehearsed ... no advance thought on what I would do with it ... just being creative as I went along. Luckily, I had my Zoom H4 recorder with me that day and recorded the service.

    (pardon the background noises - people walking to/from the altar during communion - this was recorded "live" during a church service)
    Kh ~~.
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  8. #8
    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    Nice stuff Lars, clearly well suited to the moment.

    Keep at it Jonesy, you can only benefit from persisting at it over time. It's great that you enjoyed your first time at it too, that's important. In a sense it's no different to practicing a repertoire piece, but it's simply a case of practicing the concept of "thinking ahead" whilst you're trying to compose on the spot. Conversely, there are other times when all you need do is play a chord and then think "okay, now where do I go?"

    If extemporising at the end of a hymn, it's generally sensible to include snatches of the tune somewhere, but not necessarily mandatory. If you have the hymn tune in front of you, there is plenty of material to borrow and also plenty of "tricks" that can be applied. My favourites include minorising a major tune and vice-versa, playing it backwards (sometimes even with the written harmonies - that can have interesting results!!), or inverting it, or both. If it's a well written polyphonic arrangement, take one of the inner parts (like the tenor voice for example) and turn it into a soprano line. Or you can grab a short segment of the tune and turn it into an ostinato for some other part of the tune (or a new tune altogether). You can also grab an excerpt of the harmony and put something new over it. And if it's likely to go on for a while, modulation can provide additional interest. It's entirely up to you and the moment how you choose to change things - for that reason alone, it's why I find improvising/extemporising such fun!
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    My two cent's worth: get with an experience organist who is alrealdy an improviser and pick his/her brains. Sit with him, watch she does.

    It's a peculiarly Anglican tradition (Episcopal) seemingly.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    One of Christ Church St. Laurence's organists (who will remain nameless, Soubasse will know him) did something quite hilarious once:

    The then rector (who also will remain nameless) was having a fling with a lady named Caroline, she was a parisioner. Not very good behaviour but hey, who am I to cast the first stone!

    Anyway - on the said rector's final day, as he was ascending the pulpit to give his last sermon the organist played (in the pedal as a tune whilst improvising above) "there ain't nothing finer than to wake up in Carolina ..."

    To the huge amusement of all concerned (who got the joke).
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  11. #11
    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    Ah yes, I always suspected that the organist in question had a wicked sense of humour - that's excellent! I have in past years, when I've been in an irreverent mood, been known to slip in (perhaps a little unsubtly on one occasion) "We're In The Money" during the post-offertory improvising.

    Not on this occasion however. Have found an excerpt from a service I played for a while back and an extemporisation that I was ... well, moderately glad to have captured, it's not great, but it illustrates (I hope) some of the points made in this thread. The offertory hymn in this instance was Down Ampney (one of my favourite VW tunes) and as it was clearly a while before they were finished, I ploughed on after the last verse. It fades in from just after the last verse (I did not include that because there was a rather loud and slightly inaccurate tenor singing too close to the H4!)

    As with Lars's clip, there's a fair bit of background noise too (isn't it amazing how people crash around more loudly as the organ gets quieter ). There are parts in here that are completely free and others where I re-used the hymn tune (sometimes obviously, other times not so obviously).
    Last edited by Soubasse; Apr-12-2011 at 11:26.
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

  12. #12
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Soubasse - my friend - next time you're in Sydney, please play for me? You are wonderful.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  13. #13
    Captain of Water Music JONESEY's Avatar
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    Lars / Soubasse - just listened to your recordings and they are both wonderful.
    Thanks also both for the tips ... I've just got my H2 back so as the big service gets closer and I'm ready to commit some stuff to disc I'll post some copies up here.

    The improvisations I'm doing now are very short (and sweet???!??) as it's to fit in around the service, but I'm determined to keep going with it.

    Lars - you said about the background noise on yours, I actually really liked it - hearing the communion being given with the music as well brought something else to it (in my own, very non professional opinion!!)

    Cheers both, hopefully I'll be back with some recordings soon.
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  14. #14
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    I remember once a large Lorry (truck) was driving past the church where I was then singing in the choir. As it did so, it blasted its horn. The director of music was standing next to the organist looking at the choir (this all happened during the sermon). Said truck gave a blast of its horn and it sounded exactly like the bottom D of the Pedal 16' trombone stop.

    I remember most of the choir getting the giggles, very hard to stop when you're trying to be attentive...
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  15. #15
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Soubasse,

    Wonderful extemporization on that hymn ... really liked your varied registrations, too.
    Thanks for sharing some of your great talents with us.
    Kh ~~.
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