Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Brian Ebie: A Checklist for Organ Practice

  
A Checklist for Organ Practice

This document provides the organ student with an outline of how to approach learning a piece of music. Activities to stimulate learning and retention from pre-practice to followup and evaluative assessment are included in this brief outline. Perhaps a bit idealistic here and there, but nonetheless a solid primer on building one's skills or returning them to a higher level of musical comprehension and executive ability. 

PRACTICE TECHNICS

I.  PRE-PRACTICE  Away from the keyboard

  • Decode the score - analyze for understanding
  • Determine structure of piece – which parts are the same and which present different challenges.
  • Identify scale and chord outlines in order to plan fingering. Note key changes and probable spots for registration changes
  • Determine starting points for practice - list by number in the score
  • Form a conception of the music - tactile and visual - hear it in your head

II.  BEGINNING PRACTICE

  • Warm up at the keyboard with manual and pedal scales beginning at a slow tempo;
  • Play a familiar hymn
  • Work out three basic rudiments in each piece: NOTES, RHYTHM & FINGERING
  • Work in small sections concentrating on one technical challenge at a time
  • Be consistent with similar passages that occur through a piece.
  • Use the same fingering on the same patterns wherever possible. Use fingering that helps you play the correct notes and rhythm
  • Analyze problem spots - correct them and reinforce by several repetitions
  • Work corrected spots into the texture of the piece by beginning a few measures before and continuing a few measures following them
  • Practice slowly with a metronome for consistent rhythm
  • Practice pedaling on floor while seated in a chair to gain an overview of foot and body movement

III.  REFINING PRACTICE

  • Approach errors with curiosity and objectivity; i.e. what is causing this spot to be difficult? How can I take the parts apart and correct the errors?
  • Avoid mindless repetitions at fast tempi. Vary repetitions to keep them fresh and avoid overuse of the same muscle groups
  • Practice in dotted rhythms to improve coordination, accuracy and steadiness
  • Avoid tension in your hands, arms and ankles. Incorporate hand and arm rotation principals into all playing. At the first sign of pain stop playing and observe what you were doing and how. Determine how to play the problem passage without tension and discomfort.
  • Begin practice at different parts of a piece each day and be able to start at any of these section set weekly practice goals; i.e. be able to play last two pages of Bach at a slow tempo with all notes and rhythms correct.
  • Conduct the piece all the way through away from the keyboard.
  • Keep in mind the adage that practice may not make perfect, but it does make permanent.
  • Practice the way you hope to play the piece.
  • Memorize difficult passages sections for technical and mental security

IV.  ON-GOING PRACTICE

  • Set realistic short-term and long-term goals
  • Consider how a practice technique used in learning a piece can facilitate learning a similar piece
  • Use practice as a preparation for performance; play for others regularly to gain experience in playing under pressure.
  • Record and listen to your own playing with a positive mindset – what sounded really good as well as what areas had glitches
  • In order to develop your own concepts of interpretation, listen to three performances of a work that you are learning as recorded
  • by competent performers. What do you like in what you heard? Which ideas might you want to incorporate in your playing of the piece?
  • Which ideas did not like and why?
  • Enjoy plateaus and look forward to the next level of learning and playing 


Follow this link for a downloadable PDF of this list.  




All materials courtesy of Drs. Barbara MacGregor and Brian Ebie


© Brian Ebie 2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In Memoriam Kelly Thomas. Tuba Professor, Father, Husband, Friend.


Dr. Kelly Thomas was a good friend and colleague. We were hired the same year at UA, performed together on "Octuba-ween" and in the Faculty Follies at UA, played a lot of golf together, ate too many Chipotle burros and JJ Gargantuan Subs at Jimmy John's, and generally laughed about everything.


Kelly taught me about breakfast burritos at Los Betos. I still have an irregular heartbeat.

Kelly was there for me as a friend when a relationship ended in 2002, and helped me move forward. The night she left, he came over and took me to dinner and to see Star Wars. He told me "watching Yoda whoop some ass" would make me feel better. He was right.


