Welcome to The LDS Organist Blog

The purpose of this blog is to help pianists learn to become true organists. Many individuals believe that if you play the piano you can play the organ, but the instruments differ greatly. While this blog is specifically geared towards members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much of the information shared can be utilized by all. I hope that the information I share here will help you become an effective organist in your ward, stake, or other congregation.

Feel free to browse and search this blog. It was started in January 2010 and while new posts aren't added very often, this blog contains a wealth of information and is a wonderful resource for all organists. If you're a new reader, you can find the first lesson here: Before We Begin: Acquiring the Essentials. Also, please "like" the corresponding facebook page, which is updated more often. A link is provided on the right sidebar, or you can click here.

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Song: Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

This is a fun novelty. Kiyo and Chiemi Watanabe perform "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" by George Frideric Handel on Ruffatti Pipe Organ at Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas, February 18, 2007.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hymn 119: A Call to Worship

In a recent article I shared some new insights of mine regarding a "Call to Worship."

Here is my arrangement, free to you.

119 Call To Worship


For verse 2 instead of using my version with the pedal point, I instead chose to use the first verse of Douglas Lemmon's arrangement in his book Preludes SAC.

How Did It Go?

I began prelude 20 minutes early, but the chapel was already getting "chatty" as the choir had finished 10 minutes earlier. I began with Larry Beebee's "Father, I Will Reverent Be," but it didn't help much. I wasn't too worried, as a louder congregation would really put my new technique to the test.

Halfway through the chimes introduction of my "Call to Worship" piece, the chapel and cultural hall quieted almost completely. I played through the hymn and second verse before my time was up, and the chapel was completely silent for that entire prelude piece. The music and reverence really invited the Spirit. Then the Stake Presidency member stood to begin the meeting, and commented on how wonderful it was to have time to reflect before the meeting. The meeting began on a spiritual note--it began with reverence.

After writing the previous article, I was unsure of how it this technique would be received, but I felt completely at peace, so I went ahead and tried it. Now that I've used it, I have no hesitation in recommending it--sporadically, of course, or it will lose its effectiveness. It really set the right mood for this meeting and I'm very glad I went ahead with it.

If you decide to use this "Call to Worship," let me know how it goes!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Song: Fountain Reverie

Organist Justin Hartz plays "Fountain Reverie" by Percy Fletcher on the 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ located in the Grand Ballroom at Longwood Gardens

Friday, September 17, 2010

Real Life: Ollie's Organ Registration

I'm introducing a new feature today! Periodically I will answer questions from my readers in a series I'm calling, "Real Life." Feel free to ask your questions for this new feature via the comments section or by emailing ldsorganistblog at gmail dot com.

Today's question is from Ollie, who has asked me if I can help her figure out some good registration options for her organ. Like the organists before her, she uses the same preset for every hymn and prelude, and her congregation has been resistant to change. She's currently playing the Rodgers Trilliam (variant C000633). Here is her stop list:

Rodger Trillium Stop List


She has been using this registration on the Swell for prelude and postlude:
8' Geigen Principal
4' Prestant
2' Piccolo
IV Plein Jeu
Bass Coupler with 16' principal and 8' octave on the Pedal

For congregational hymn accompaniment, she has been using this registration on the Great:
8' Diapason
4' Octave
2' Super Octave
IV Fourniture
Bass Coupler with 16' principal and 8' octave on the Pedal

Both have a very similar sound. Ollie tried using the 8' Chimney Flute one week for prelude and the congregation didn't know what to do!

She's asked for registration help, which I'm more than happy to offer. I have not heard her organ, so I don't know how these suggestions will sound in person. In theory they should work well, and will at the very least provide a good starting point for her.

Prelude Chorus Registration Options

For a chorus-style prelude, such as playing hymns from the hymnbook, try these combinations. Stops in parentheses are optional and should be applied if needed and/or desired:

On the Swell:

Sw: 8' Viole
    (4' flute)
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
    (8' Gedeckt)

Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
    (8' Gedeckt)

Sw: 8' Geigen Principal
Ped: 16' Subbass

Sw: 8' Viole
    8' Bourdon
    (4' Flute)
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
    8' Gedeckt

Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
    8' Gedeckt

On the Great

Gt: 8' Gemshorn
    (4' Spitzflote)
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux or Subbass

Gt: 8' Chimney Flute
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux

Gt: 8' Harmonic Flute
    (4' Spitzflote)
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux

Gt: 8' Flute Celeste II
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux

Gt: 8' Chimney Flute
Sw: 4' Flute
Sw-Gt Coupler
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux
(Gt-Ped Coupler)

There are so many more options, but this is a start.

