EXTEMPORE PLAYING - online tutorial

40 Lessons in how to correctly play improvisations.

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The Organist's Work
109
service of praise, in which the words contain the message for the worshipper. A well-written hymn is a complete work of art, in which the verses follow one another in logical sequence. Almost any popular hymn may be taken to illustrate thisó"Lead, kindly Light," "Nearer, my God, to Thee," "At the name of Jesus." Anyone valuing these as poems, and thinking of the words, will receive an unpleasant shock to find the first verse suddenly reintroduced after the whole has been finished. The effect of the poetry is spoilt, a work of art is marred. Here the extempore player will find his opportunity. It is desired to prolong the time occupied by the singing. He may then insert interludes between some or all of the verses. These should be in similar style to the preludes and postludes already played. They should not be played too softly, and they should end with a semicadence, usually on the dominant, to prepare for the entry of the singers. In cases where the choir is efficient and thoroughly knows the organist's ways, a fine effect can be obtained by the entry of the voices without any break, the signal for this being given by a pause on a semicadence, in one of many possible ways.
(4) The 'playing over' of a chant is even more tedious and objectionable than that of a hymn, and it has the added disadvantage of giving the singers a false idea as to the correct method of chanting. For the player will be sure to play the first chord as a semibreve, or whole note, whereas, though written to look like one, it should never be so treated by the qualified singer.*
To illustrate, take Purcell's well-known chant in G. Here are the vocal parts:
*See "The Choirtrainer's Art," G. Schirmer, p. 124.
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