Another memory special to me... Kelly and Jana had me in their car, going to lunch one day and in the back seat was a copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting." They kept waiting for me to notice it, which I finally did. I was out of it, I guess, and just flipped through it for a minute. They both started cracking up and THEN it hit me... they were having their first baby.


Although I've not seen them in almost 10 years, I nonetheless hold a special place in my heart for Kelly & Jana. I'm shocked and saddened by his too-soon departure from this life. Although he's gone to see Heavenly Father, he will be much missed here below.

Dum invicem rursus occurremus... Until we meet again.

 
Below are articles on Kelly's passing from various news outlets, as well as some pictures.  I've complied them here with links to the originals.  Just wanted them in one place.

If you knew Kelly, or feel so inclined, please consider donating and sharing the funding site for Jana and their four young children...


 

In Memoriam: Kelly Thomas

Kelly Thomas, a tuba professor in the School of Music, passed away unexpectedly Sunday night.

Visitation will be held 5:00-7:30 p.m. this Friday with the funeral immediately following at Laycock Hobbs Funeral Home in Athens, Tennessee. The burial will be 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Clearwater Baptist Church, 964 County Road 180 in Athens.

Thomas was appointed tuba/euphonium instructor at UT in 2014.

“Even though Kelly was only with us for a short time, he made a huge impact on our school,” said Jeff Pappas, director of the School of Music. “He will be missed.”

Prior to his appointment at UT, Thomas was the tuba/euphonium professor at the University of Arizona for thirteen years. A native of Flagstaff, Arizona, he began his studies at Tennessee Technological University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music education. He earned a master’s degree in music education and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Arizona State University.

Thomas performed at the International Tuba Euphonium Association conferences in Linz, Austria; Las Vegas, Nevada; Conway, Arkansas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Tucson, Arizona; and Regina, Saskatchewan.

He was a founding member and tubist for the Original Wildcat Jass Band, a traditional New Orleans and Chicago jazz band. The touring ensemble has appeared throughout the Southwest and Mexico as well as New Mexico, California, and Colorado, and has released released several recordings.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Jana, and four children. A memorial fund has been established for the Thomas family at Give Forward.


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Ex-UA music prof dies from allergic reaction to wasp sting





According to a Facebook posting from the UA's Fred Fox School of Music, Thomas died from an allergic reaction to a wasp sting. He was 40 years old.

Thomas, a native of Flagstaff who earned his undergrad degree at Tennessee Tech University and his graduate degrees at Arizona State University, taught tuba and euphonium at the UA from 2001 until 2014. He took a position last fall with The University of Tennessee Knoxville; his wife was from Tennessee and the couple had family in the area, said Bruce Chamberlain, a lUA colleague and director of the Fred Fox School of Music choral activities.

"We are just shocked that he is no longer with us on this earth," Chamberlain said.

"We are absolutely heart-broken," said Willie Hintze, former music director at  Sovereign Grace Church on the north west side, where Thomas was active. "He was one of the nicest, most giving guys I’ve ever known." 

Hintze, who had known Thomas since 2006 and whose two children were friends with Thomas's four kids, said the families were also involved in a local homeschooling group. Hintze moved to Gilbert in 2011 but the families stayed in touch, he said.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Jana, and their four young children, Janelle, Keljan, Joelle and Kenton. Funeral services will be in Tennessee. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. June 20 at Northland Christian Assembly, 1715 W. University Ave., in Flagstaff. Chamberlain said no services have been planned yet in Tucson.  

Original Article from Tucson.com



"Our Lovable Nature": Remembering UT Tuba Professor Kelly Thomas

Matt Shafer Powell
University of Tennessee School of Music instructor Dr. Kelly Thomas died Sunday night after suffering an allergic reaction to a wasp sting.  Thomas was 40 years old.

In a message sent out to School of Music faculty, students, staff and alumni, Director Jeff Pappas referred to Thomas as "our beloved tuba professor".

