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.
Much of the study of improvisation follows a simple idea: imitate the masters. Today’s improvisation is an attempt at an improvisation like a Vierne Scherzo. I like the use of scherzos and other fast paced pieces during communion processions because I don’t think of them as always being reflective; but more often, they should be joyous, maybe even in a rambunctious way. It’s a solid improvisation, though I certainly could have use another 5 minutes to the paltry 2 or so that I had, thus the abrupt ending. Though,when one is given lemons, make lemon pie (that’s what my Mom says after all!).
UPDATE: I just realized that this post is identical to another post recently. I have no idea how they got mixed up, but I like this improvisation, so I’m happy to share it twice!
On the same day as my last post, my church choir had spent much time learning something that I consider a little more difficult than my average piece. Originally, Panis Quem Ego was written for the Duquesne organ department choir for one of the chapel Masses that we do. I didn’t record the original performance, but the piece is a little more tricky than what my choir is use to. But they learned it well and sang it well.
There is one mistake (well, there are several, but I’m only going to point out one). At the end of the piece, the word “vita” is sung. One of my sopranos accidentally added an “s” to the end of it. There are a few other blurbs, but I really like this piece and this recoding is pretty solid otherwise. Someone once pointed out the Duruflé influence; I will ALWAYS take that as a compliment. In the realm of mistakes one can make on a Sunday, this is not the worst, so I present to you a piece well sung, but not perfect.
I cut loose a little today. There is sometimes (or self imposed, as is my case) difference between concert improvisations and liturgical improvisations. Generally speaking, I reserve more traditional forms and styles for the liturgy, but today I went for a slightly freeform postlude based on the chant Lauda Zion. It was the last Sunday the choir sang and I figured it was time for a bang. A small bang at least.
I can certainly go more tonally crazy than this, but this is a liturgical improv on Pittsburgh’s South Side. One doesn’t need to go full France-1960 and I’ll leave it at that. There’s a bit of noise in the background, but hey, it is a postlude. Enjoy!