beginner organ music?
  • I was wondering if anyone could give me some titles of organ music or books of organ music that is for church and also a bit easier, for more of novices on the organ. Most of Bach is just too difficult for me. I've noticed that i like some stuff of Samuel Scheidt. Does anyone know of a book of his music, or other organ music along the lines of that level of difficulty? And does anyone know more about the Mulliner Book? is it all keyboard/organ music? where can you get it?
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    There is an excellent volume published by Edition Peters called "80 Chorale Predules: German Masters of the 17th and 18th Centuries." Composers include Pachelbel, Scheidt, Buxtehude, Walther and others, and many of the hymn tunes are familiar from their English version. A good jumping off point for the works of these composers.

    Not really what you asked about, but here's some easy chant-based music:

    Charles Callahan has "Chant based hymns for manuals" that are easy, but not as interesting as his "Chant I" and "Chant II" volumes, which employ minimal pedal. He also has "Communion music for manuals" which is an easy sight-read when you're in a pinch.

    Dom Gregory Murray, "Interludes" based on Gregorian modes, and some of them on actual tunes, also ped. ad libitum. These are found in the collection "148 Interludes for organ" published by Kevin Mayhew, Ltd.

    Flor Peeters "60 Pieces" and "35 Minatures and other pieces for organ,": both for manuals and pedal ad libitum, largely based on chant modes. "Manuale," for manuals only.

    Gerald Near, St. Augustine's Organbook. Chant-based pieces that often find their way onto the AGO service playing exams repertoire.

    Charles Tournemire, "L'orgue mystique," short pieces in all keys based on Gregorian modes.

    Also worth a mention:

    Leon Boellmann "Heures mystiques," volumes 1 and 2. For harmonium, but perhaps more interesting on organ than Franck's "L'organiste"
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    Dover Publications has a significant organ section in their music catalog, reprints of good editions that are now public domain, and combining high quality paper and binding with extremely modest pricing. Dover's editions of Sweelink and Pachelbel organ works are useful to all organists, whilst particularly suited to beginners as much of this is for manuals only.
  • hi Kimberly,

    I agree about the Dover scores, but you'll have to look through them to see what would be good for you to play, since not all of them are easy - but not all of them are difficult. I definitely like the Dover scores of Pachelbel, and the other baroque composers (there aren't that many, though ...)

    What part(s) of the Mass would you be playing organ music for?

    I believe E. Power Biggs made a collection that would be worth finding:
    Manuals Only: A Collection of Short Preludes and Postudes for Organ Without Pedals

    It's out of print, but here's the Amazon listing for it:
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Oh, I can't believe I'm taking the bait...

    I don't believe there is any liturgical directive in force that prohibits music, or even texts (provided they are not contrary to Catholic theology or doctrine), composed by Protestants or for the Lutheran church (though I can think of some that explicitly welcome it). Please correct me if I am wrong! I agree that chorale hymns should not replace chant and polyphony, and that generic texts (no matter how "sacred") are not to replace the propers. But I can't see anything wrong with playing Bach's "Christ lag in Todesbanden," based on the chant , as a voluntary on Easter.
  • Jscola30
    Posts: 116
    And how about In Dulci Jubilo (pre-reformation right?)
  • Jscola30
    Posts: 116
    And plus too, I mean as an organist too who is just beggining, those composers are staples of rep.
  • Chris
    Posts: 80
    A large number of Dupre's 79 Chorale's are also accessable and appropriate at different times throughout the year. Didn't Dupre write them as a sort of warm-up for the Orgelbuchlein?

    Also, OUP has a music for manuals only series which includes Scheidt, Walter, Zachau, and others from the period. I think it's called something like Seasonal Music for Manuals. It's all very accessible music.
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    With all respect, I would have to disagree with the idea of banning Bach from the Catholic organ loft. The proscription of the sacred organ music of the instrument's greatest composer simply because he was Lutheran indicative of anything but a catholic outlook.
  • You can take the bait if you want, but I won't apologize.

    but don't get me wrong:


    but that doesn't mean I'll want to do any of his music in a Catholic Mass.

    It's just a personal/aesthetic preference ... just like how certain people prefer unaccompanied chant instead of accompanied chant, right?

    Why should I like doing Protestant music in a Catholic Mass?

    It's a pointless discussion.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,345
    Bach would have been a Catholic if us humans didn't mess things up! Imagine the Masses we would have had!
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    Well, Jeffrey, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. However, I am thankful that Bach didn't feel the same way, and for his part chose to welcome Catholic melodies and musical forms into his Lutheran world. We are all the richer for it.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    A musician of Lutheria came to write music.
    Jesus said to him,
    “Give me a hymn.”
    His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
    The Lutheran composer said to him,
    “How can you, a Catholic, ask me, a Lutheran musician, for a hymn?”
    —For Catholics use nothing in common with Lutherans.—
    Jesus answered and said to him,
    “If you knew the gift of God
    and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a hymn,'
    you would have asked him
    and he would have given you living music.”
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    IIRC, no one after the 19th century has suggested that Lutheran (or any other traditional protestant music) should not be used in Mass. I read a biography of Widor which stated he pioneered playing Bach for Mass. Should we also ban Dupre's chorales since they used Lutheran tunes? Reger? Let's not forget - if you sing Tallis, some of it MIGHT have been sung in an Anglican service! Away to the SSPX with that attitude!