Thomas was hired to teach tuba and euphonium at the University of Tennessee in 2014.  A native of Arizona, Thomas began his studies at Tennessee Tech, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education.  He went on to earn his Master's and Doctorate degrees at Arizona State University.  
"Even though Kelly was only with us for a short time," Pappas wrote, "he made a huge impact on our school."

Thomas was married with four children.  Details about services have not yet been released.

Original Article from WUOT 

Kelly's Obituary



Serving McMinn County Since 1986

DR. KELLY GENE THOMAS, age 40 of Niota, TN, of the Tranquility Community, passed away Sunday, June 7, 2015, in Starr Regional Medical Center in Athens, TN due to a severe allergic reaction. 
He was native and resident most of his life of Flagstaff, Arizona, former resident of Tucson, Arizona and resident of McMinn County, Tenn. since December 2013.
Dr. Thomas was appointed tuba/euphonium professor at the University of Tennessee in 2014. Prior to his appointment at UT, Dr. Thomas was the tuba/euphonium professor at the University of Arizona for thirteen years. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Tennessee Technological University, Master of Music degree from Arizona State University, and Doctor of Musical arts degree at Arizona State University in 2006. Dr. Thomas had participated with many tuba ensembles throughout the United States and World and was a founding member and tubist for the Original Wildcat Jass Band, a traditional New Orleans and Chicago jazz band and had been featured throughout the southwest and Mexico as well as New Mexico, California, and Colorado.  Kelly also founded and was a featured member of an exciting new chamber ensemble Eufonix and was an artist and clinician for Besson/Buffet Crampon and also a member of University of Tennessee Faculty Brass Quintet. 
He was a member of the International Tuba Euphonium Association, and a member of Cornerstone Church of Knoxville, TN, and was preceded in death by infant son, Kelton Thomas.
Survivors : Wife of 18 years:  Jana Elizabeth Simpson Thomas of Niota, Tenn. Two Daughters: Janelle Thomas and Joelle Thomas  Two Sons: Keljan Thomas and Kenton  Thomas all of Niota, Tenn. Father and Mother: Ken and Nancy Parker Thomas of Flagstaff, Ariz. Brother and Sister-in-law: Ross and Julia Thomas of  Phoenix, Ariz., Sister: Tawni  Wimberley of Flagstaff, Ariz. Father-in-law and Mother-in-law: Milton and Judy Bohannon Simpson of Niota, Tenn., Sister-in-law and husband: Jody and Steve Dake of Niota, Tenn., Several nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be 7:30 P.M. Friday in the chapel of Laycock-Hobbs Funeral Home with Rev. Bill Kittrell and Rev.  Walt Alexander officiating.
Interment will be 11:00 A.M. Saturday in Clearwater Cemetery. Active pallbearers will be Steve Dake, Jamin Dake, Mike Simmons, Scott Wilson, Sam Olsen, Glenn Bohannon, Mike Ball, and Mitchel Bohannon. Honorary pallbearers will be Cody Shell and Joseph DeChristina. 
In lieu of flowers contributions or donations to help Jana and the children may be made to https://secure.giveforward.com/donate/270609 or in care of Jana Thomas,  The Kelly Thomas Family Memorial Fund at Citizens National Bank. 
The family will receive friends from 5-7:30 P.M. Friday in the funeral home.



 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Art and Craft (2014): A story of an unlikely art forger. By Brian Ebie

"Art and Craft" describes the story of a talented art forger named Mark Landis, who for many years, copied artworks nearly exactly and then donated them to museums around the United States.  Comfortable in all types of media, he easily forged masterworks using watercolors, charcoal, oils, pencils, and other genres.

I first heard about this movie because of a news article on my local NPR station, WKSU.  An exhibit based on Landis' works was coming the the Canton, Ohio Museum of Art and screenings of the movie locally were to follow. We were not able to make it to the exhibit, and the movie only played at a couple of art theaters in Cleveland.  So, I waited for it to hit Amazon Prime.