Congregational Hymn Accompaniment Registration Options

Softer Registrations
(appropriate for more meditative or sacrament hymns)

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped Coupler

Gt: 8' Diapason
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
Sw-Gt Coupler
Ped: 16' Principal
    (16' Subbass)
    8' Gedeckt
Sw-Ped Coupler
Gt-Ped Coupler

Gt: 8' Diapason
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Sw-Gt Coupler
Ped: 16' Principal
    (16' Subbass)
    8' Octave
    (8' Gedeckt)
Sw-Ped
Gt-Ped

Gt: 8' Diapason
    8' Gemshorn
    4' Octave (and/or 4' Spitzflote)
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped Coupler

Gt: 8' Diapason
Sw: 8' Viole
    (8' Bourdon)
    4' Flute
Ped: 16' Principal
    (16' Subbass)
    8' Octave
Sw-Ped Coupler
Gt-Ped Coupler

Again, there are many more options, but this is a good start.

Jubilant Registrations
(Good for more rousing or joyful hymns)

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
    (IV Fourniture)
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
    IV Fourniture
    8' Trumpet
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
    (4' Choral Bass)
Gt-Ped

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Sw-Gt
Ped: 16' Principal
    16' Subbass
    8' Octave
    8' Gedeckt
Sw-Ped
Gt-Ped

Gt: 8' Diapason
    8' Gemshorn
    8' Octave
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Prestant
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Sw-Gt
Ped: 16' Principal
    16' Subbass
    8' Octave
    8' Gedect
Sw-Ped
Gt-Ped

Again, there are many more but this is a start.

Transitioning the Congregation

Ollie expressed a desire to ease her congregation into these new sounds, instead of just jumping in with these huge changes.

Prelude

I would immediately start by playing prelude with this registration:
Sw: 8' Bourdon
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
    IV Plein Jeu
Ped: 16' Bourdon Doux (or Subbass)
    8' Gedeckt
(Sw-Ped)

It has a similar sound to her current choice, but is composed entirely of flutes, instead of also using principals. I would also start removing the Plein Jeu IV for the first verse of each prelude hymn, or the second verse, increasing the pieces that are played without it until the congregation is used to hearing the organ without this high mixture.

Then use this registration for some prelude pieces:
Sw: 8' Geigen Principal
    4' Prestant
    2' Piccolo
Ped: 16' Subbass
     (8' Octave)
Sw-Ped

This registration should also sound very familiar to the congregation.

Once the congregations is used to these sounds, try something like:
Sw: 8' Geigen Principal
    4' Prestant
Ped: 16' Subbass
Sw-Ped

Intersperse a registration without a 2' stop with the registrations the congregation has become familiar with, perhaps using this on the first verse and then adding the 2' piccolo in the next verse.

Once the congregation is used to hearing the organ prelude without stops sounding 2+ octaves higher, Ollie can begin using the registration suggestions I shared above. I recommend changing the registration for every hymn, even between verses, following the direction of the text. I believe these changes help promote reverence and allow the congregation to focus on the text of each prelude hymn.

Accompaniment

Ollie has been using a full chorus registration for every hymn. My recommendation is to start the transition by only changing the sacrament hymn. To begin, I'd immediately remove the Fourniture IV from the registration for the sacrament hymn:

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped

Next try adding the 8' Trumpet to the final verse of a jubilant hymn a couple of times:

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
    IV Fourniture
    8' Trumpet
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped

After a few weeks, I'd then remove the Fourniture IV from the more meditative hymns. This can be done by using a full registration such as this while transitioning:

Gt: 8' Diapason
    8' Gemshorn
    4' Octave
    2' Super Octave
Sw: 8' Geigen Principal
    8' Bourdon
    4' Prestant
    4' Flute
    2' Piccolo
Ped: 16' Principal
    16' Subbass
    8' Octave
    (8' Gedeckt)
    (4' Choral Bass)
Sw-Ped
Gt-Ped

At this time I would also remove the 2' Super Octave from the sacrament hymn, so that the registration would be:

Gt: 8' Diapason
    4' Octave
Ped: 16' Principal
    8' Octave
Gt-Ped Coupler

After a few weeks, any of the softer accompaniment registrations could be used for the sacrament hymn. Once that happens, it should be no problem to start transitioning the congregation on the jubilant and meditative hymns.

