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Thread: playing at the end of a funeral

  1. #1
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    playing at the end of a funeral

    I seem to manage quite well now before a funeral with pieces such as Handels Largo, Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring, one or two Bach pieces etc. although I am never quite sure whether to quickly switch to Mozart Ave Varum when the coffin arrives or just carry on playing whatever i am playing. I find that timing very difficult.
    Also, I am not sure what are the best sort of pieces to play when the coffin and mourners start leaving the church.
    I would be very grateful if other organists could advise on how they handle the entry and also what music they play at the end.
    I have been playing for around 5 years now. Grade 5 standard (still!)

  2. #2
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Funeral/Memorial service prelude music:
    I have a standard list of 20 or so hymns that I do improvisations on. That carries me for about 45 minutes of music, if required.
    "Jesu" is a nice fitting piece as is anything from Handel's Water Music Suite.

    When it was necessary, I have tolled a single note on the chimes (perhaps D3) for the casket processional. In my church, we seldom have a casket funeral, but rather a memorial service either before or after burial.

    For the Recessional, I always play the hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, followed by one (or several) chorale preludes on that hymn. I would check with your clergy to see if that is "allowed" in your church situation or not ... Where I play, I have "carte blanche" for whatever I deem to be appropriate. I draw the line when requested to play Dance Macabre, however. And yes, that has been requested a few times
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  3. #3
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    As a freelance organist here in South Africa, I sort of have "carte blanche" as well.
    That some times makes it difficult in the decision as it must be pleasing and balanced.
    So in my case what may work in one church does not necessary work for the other.
    So my personal advice is, and that is what I do as well I speak to the minister before hand and I get a idea of what is acceptable there. The end funeral song is very important I agree. Here I find that playing a more well known hymn works well, rather than a unknown classic peace. I play improvisations of hymn's like "Abide with me, Amazing grace, God be with you till we meat again, ect " I some time I also play "The Rose and Time to say goodbye". Well this is from my personal experience here in South Africa where I understand our Christian culture here.


    Hope it still helps.


    Kind Regards
    Victor

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Sage advice, Victor ...

    As a humorous note, I have to add that it may be wise to check with your church sound engineer as well ... Years ago at a funeral, all the music was recorded live onto audio tape .. the sound engineer, noticing there was about 4 minutes of blank tape still available, decided to "fill" those last remaining minutes with a rendition of Roy Rogers' cowboy song "Happy Trails To You, Until We Meet Again". The family of the deceased were not amused ... . (with)
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  5. #5
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    That is very helpful. I think that I will concentrate more on hymn preludes. I don't seem to have A mighty fortress is our God in our hymn books. Do you know the name of the tune? Also, who wrote Jesu?
    Thanks for ideas. I am sure that I have carte blanche (until I cross the line).

  6. #6
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Of course I know Ein Feste Burg. I have just checked it out on youtube. And also I have just realised the 'Jesu' was meaning Jesu Joy of....

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    I have a book that has variations on Ein Feste Burg ... Praetorius, Pachelbel, Buxtehude, Reger, JS Bach, etc. I think it is the Flor Peters edition, but not completely sure ... my organ music files are in my office at church so I can't verify this until Sunday.

    Anyway, the Ein Feste Burg chorale preludes that I use for funeral/memorial recessionals are in that book. I'll edit this posting after Sunday.
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  8. #8
    Commodore con Forza
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    After President Gerald Ford's funeral in the National Cathedral, the organist was heard playing Franck's "Piece Heroique". That struck me as a somewhat odd choice under the circumstances. What about a toccata by Widor, Vierne, or Boellmann? (Could you guess which ones I mean?)

    Let's face it - we are not all concert organists, much as we might hate to admit it. Given that funerals don't leave much time for planning or practice, we do the best we can. And I doubt that many present are paying much attention to what is being played, if indeed they even recognize the piece.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    I agree that Piece Heroique is an odd selection for a funeral, but it does end with a B major chord . From info that I found on wikipedia: "All selections had been chosen by President and Mrs. Ford while planning the service."

    Vierne would be interesting - not heard an instance of that being used ... the Boellman & Widor might be a bit energetic as I personally think something more stately is more fitting.

    True about us not all being concert organists ... I am both a concert organist and a church organist .. the techniques and playing style are quite different. I always enjoy the concert venues as I can play pieces that don't "fit" (timewise) into the service time allowed.

    I myself have never even attempted the Vierne, but I do keep others like the Widor and Boellman in my active repertoire and practice them quite often. The complete collection ot the Ein Feste Burg pieces are ones that I keep in my active repertoire so when a funeral/memorial service comes about, they are always ready to play and require very little reahearsal time beforehand.