We watched the movie and enjoyed every minute.  Mark Landis is a likeable person who you're never quite sure is aware that what he is doing upsets museum curators.  Over the course of several years, Landis donated artworks to major museums around the country often using pseudonyms or even dressed as a priest.  His forgeries are of lesser-known artists and are very convincing up front.  Many museum staff are not familiar enough with the artists he has copied to spot a fake, and as one writer put it, are less likely to scrutinize a donation.

Mark Landis Side by Side with Original
Three Women by Charles Courtney Curran, 1894 (image retrieved from Slate.com 5/28/15)

Three Women by Mark Landis (image retrieved from Slate.com 5/28/15)

As with any good scheme, there is always the risk of getting caught, and indeed Mr. Landis gets caught.  Unfortunately it's by a disgruntled art registrar who worked for a museum and was fully taken in by a donation from Landis.  Enter Matthew Leininger.  Mr. Leininger was apparently duped at his previous job with a museum in Oklahoma and while working in Cincinnati at the art museum, became so obsessed with "hunting down" Landis that he lost his job.  He's sort of a pathetic, whiny character throughout, hell-bent on making certain Mark Landis serves time in prison.  Leininger actually wants Landis imprisoned.  Leininger devotes his stay-at-home dad time to hunting down Landis, even to the point of sending him anonymous--and what some might call--threatening emails.  He goes so far as to call an FBI Agent in charge of art thefts to seek prosecution for Landis.

Though he donated forgeries to art museums, Mark Landis does not appear to have run afoul of the law, despite his intent to deceive. He was careful, it seems, to neither sell or take tax write offs on his forgeries.  He was protected from prosecution simply because he did not profit from his donations, and because he directed his forgeries to the specialists in the museums who should have been able to discern that the works were not authentic. 

Alec Wilkinson, writing in the New Yorker put it this way:
"Why Landis was giving fake paintings away Leininger didn’t know; he knew only that Landis seemed unwilling to stop. When he found an e-mail address for Landis, he began writing him as Sleuth 38. His remarks sometimes had a peremptory tone. “What are your plans for 2013?” he wrote. Landis didn’t answer. Leininger wanted “to get him thrown into the slam,” he told me. “The guy’s a crook. Fraud is fraud.” He contacted the F.B.I., where he spoke to Robert Wittman, the senior investigator of the Art Crimes Team, who is now in private practice. “We couldn’t identify a federal criminal violation,” Wittman told me. “If he had been paid, or taken a tax deduction, perhaps. Some places maybe took him to dinner, gave him some V.I.P. treatment, that’s their decision, but there was no loss that we could uncover. Basically, you have a guy going around the country on his own nickel giving free stuff to museums.” "
Having spent a career in the arts, I found the pious rantings of Leininger and other art registrars to be both typical and tedious.  Spare us your righteous indignation.  You were fooled.


The movie examines Landis' mental health, often picturing his visits to a clinic, or meeting with his counselor, or case worker.  It also takes us on a journey through his daily life--watching endless reruns of old black and white television  shows and movies.  Glimpses into the methods he used to forge the art pieces were fascinating as well.  In many cases he worked free hand, and in others he photocopied the works and painted over the top of the copy.  Even with evidence of using a photocopy, there is no question that Mark Landis is a talented artist.  Many people in the movie asked why he doesn't release works under his own name.  He simply says it's all "just art and craft."




Mark Landis Side by Side with Original 
Mark Landis chalk drawing A Woman Lying on a Chaise Longue (from slate.com retrieved 5/28/15)
Jean Antoine Watteau's 1719 chalk drawing A Woman Lying on a Chaise Longue
(from slate.com retrieved 5/28/15)
 The movie Art and Craft concludes with Mark Landis attending an event showcasing his forgeries and his story.  Around 60 pieces of artwork by Landis, both forgeries and a handful of his originals, were part of the exhibition.  Along with the artworks he carefully wrapped up and mailed to the museum, Landis also packed his "Jesuit priest" costume. The art show was entitled "Faux Real."and was held during Spring 2012 in the Dorothy W. and C. Lawson Reed Jr. Gallery at the University of Cincinnati.