In Conclusion

It is important to continually use a wide variety of registrations so that the congregation doesn't get stuck in another rut. Good luck, Ollie! Keep us posted on your progress.

Attaching .pdf documents

I would like to attach .pdf documents to a lot of my new posts, but the only method I have found is to use scribd.com, which has a lot of advertising and can be confusing to navigate. Do any of my readers know of any alternatives?

Thanks! I'm excited to post my arrangement, but really don't want to have to use scribd this time if another option is available.

Regardless, I will share it next week, so stay tuned!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Song: Marche Characteristique from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite

Frederick Hohman plays his transcription of Marche Characteristique from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite on the Murray-Harris pipe organ in Stanford University's Memorial Church.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Will be back soon!

I've taken a break right now. My kids just started school, then Labor Day weekend hit. I have stake conference this coming weekend, then I hope to resume posting regularly.

I have a fun prelude "Call to Worship" piece to share with you soon.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Song: Carrillon De Westiminster

Carrillon De Westiminster played by Brian Mathias on the University of Utah Libby Gardner Concert Hall pipe organ.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Call to Worship

Organ Chimes
Image Source

I recently read a presentation by Dr. Robert Cundick from the BYU Organ Workshop in 2006, where he shared his struggles with a very small pipe organ in his ward building and a lack of reverence from his congregation prior to the service. His solution involving the use of chimes was very novel and ingenious, and I will share it here shortly.

Two Different Scenarios

In a past ward of mine, reverence was a huge issue prior to sacrament meeting. The bishopric would chat and visit before the meeting, and the congregation followed suit. I tried everything I could think of to increase reverence, but nothing seemed to work. I created a trio arrangement of all of the reverent songs from the Children's Songbook, but even playing, "Reverently, Quietly" and "The chapel doors seem to say to me, 'Sh, be still,'" didn't help. I never did find a good solution to my problem in that ward before I moved. Traditional prelude music just didn't help.

In my current ward, reverence isn't really an issue. I am not currently serving as ward organist, but the bishopric is in their seats in advance and the congregation is not loud or overly chatty before the meeting. I can hear the prelude music very well as I sit with my family waiting for the service to begin, and I believe it is very effective. I don't see a need to try anything new at this time.

When it is necessary to try something new

If you are in a ward where nothing seems to be working, and your organ has a nice-sounding chimes stop, it might be worth trying Dr. Cundick's approach:
The solution to the prelude reverence problem came from a completely unexpected source: the rarely used organ chimes!

Remembering the "Y" [BYU] carillon sounding of the first phrase of Come, Come Ye Saints on the hour with its inevitable warm rush of heartfelt religiously centered feelings, I play that same phrase expressively on the fully amplified chimes. The congregation can glance at their Sacrament Meeting programs where, in bold type, is printed: "Come, Come Ye Saints, we now will worship God, quietly, reverently". I then play an appropriate, brief, subdued, prelude, usually hymn based, of five minutes maximum length. I time it to conclude at the printed hour for commencement of the service. The member of the Bishopric who is conducting has just arisen and then greets the congregation.

This permits the congregation to engage in the subdued greetings and demonstration of friendship traditionally heard as they enter the chapel prior to the service. The organ music thus serves as a musical Call to Worship. In the absence of chimes I would use a single 8 ft. Diapason to play the signature hymn phrase---loud enough to be clearly heard above the congregation conversation, but not overbearing.
I've decided to try this approach at our adult session of stake conference, if it feels right at the time. While I will be playing prelude for 20 minutes or more prior to the meeting, before I play my last hymn, I am planning to play a very short introduction to hymn #119 "Come, We That Love the Lord," just the melody on the chimes, then play through the hymn with a flute registration on the Swell, play it again with a soprano/tenor switch with the melody soloed on the Great, and play the third verse with a different registration on the Great, timed to end right on the hour.

Making the decision to try something new

If your congregation is as loud as mine was, it might be wise to begin prelude at the short end of the recommendation in the Church Handbook of Instruction and begin only five minutes prior to the meeting with a call to worship, followed by appropriate prelude music until the meeting is to begin.

Remember, the purpose of your calling is not to call attention to yourself. Rather, you are to help invite the Spirit and enhance worship for your congregation. If you choose to use this approach periodically or even every week, make sure you take the time to evaluate how it went, and make any necessary changes for future weeks.

Good luck!