After several posts of compositions, I figure it’s time to return to an improvisation. And today’s improvisation is a simple, loud, exciting postlude. Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, based on a German chorale, which is based on the Te Deum Latin hymn, is a standard of congregational repertoire. Ending the liturgy in this fashion is always fun since my church knows it very well and offers me an opportunity to followup with an equally (hopefully) thrilling postlude. There’s not much more to say, since it is fairly short, and that’s that!
Today, I am pleased to bring you a NON-ORGAN or CHORAL related composition. Neat! Or at least that’s what I think. I haven’t had too many opportunities to write for instruments other than choir or the organ, but last spring I did. A harpist at Duquesne University, whom I approached with some questions about writing for harp, said that she was always looking for more chamber music for harp. I asked her what kind of chamber music and this is how the piece was born. What I can say is that more is coming: I’m turning the work into a three movement Suite which means that the rest of it will show up sometime in the spring. Enjoy!
Here are two pieces from my Organbook; the first is the Toccata (Hommage á Muffat) in C major and the other is the Toccata. Interestingly, these are the only two pieces in the Organbook to share the title “Toccata.” The first is modeled on the ancient Toccatas of Muffat or really any of the early masters in the 17th century. It’s sectional, contains moments of counterpoint, flourishes at the keyboard, and an excited triple meter ending. The second Toccata, on the other hand, is more in the French Romantic vein, though for manuals. Really, the piece almost feels like an introduction and that there is pedal melody about to join the toccata in the hands. Enjoy the two pieces back to back!
Today I present a piece from my work titled “Organbook.” The Organbook was created in the manner that many other keyboard composers have done, namely, 24 pieces in the 24 keys. The other guideline I gave to myself was keeping the work for manuals. Honestly, writing that many pieces and keeping them all unique and different from the rest was a challenge. “Fanfare,” presented here and performed by Carson Cooman, is written in the second mode of limited transposition, also known as the octatonic scale. I often think as a teacher and many of the pieces present some sort of compositional idea. It’s short, but it makes its point.
Not that I like to admit things like this, I tried using a similar motivic idea as the last post for today’s post. While there are certainly common elements, I like how the pieces in this improvisation unfolds differently, like a small variation on a theme. Being in a different mode (mixolydian) too, it certainly sounds a little more Duruflé-ish. I promise, soon, that I will post a non-communion improvisation!
I’m really happy with this one! There’s a moment at the end where I tack an extra coda, but it worked out well. Especially since I changed the tonality of the chant from phrygian to Major (much like Bach did for O Sacred Head). What I particularly like about this improv is that it bridges the aspects of the Psalm 89 (88) which reads:
My faithfulness and mercy will be with him;
through my name his horn will be exalted.
I wasn’t particularly ‘horning’ a theme, but the rather adding another layer. That’s what the swell with the celeste and viole do. Add to that the particular chant mode and I think it turns into something profound. Or at least, I like to think it does. Enjoy!
Today’s improvisation, from earlier this afternoon, is based on the chant for Communion with a text from Matthew 13:45 and 46. Simply put, the verses describe the kingdom as a pearl of great price. I was trying to capture those two particular images, the Kingdom of God and a pearl, juxtaposed by earth. It’s always fun to try and capture an idea and put it into musical form. One quick note about the improvisation: I wasn’t expecting things to go on longer and there’s a point where you can tell that I just said to myself, “Well, I gotta keep things going!” Those moments are always fun moments to have.