Leininger was there to meet him.  It seemed to me, however, that in his casual, unassuming way, that Landis was unfazed by Leininger's anger.  What was even more enjoyable was that Landis really couldn't have cared less.  

in 2015, Mark Landis' health is declining and he rarely appears in public.  He has stopped donating artworks--as far as we know--and is for the most part, a shut-in.  This concluding quote in the New Yorker article by Alec Wilkinson sums up best what Mark Landis would have you take away from his story.  He checks an article about St. Mary's Town and Country School on Wikipedia and is happy to see his name listed as "art dealer and philanthropist."  He is worried that someone might change those words someday as has happened on other sites....
“Otherwise, somebody might say something bad about me and change it,” he said. “And then I won’t be an art dealer and a philanthropist anymore.” 

Links of Interest:
"The Giveaway" by Alec Wilkinson
Mark Landis Documentary by Kristin Hohenadel
Mark Landis website
Art and Craft official site


Brian Ebie, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

"Songs My Mother Taught Me" by Antonin Dvorak Played on the Mormon Tabernacle Organ


Songs My Mother Taught Me


In this video Mormon Tabernacle Organist Richard Elliott performs his own setting of Antonin Dvorak's lovely "Songs My Mother Taught Me."  It is the fourth of seven songs in the Gypsy Songs cycle B. 104, Opus 55.

The flowing melody is rendered perfectly on the warm diapason solo and string chorus accompaniment of the Tabernacle's 206 rank Aeolian Skinner pipe organ.  From an episode of Music and the Spoken Word, Elliot arranged this piece and played it during the traditional organ solo spot on the broadcast.


A rough translation of the lyrics for Songs My Mother Taught Me are as follows:

Songs my mother taught me, In the days long vanished;
Seldom from her eyelids were the teardrops banished.
Now I teach my children, each melodious measure.
Oft the tears are flowing, oft they flow from my memory's treasure.


I hope you enjoy this wonderful video from Richard Elliott.

Happy Mother's Day!

UPDATE:  Rick played his arrangement again yesterday on the Music & the Spoken Word broadcast.  It was just a beautiful this time around.  I also played it at church yesterday and many people commented on how much they enjoyed hearing it... a simple, tasteful tribute to mothers.  As I've watched my wife teach our daughter little songs its made me remember back to my own mother and grandmother teaching me songs of all sorts.  I still have some of those music books and we use them now with our daughter.  Watching her sing these little melodies is amazing, and especially when thinking about her eventually passing them on to her family in the future as we did to her and as was done for us.  Music truly passes through time, generations, boundaries, cultures, and hearts.

I found an equally beautiful performance of the piece on YouTube, played by violinist Valeriy Sokolov and pianist Svetlana Kosenko this weekend.  I've always believed that good musicians take the time to listen to performances and learn from what others have done.  As I practiced up Rick's arrangement to play on Sunday, I listened to these two and gained an even better understanding of conveying the emotion in the musical line.

Here is the performance by violinist Valeriy Sokolov and pianist Svetlana Kosenko:

  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Flute and Organ Concert Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. Historic St. Joseph Parish Randolph, Ohio


Check out Brian Ebie's Blog Post on the Flute and Organ Concert at St Joseph Parish, Randolph, Ohio.

Organist Brian Ebie and Flutist Laura Ebie will present a concert of organ works and works for flute and organ to demonstrate the ongoing restoration of the 1904 Henry Pilcher's Sons tracker pipe organ.  This program is free and open to the public.  


Brian Ebie: Flute and Organ Concert Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. Historic St. Joseph Parish Randolph, Ohio



Flute and Organ Concert
Sunday, May 3, 2015 
at 3:00 p.m.

Historic St. Joseph Parish
2643 Waterloo Road, Mogadore, Ohio 44260

Organist BrianEbie along with Flutist Laura Ebie will present a concert for flute and organ at the beautiful St. Joseph Parish in Randolph, Ohio.

The historic sanctuary of St. Joseph houses a wonderful Henry Pilcher & Sons tracker-action pipe organ dating from 1904 and beautifully restored stained-glass windows.

