Organ as separate voice....
  • The rubrics say that the organ may be used in Lent if it is truly necessary to support the faithful. This got me to thinking: if Lent allows the organ to be used only in a necessity (which may be a wide loophole, but let that pass), does this mean that during most of the year the Organ has its own voice? That is, rather than doubling the melody of the chant ordinary, can the organ play a distinct part?

    I've been thinking about this in part because I know that there is a wealth of accompaniments which double the voices, and drag the left hand and feet along, but I don't know any which treat the organ as if it has its own voice.

    Here's an analogy: in a German parish, organ is not necessary to support the singers because, well, they're Germans. Accompanying hymns sung in 4 parts makes sense if the organist is playing the same notes which the singers are singing, but (in the fashion of what is called an "Anglican Organist") if the last verse is sung in unison the organist is free to play something of her own?
  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 243
    I saw a video recently of someone accompanying chanted vespers and playing countermelodies on top of the simple chant tones... that is another example of what you are speaking of... so... i think the answer is.. simply.. YES lol
    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    This has been done fairly often with organ (rather than string ensemble) accompaniment. No doubling of voices in the chorale melody here!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jskK0evQuCI
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    I once read that it was common in female monasteries to use an organ to play the vocal parts that women couldn’t sing (t/b). They apparently treated it as a vocal substitute. (And only played the missing parts, supplying the other voices themselves.)
  • we do it here at our monastery sometimes.
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  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,002
    Don't forget that there is also the alternatim tradition where alternate verses are "sung upon the organ", as one Ceremoniale put it (I think Sarum, but don't quote me).

    So something like:
    Kyrie I: chant
    Kyrie II: organ
    Kyrie III: chant
    Christe I: organ
    Christe II: chant
    Christe III: organ
    Kyrie IV: chant
    Kyrie V: organ
    Kyrie VI: chant

    There is also this classic alternatim performance of the Te Deum from Notre Dame in Paris with Cochereau as organist: https://youtu.be/ohDqL6pjpjY
  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 243
    French tradition for sure ! @salieri

    think: de Grigny
  • There is also this classic alternatim performance of the Te Deum from Notre Dame in Paris with Cochereau as organist

    Or the amazing Victimae Paschali Laudes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlSK8vn55ZA
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,978
    At St Denys the organ would get to sing in Greek.
    https://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2019/10/the-greek-mass-of-st-denys-of-paris.html#.YmnHctPMLIU
    Including at the elevation
    566 x 528 - 89K
  • While not about accompaniment per se, Msgr. Wadsworth wrote a really lovely essay on "The Organ as Liturgical Commentator"—a sort of adjunct to your question—in our Tournemire book.
  • Jenny,

    I have printed the file you posted here, and shall enjoy reading it.
    THANK YOU for such a timely and helpful addition to this thread.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • I don't remember where I read this (probably in a liturgical journal) but,
    1) I was surprised to read that alternatim survived throughout the XIXth century, and that
    2) it had been forbidden by an early XXth century pope - its survival at Notre Dame notwithstanding.
    Can someone shed some light on this?
    I only wonder why every organ verse is played with a plenum.
    They had it right in the XVIIth century, from Titelouze to de Grigny.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • davido
    Posts: 608
    I believe the Rite of Paris (and perhaps other French diocesan rites) specified the alternatim practice in the rubrics. As these rites were replaced in France by the Roman Rite in the second half of the 19th century (part of the ultramontane struggles between France and Rome in the lead up to Vatican I), so the alternatim practice began to disappear in France.
    Although as recordings prove, it never completely disappeared.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    I believe it was Widor who railled against the suppression of Gallican chant. I wonder if the issues with alternatum played a role in that.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,839
    it had been forbidden by an early XXth century pope - its survival at Notre Dame notwithstanding.
    Can someone shed some light on this?

    St. Pope Pius X, Tra le sollecitudine, III, 8:
    "As the texts that may be rendered in music,and the order in which they are to be rendered, are determined for every liturgical function, it is not lawful to confuse this order or to change the prescribed texts for others selected at will, or to omit them either entirely or even in part, unless when the rubrics allow that some versicles of the texts be supplied by the organ, while these versicles are simply recited in choir."
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    Interesting to read that alternatum would have technically still been permitted then.
  • Indeed!
  • This is from a biographical sketch of Titelouze which I no longer have -
    It was stipulated that in alternatim times that between stanzas or verses the organ verse should be preceded by someone reading aloud the text that was about to be played by the organ. This sounds horrible, insensitive, and lacking of any aesthetical feeling; and, I think, is not something that we would like to repeat in our 'authentic performances of today?
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,978
    unless when the rubrics allow that some versicles of the texts be supplied by the organ,
    Can I take it that after Pius X had Solesmes organise all the music there was no such rubric still in operation?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    correct me if i am wrong... we seem to be digging here to elevate the organ to the level of the human voice..? IMVHO, I don't think that is possible... the human voice is a mystical operation by the soul unto which it is joined... it is entirely unique to that soul, and it was made for the praise of the Almighty... the organ, although it is wonderful, cannot approach the level of the human voice as it is not attached to a soul. (just a reflection off the top of my head)
  • Francis,

    I can't speak for others about "elevat[ing] the organ to the level of the human voice". I'm just trying to find how the Organ can be reduced except if necessary to support voices without assuming that it does more than that usually.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    CGZ,

    I believe the organ can be utilized to support the voice much more than what many do at the present time. If the organ is used judiciously (less is more), than it can help support voices in a way that truly highlights the human voice. In a way, the organ is the 'John the Baptist' (a voice crying out in the wilderness?) of sacred music, and the human voice is the 'Jesus' (the Body of Christ) of sacred music. just an observation...
  • That's a valid, sensible point of view, Francis. I find that, in keeping with the admission of polyphony, I'm tempted to let the organ and the voice play polyphonically with each other. What I don't (yet) have is an accompaniment which respects this idea.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    CGZ

    What accompaniment are you hoping to find?
  • I'm hoping to find something which treats the organ not as the back-up voice to Gladys Knight, and not as some sort of bagpipe drone. I'll have a go at writing something, and send along whatever I've got, to try to illustrate the point.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 419
    CGZ

    Here is a lovely piece which seems to do just that: The souls of the righteous, by Geraint Lewis. The organ essentially is in dialogue with the choir; they only sound together at a few points.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3qOnTQJYsU

    On a bigger scale I think of the big Masses of Vierne and Widor; of course the choir organ does the usual job, but the grand-orgue does its own thing for a good portion of them.

    I'm just trying to find how the Organ can be reduced except if necessary to support voices without assuming that it does more than that usually.


    This to me has always seemed to be a simple recognition of what [competent] organists have been doing for a millenium now: A) accompanying the singers,and B) playing preludes and postludes and improvising throughout the Mass, in whatever way the applicable rubrics permit. B) has to go away in times of penance, but A) is allowed if the choir is not very good, is how I understand it.
    Thanked by 1Richard Mix
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,612
    The organ can cover a multitude of choral sins and inadequacies. Personal experience here.