During this time of Lent, music that is of a meditative, more serene quality is always appropriate. During communion this evening, I found myself without a theme. When that happens, I often like using three note motives to get things started. What unfolds is a process by which the three notes expands until, in this case, it becomes a canon. In retrospect, I should have gone elsewhere for the ending. I will freely admit that I went for the obvious and easy ending. But hey, who’s keeping track! All in all, a very stark, simple, but perhaps elegant little improvisation to accompany the procession.
Happy Valentines Day! Or rather, the last weekend before Lent begins. In most Christian rituals and services, that means the end of singing and saying Alleluia until Easter comes. So, I often like to brandish an alleluia of some kind as a last hurrah. This particular morning, it’s about -2 here in Pittsburgh and that meant a very light attendance of church goers. Put those together and I did something a little wilder than the usual fare I improvise. I have to admit, it’s always nice to cut loose once in a while.
Happy New Year! As belated as that is, here is another improvisation in a very Duruflé manner. I sometimes wonder why these end up being the ones I record, but such it is. I’ve been trying to get one of my contrapuntal improvs, but I often forget to turn the camera on. Not that I’m complaining; this one is pretty cool. One of these days, there will be a solid FUGUE. Enough complaining though because this improv has all the elements that make improvs great. There are some clear moments that show my multiple endings having to be extended. There is also something very satisfying about the scherzo/adagio contrast that Duruflé often uses to elicit a mood that fits so well to liturgy. It is the sum total of the elements that I enjoy – particularly watching the spontaneous change of registration as the improvisation necessitates.
PS: The text of the chant is “‘Follow me, I will make you fishers of men.'” Where upon they, leaving their nets and their boat, followed the Lord.” Dare I say that this improv was affected by my experiences growing up and fishing in Alaska? Fishing, for me, is a very peaceful act of communing with God and nature. I hope that comes across – enjoy!
Happy Advent and shortly Merry Christmas! Today’s improvisation comes from the 4th Sunday in Advent with a very particular chant for this week. The Rorate caeli comes from the Book of Isaiah 45:8. “Let justice descend, you heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the clouds drop it down.” It’s a wonderful chant and is always a treat to improvise on such a great theme.
PS: I decided to add this comment: I REALLY WISH I had recorded the prelude. I did this totally radical fugue on Veni, Veni Emmanuel; or O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I don’t like to admit that I did a better improv earlier, but I really did. You should have been there; stretto and all. I’ll leave it at that, since that happens to my brain A LOT. Some improvisation that I post is not NEARLY as good as something I did earlier.
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!