Brian Ebie, a local pipe organ technician, has been restoring the pipe organ for the past year, bringing it back in to playable condition and tuning. The work is ongoing, however, we wanted to offer a springtime concert to allow everyone to hear the progress thus far. Church members have assisted Brian in various stages of the work, beginning with a work party to remove all of the pipes from the main chests of the organ for cleaning, dent removal, and minor voicing work for a handful of non-speaking pipes.
The program begins at 3:00 p.m. and will last just under an hour. Spend an afternoon with beautiful works for flute and organ and solo organ, in one of the most beautiful church buildings around, and enjoy the opportunity to hear the progress of the ongoing restoration on the 111 year old pipe organ.
The program will include works by Johann Sebastian Bach, John Stanley, Cécile Louise Stéphanie Chaminade, Jacques Berthier, Gaston Belier, and others. Selections from across a broad spectrum of classical, sacred, hymn tunes, and folk/celtic music will be performed.

Laura Ebie is a graduate of the University of Arizona and studied flute at Brigham Young University and the University of Arizona. She has performed with orchestras and ensembles throughout the United States, and has played in Carnegie Hall.


Brian Ebie has performed in Europe and the United States and has played the famous 206-rank Aeolian Skinner pipe organ at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also is a skilled pipe organ technician and maintains many instruments in northern Ohio.  


The program is free and open to the public.














Monday, March 30, 2015

Brian Ebie: On The Conduct of a Church Organ: Francis Hopkinson and Christ Church Philadelphia

Francis Hopkinson 1737-1791, Founding Father, Organ Critic
Francis Hopkinson (September 21, 1737 – May 9, 1791), delegate to the Continental Congress, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was also a writer of poetry, satirical works, and music. First Graduate of the College of Philadelphia, he had great experience as a writer in law offices and in all matters political--especially as they related to the Colonies' relationship with England. He was appointed as a federal judge by George Washington in 1790, subsequent to serving as a Judge of the Admiralty.  He also served as organist of Christ Church for an unknown tenure.

Something not as commonly known about Francis Hopkinson, and perhaps of interest to organists, was his interest in the comportment of the church organist and how the organ should be appropriately used in the church worship service (of the Colonial Episcopal church, at least). In his "A LETTER TO THE REV. DOCTOR WHITE, RECTOR OF CHRIST CHURCH AND ST. PETER'S ON THE CONDUCT OF A CHURCH ORGAN", Hopkinson delves into the appropriate use of the organ by making six rules, covering everything from the prelude to the postlude and the hymns in between.  Interestingly, however, the majority of his comments seem to be directed toward the organist and how he uses the instrument.

Click to go to Frances Hopkinson's complete letter.

Based upon his thesis that there is a distinct purpose for the organ in church--that of supporting singing and setting the appropriate mood for worship--he warns of the importance of keeping this purpose in mind lest the organ become a detraction to worship. Hopkinson wrote: "UNLESS the real design for which an organ is placed in a church be constantly kept in view, nothing is more likely to happen than an abuse of this noble instrument, so as to render it rather an obstruction to, than an assistant in, the good purpose for which the hearers have assembled."

Not much is known about the actual pipe organ in place when the letter was written, other than from historical documents suggesting it was the second organ in the building.  Originally installed in 1766, it had grown to about 1607 pipes (c. 28 ranks, assuming 56-note ranks common at the time).
The organ in Christ Church, Philadelphia. Photo from Zuspan Adventures Blog

Interestingly, the real focus of his letter seems more directed toward the conduct of the organist, rather than the organ.  Nearly all of his rules deal with the actual player or playing.
Rev. Dr. William White 1748-1836

Before we go further, a note about the Reverend Doctor White. The Most Reverend William White, D.D. (April 4, 1748 – July 17, 1836) is notable for his roles as the Chaplain of the Continental Congress, as Chaplain of the United States Senate, and as Rector of Christ Church and St. Peter's for some 57 years. White also served as first and fourth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in the United States.