    Oddly enough, every funeral/memorial service where I employ the Ein Feste music, everyone remains seated in my church and sits quietly and listens intently until the conclusion of the piece, even if I use two chorale preludes. That, is a delight to any organist, especially for a recessional postlude.
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  10. #10
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krummhorn View Post
    I have a book that has variations on Ein Feste Burg ... Praetorius, Pachelbel, Buxtehude, Reger, JS Bach, etc. I think it is the Flor Peters edition, but not completely sure ... my organ music files are in my office at church so I can't verify this until Sunday.
    It's the Hinrichson edition (1963) and currently out of print. The collection title is:
    Chorale Preludes Ancient and Modern, Vol I (Hinrichson #1021 - 1963)
    Kh ~~.
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  11. #11
    Commander, Assistant Conductor
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    Playing at the end of a funeral

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosmosa View Post
    I seem to manage quite well now before a funeral with pieces such as Handels Largo, Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring, one or two Bach pieces etc. although I am never quite sure whether to quickly switch to Mozart Ave Varum when the coffin arrives or just carry on playing whatever i am playing. I find that timing very difficult.
    Also, I am not sure what are the best sort of pieces to play when the coffin and mourners start leaving the church.
    I would be very grateful if other organists could advise on how they handle the entry and also what music they play at the end.
    I have been playing for around 5 years now. Grade 5 standard (still!)
    One or two suggestions, Cosmosa :-
    Before: The Eleven Chorale Preludes by Brahms (Nos 5, 6, and 8 are playable by a Grade 5 standard organist). Bach- 'Ich ruf' zu dir, . . ' (Orgelbuchlein) , 'Herzlich tut mich verlangen' and 'Liebster Jesu, . .' are also eminently suitable and are Grade 5 standard.

    After : Any of the Easter chorale preludes from the 'Orgelbuchlein' although they are a bit more difficult (up to Grade 7/8).
    An excellent little collection published many years ago is entitled 'A Little Organ Book in memory of Hubert Parry' and contains short pieces by composer friends of his. I do not know if this is still in print but it's worth finding out. It was originally published by A.and C. Black and about half the pieces are Grade 5 'ish' with the others being Grade 6/7.

    Hope this is of some help and best wishes with your playing.

    rk

  12. #12
    Seaman, Mezzoforte Bombard's Avatar
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    Well, have you tried any of Buxtahuda's pieces ( sorry for the spealling error, no time to check it over ).
    Some minds are like concrete, all mixed up and all ready set, unchangeable.

  13. #13
    Commodore con Forza
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    Krummhorn - Are you telling us that the organist can only get into the church on Sunday? What kind of outfit is that? When do you practice? I think I'd ask them for a key or go find another organist.

  14. #14
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Equally with Bach, I enjoy playing the works of Buxtehude - Lots of great options for service music.

    Quote Originally Posted by dll927 View Post
    Krummhorn - Are you telling us that the organist can only get into the church on Sunday? What kind of outfit is that? When do you practice? I think I'd ask them for a key or go find another organist.
    Oh heavens no ... I've had keys and alarm codes since 1982 for 24/7 access to my church. It's just that the church is a 27 mile round trip from where I live, and the day I wrote that post, I wasn't going to be at the church until Sunday.

    If you are wondering why I would I want to travel 27 miles instead of moving or changing churches? Simple - the church I play at is the only Lutheran church with pipe organ in this region and I absolutely love where I am living ... it's a very nice/quiet neighborhood and my home mortgage will be paid off in 3 or 4 years.
    Last edited by Krummhorn; Jan-31-2009 at 19:47. Reason: mpm on myself - lol
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  15. #15
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Thank you for all these suggestions. I have played Ich Ruf and Liebster Jesu in the past, but for some reason have tried to increase my repetoire and make it more romantic and pastoral. This gives me the confidence to perhaps go back to those pieces.
    Thanks Krummhorn for details of that book. By strange chance I stumbled on a website called Providence Music and have ordered an 'archive copy' which apparently is an authorised photocopy and made to order of a Oxford University Press book ed Trevor called Now Thank We all our God which has 7 versions of Eine Feste Burg - Reger, kauffmann, JC Bach, Merkel, Buxtehude,
    Walther and Pachelbel. So I think that one or two of these will be OK.
    Which were the two chorales where the congregation remained seated and listened intently - 'cos I may need to avoid those!
    One piece which I love is the Adagio from Flor Peeters Modale Suite and I will play that next time. Do you know if the hymn preludes that he wrote (there seem to be lots of volumes of them, but can't find out which hymn tunes are in each one) are as attractive as this piece of music?

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