Here is the next Miniature, number II, titled Lament. Unlike the Organbook, the other set of mostly manual piece and is a collection of individual pieces, I imagine the Miniatures ultimately as a suite of pieces that could be performed together. I have on occasion combined movements from the Organbook, but the Miniatures have an arch. As it unfolds over the next weeks, the arch will become much more apparent. Don’t forget to download the score at the bottom of the Works page!
Below is a short new work and quite enjoyable. Every once in a while, I am asked to write some simple pieces for (mostly) manuals and this is the first in a series of Miniatures in that vein. This one, subtitled Offertoire, is a fairly flexible piece. I play it pretty quickly in this particular recording, but it works at a slower tempo as well. Click over to “Works” and scroll to the bottom to get the free PDF.
Today, here in Pittsburgh, it’s been rather stormy. The Monastery that I work at sits on the top of the South Side Slopes where you could really feel the rattling of the thunder. In my improvisation, I decided to include some rattling thunder myself just in case the storm decided to incorporate itself into the Communion procession. Fortunately (or not?), no thunder sounded during the procession and this is the result. Enjoy!
This past week here in Pittsburgh was the American Guild of Organists, Mid-Atlantic Regional Convention. Whew! A lot of words there. As I was and am a part of the steering committee, I have had my hands ties up with many things not organ-improvising related. BUT, one of our local members, as a part of promoting the event, has gone around and visited many churches and recorded their instruments. I was featured recently and I improvised on the tune HYFRYDOL, something well known that I could throw easily into a prelude/fugue/toccata; something typically flashy and French. Enjoy!
(PS: In my most French manner, I am wearing street shoes and they make a cameo!)
I had the privilege to be a part of the First Readings Project in Minneapolis, MN. For the 2014-2015 Season, they were looking for women’s chorus works in particular. On my colleague’s encouragement, Zvonimir Nagy, I wrote a new piece for this particular event (though there is another choir interested). I had never written for women’s chorus before and it was quite fun to work with that particular scoring.
The text to Ave Maris Stella has always fascinated me. The early Christian church used many nautical images and this text is no exception; Mary is the star that leads. There is a “star” in the piece, but it’s not so much thematic as aesthetic. To keep the piece in the time limit, I had to choose my verses, leaving several of the middle verses out. I think the text still makes sense in the order in the piece. Here is the text:
Hail, star of the sea,
Nurturing Mother of God,
And ever Virgin
Happy gate of Heaven.
Receiving that “Ave”
From the mouth of Gabriel,
Establish us in peace,
Transforming the name of “Eva”
Bestow a pure life,
Prepare a safe way:
That seeing Jesus,
We may ever rejoice.
Praise be to God the Father,
To the Most High Christ (be) glory,
To the Holy Spirit
Be honor, to the Three equally. Amen.
*There’s an error in the video: it should say Minneapolis, MN, not Minnesota, MN.
As I with most communion improvisations I post, and I do post quite a few, this one never climaxes or gets particularly big and ends rather abruptly. Normally I opt not to post improvisations that don’t have an arc I like, but everything else is really tight and concise. (The presider moved a little more quickly than I expected at the end.) I did record the postlude for the day, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as the communion improvisation.
Whenever a composer discusses their own work, it can be quite treacherous. I only say that because I have had some really bad (and I really mean stupid) experiences with composers talking about themselves. Can I really be objective? Of course not. So, I’ll be honest. And this is how the story goes:
I wanted to introduce my Monastery choir to Maurice Duruflé’s works, particularly his Ubi Caritas. With that in mind, I made a rather feeble attempt to arrange it for my choir. Since that didn’t work, why not imitate Duruflé? Why not do my best impression? That turned into what was the first verse of the Ubi Caritas which is very doable by most choirs.
But then, asked by others, what about the other verses? Is there a way to create a version of the Ubi Caritas that includes all verses and is still singable? In my compositional process, I decided that it would be much more important that the text be strictly understood. That meant, if there is to be any drama in the work, it must not come necessarily from the text, but the build up of tension through modulation. I love the idea of using other aspects of music to create the anticipation of something to come, until the very end, when the Amen coda is strongly modal.
I try to give small insights into my own compositional process and this piece is interesting for me in that I went back and changed it. The choir that sang was a make-shift group that did really well with the short amount of practice. THAT FACT is a sign of how truly accessible the piece is for average choral groups when a professional group can nearly sight sing it.