So, what did one of the Founding Fathers have to say about pipe organs to one of the "founding clergymen?" A great deal, it turns out. One can only imagine what the good Reverend thought when he read Francis Hopkinson's preamble:

"GIVE me leave, sir, to suggest a few rules for the conduct of an organ in a place of worship, according to my ideas of propriety."

(every organist reading this just had an involuntary twitch, based upon past experiences with parishioners/music committees/pastors/.)


1. The role of the organist is to use the organ in the worship service as an enhancement and support to worship and not as an opportunity to play difficult or showy pieces of music. Here, Hopkinson suggested worship is not the appropriate venue for a display of the organist's skills:

1st. The organist should always keep in mind, that neither the time or place is suitable for exhibiting all his powers of execution; and that the congregation have not assembled to be entertained with his performance. The excellence of an organist consists in his making the instrument subservient and conducive to the purposes of devotion. None but a master can do this. An ordinary performer may play surprising tricks, and shew great dexterity in running through difficult passages, which he hath subdued by dint of previous labour and practice. But he must have judgement and taste who can call forth the powers of the instrument, and apply them with propriety and effect to the seriousness of the occasion.


2. The organist should use the prelude or voluntary to set the mood for worship. He can certainly use the opportunity to play difficult pieces, but should avoid extremes in volume and content. People have gathered to worship and Hopkinson believed that the organist should assist in that endeavor with appropriate music:

2nd. The voluntary, previous to reading the lessons, was probably designed to fill up a solemn pause in the service; during which, the clergyman takes a few minutes respite, in a duty too lengthy, perhaps, to be continued without fatigue, unless some intermission be allowed: there, the organ hath its part alone, and the organist an opportunity of shewing his power over the instrument. This, however, should be done with great discretion and dignity, avoiding every thing light and trivial; but rather endeavouring to compose the minds of the audience, and strengthen the tendency of the heart in those devout exercises, in which, it should be presumed, the congregation are now engaged. All sudden jirks, strong contrasts of piano and forte, rapid execution, and expressions of tumult, should be avoided. The voluntary should proceed with great chastity and decorum; the organist keeping in mind, that his hearers are now in the midst of divine service. The full organ should seldom be used on this occasion, nor should the voluntary last more than five minutes of time. Some relaxation, however, of this rule may be allowed, on festivals and grand occasions.

Click to go to Frances Hopkinson's complete letter.


3. With respect to the singing of liturgy, Hopkinson felt it was important that the organ support with solid harmony the chanted melodies, perhaps with a number of 8' and 4' stops.

3d. The chants form a pleasing and animating part of the service; but it should be considered, that they are not songs or tunes, but a species of recitative, which is no more than speaking musically. Therefore, as melody or song is out of the question, it is necessary that the harmony should be complete, otherwise chanting, with all the voices in unison, is too light and thin for the solemnity of the occasion. There should at least be half a dozen voices in the organ gallery to fill the harmony with bass and treble parts, and give a dignity to the performance. Melody may be frivolous; harmony, never.

4. What Hopkinson referred to in Rule 4 as a "prelude which the organ plays immediately after the Psalm is given out" I shall refer to as what today would be the "introduction." Here, he felt that the organist should focus on ensuring the clear presentation of the melody to be sung. He lamented a "famous organist" who, through his improvisations, obscured the melody so that it was unrecognizable until the cantor would sing through the first line.

4th. The prelude which the organ plays immediately after the psalm is given out, was intended to advertise the congregation of the psalm tune which is going to be sung; but some famous organist, in order to shew how much he could make of a little, has introduced the custom of running so many divisions upon the simple melody of a psalm tune, that the original purpose of this prelude is now totally defeated, and the tune so disguised by the fantastical flourishes of the dexterous performer, that not an individual in the congregation can possibly guess the tune intended, until the clerk has sung through the first line of the psalm. And it is constantly observable, that the full congregation never join in the psalm before the second or third line, for want of that information which the organ should have given. The tune should be distinctly given out by the instrument, with only a few chaste and expressive decorations, such as none but a master can give.

