Without further ado, here are the third and fourth Miniatures. Miniature III (Scherzoso) is actually a second version, not the original that I had composed. Every once in a while, I will finish a piece and play it later and have a strong feeling that the piece doesn’t work. That happened in this piece. Usually, this will happen in the compositional process and figure out a new path or start over. I stuck with the Scherzoso subtitle and this much better piece was produced.
The second piece, Miniature IV (Andante Cromatica: Hommage á Louis Vierne), was built from ideas in Miniature II; namely the chromatic movement in the intermittent chordal sections. I think the Vierne reference is subtly in Miniature II, but Miniature IV waves that reference proudly. The 24 Pieces in Free Style (24 Pièces en style libre) have been an obvious influence for me – I even have my own Organbook with pieces in the 24 keys. There are a few hommages there as well, but not one to Vierne. It was time to do so!
I had been hoping to produce the Miniatures about once a week, but the start of the school year has made that a little trickier than I expected. That is a great excuse to present something from the CD that my church choir recorded a few years ago, namely a lengthy improvisation. If any of the other improvisations are an indication, I am rarely afforded the opportunity to improvise at length during the liturgies due to the relative shortness of the offertories and communions. (I suppose I could go longer with the Prelude or Postlude, but most often forget to record those.) Here, on a CD, I was able to spend the “right” amount of time to flesh out my ideas. I also wore my French influences on my sleave more than usual – Alain, Duruflé, Langlais, and Messiaen. Perhaps, one of these days, I’ll record an improvisation outside of the liturgy to express some of the other ideas I like exploring that are less appropriate to the liturgical setting. I have been spending a lot of time studying the spectral movement and that certainly has influenced my improvisations and compositions. In the mean time, enjoy, and happy Labor Day Weekend!
PS: I recommend headphones for this one – it’s a relatively quiet improvisation.
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.