5. In his most detailed rule, Hopkinson took on the issue of interludes between verses. He felt that the interlude should be in the spirit of the hymn or psalm in terms of both character and key. He cites the verses of Psalm 33 and laments the fact that despite it being a joyful text, he has heard an organist play an interlude on quiet ranks, and even in a minor key.  The interlude should be equal in character to the text.

5th. The interludes between the verses of the psalm were designed to give the singers a little pause, not only to take breath, but also an opportunity for a short retrospect of the words they have sung, in which the organ ought to assist their reflections. For this purpose the organist should be previously informed by the clerk of the verses to be sung, that he may modulate his interludes according to the subject.
TO place this in a strong point of view, no stronger, however, than what I have too frequently observed to happen; suppose the congregation to have sung the first verse of the 33rd psalm.

"Let all the just to God with joy
Their chearful voices raise;
For well the righteous it becomes
To sing glad songs of praise."

How dissonant would it be for the organist to play a pathetic interlude in a flat third, with the slender and distant tones of the echo organ, or the deep and smothered sounds of a single diapason stop?

Or suppose again, that the words sung have been the 6th verse of the 6th psalm.

"Quite tired with pain, with groaning faint,
No hope of ease I see,
The night, that quiets common griefs
Is spent in tears by me"—

How monstrously absurd would it be to hear these words of distress succeeded by an interlude selected from the fag end of some thundering figure on a full organ, and spun out to a most unreasonable length? Or, what is still worse, by some trivial melody with a rhythm so strongly marked, as to set all the congregation to beating time with their feet or heads? Even those who may be impressed with the feelings such words should occasion, or in the least disposed for melancholy, must be shocked at so gross in impropriety.

THE interludes should not be continued above 16 bars in triple, or ten or twelve bars in common time, and should always be adapted to the verse sung: and herein the organist hath a fine opportunity of shewing his sensibility, and displaying his taste and skill.

6.  As we conclude Hopkinson's narrative on the use of the organ in the colonial Episcopal church service, it is perhaps no surprise that his final rule references the "voluntary after service" or what we might modernly call the postlude.  Here, he feels that it is important to insure that the postlude is in keeping with the spirit of the sermon, and not exceptionally contrasting in character such as a playing a spirited D major toccata following a Maundy Thursday service.  It is important that the final voluntary does not distract the worshiper from thinking on the topic of the sermon and lessons.

6th. The voluntary after service was never intended to eradicate every serious idea which the sermon may have inculcated. It should rather be expressive of that chearful satisfaction which a good heart feels under the sense of a duty performed. It should bear, if possible, some analogy with the discourse delivered from the pulpit; at least, it should not be totally dissonant from it. If the preacher has had for his subject, penitence for sin, the frailty and uncertainty of human life, or the evils incident to mortality, the voluntary may be somewhat more chearful than the tenor of such a sermon might in strictness suggest; but by no means so full and free as a discourse on praise, thanksgiving, and joy, would authorize.
Conclusion

What can the modern organist take away from this unique historical perspective?  I believe there are three overarching points to consider:

1.  The organist must always be aware of his or her congregation, being sensitive to the congregation's need for accessibility in the music they hear.  The worship experience is enhanced greatly by the music component.  Remember that even St. Augustine was conflicted over enjoying the music more than the sermon during Mass.  With that in mind, while the Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité of Messiaen may have sounded fantastic on your senior organ recital, it may be a bit much for the typical church-goer.  This is not to say that we "dumb down" the musical selections, but rather to remain aware that now and then we need to remember who fills the offering plates.

2.  Practice to become an excellent hymn and service music player.  Not a hymn improviser, but rather, an organist who solidly supports hymn singing in both playing and registration.  Sometimes the hymns are the last thing the organist practices, if he or she even practices them at all.  Spend the necessary time to be confident.  Many experienced, pro organists will agree that the hymntunes Lasst Uns Erfreuen, and Union Seminary can throw a curve in the middle of the service.

3.  Finally, the organist should be sensitive to the immediate needs of the service in which he or she is playing.  Wherever possible, try to program music choices that compliment the service, sermon topic, liturgical calendar, and so forth.