    Back on topic, how about the ol' "Red Book"? That has a good amount of simple repertoire in increasing difficulty.
  • For you, an organist looking for easy music, I'd jump in here and suggest:

    The Organists' Manual: Technical Studies and Selected Compositions for the Organ (ISBN: 0393954617)

    Available used from used, often for around $55.oo

    Starting with very easy pieces for manuals, it then moves on to using pedals and finally ends up with works of Bach. Excellent music for Mass. It is a red book.

    In addition you get a dictionary of organ stops, notes on organ deisgn and history but most of all, a lot of good music. Please write and let us know if you get and find it useful..

    noel at
  • Not to take the bait, either, but....

    Does an organist have the right to keep music that he or she finds of great value from a congregation because of their faith?

    noel at
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I don't think the Dupre chorales are intended for liturgical use, or msot of them at least. Not because of the tunes used, but because they were composed as exercises. They are often too short to be useful as a prelude or offertory. And while they are well worth the effort for developing organ technique, you don't get a whole lot of bang for your buck in the sense that you could play something much easier that would probably sound better to the listener. His Eight Short Preludes on Gregorian Themes are mostly easier with a bigger payoff, and have the bonus of being based on chant. The "Pange lingua," for instance can probably be read at sight one one manual (as written), but for the more advanced player it can also be played as a trio with three different flute stops, which produces a wonderful effect in the right acoustic.
  • Why am I being scrutinized for preferring to do authentic Catholic music for a Catholic Mass?

    Marty Haugen isn't Catholic, but he actually composed Catholic music, but a lot of people don't prefer his music, either.

    I also don't play Dupré, so I don't have to worry about that.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Not to get too off-topic here, but I would crticize anyone for NOT playing Bach, or for not playing anything else. I would actually be interested to hear what you DO play. When I was at Sacre Coeur last month, all the organ music was based on the chant. I certainly didn't miss having a Bach fugue played at the end, and I don't think anyone here is scrutinizing your personal preference. The objection was to your statement, to my knowledge entirely unfounded, that Lutheran music isn't suitable for church and therefore OTHER people shouldn't play it.
  • With limited use of the organ in the time of Lent, I improvise normally on the Communio that Mary Weaver, a member of our choeur and Harmonia Vocal Quartet and a poster to this forum, has sung. She passes the score to me when she finishes, I improvise.

    However, yesterday our choeur sang O Taste and See by Vaughan Williams to emphasize the words of the Gospel. The evening before I download some music to study from teh Ambrosian school of chant. As I was glancing at it during the homily I suddenly realized it was Gustate et Videte.

    Gustate et Videte...from the time I worked in Italy I knew that videte had to be 'see' as in Italian...Gustatory...taste...and we were preparing to sing Gustate et Videte quoniam suavis est Dominus. Beatus vir qui sperat in eo...but in English.

    So I improvised on that...well, no one in the church had any idea what I was it was no big deal and I was just getting a swelled head for figuring that all out.

    No. This wednesday evening the choir will learn to sing the Ambrosian chant in Latin and English, and then introduce it to the congregation as a Communion song...with the singing psalm verses appropriate to the season.

    Now, do you wonder why the church has decided to put a copier in the choir loft for our always legal distribution of music? Keeps me out the office!

    Our organists are under strict instructions to always choose upcoming new music for the congregation as music when the offertory or less often, the communion music be extended. While it keeps them from hearing organ literature, it does teach them music without them realizing it.

    noel at
  • incantu, I play Bach, but not in a Catholic Mass.

    I never said that "people shouldn't play Lutheran music". I only said that I think that it's "too Lutheran" for a Catholic Mass, and that doing Protestant music is odd. Again, this is personal preference, and we're all entitled to voice our opinions.

    Maybe I'm the only one, but I actually consider what the music was originally intended for.

    For example: "Let There Be Peace on Earth" is a "hymn" in many Catholic hymnals. Was it originally intended as a Catholic hymn? No, it wasn't. A hymn is a song of praise. "Let There Be Peace on Earth" was intended to be "... about their wish for world peace and what they believed each person could do to create it". Is that a song of praise? No, it isn't.

    Now it's way off topic.
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    "Maybe I'm the only one, but I actually consider what the music was originally intended for."

    Jeffrey, the organ itself (in the form of the hydraulis) was originally intended to provide dinner music for lions dining upon Christians in the Roman arena. If anything, its use in the present-day baseball stadium is truer to its original intention than its use in the Church. Someone in the Church in the Middle Ages eventually had to decide that, despite its pagan origins, its sound added something valuable to the Liturgy.

    I am not attacking your opinions. Nor does it seem that anyone here is trying to say that you are required to play Bach at Mass. Regard it as a sign of collegial respect that people here care about what you are saying. Where would you draw the line? How many centuries have to pass before music from a given source can be considered integral to the Sacred Liturgy?

    Since this is clearly off-topic, maybe someone should post it as a separate topic - it would be very interesting to pursue.
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    I'm just not getting the anti-Bach thing. There is much of his music that doesn't have any connections to Lutheran chorales--it's just transcendent music. Moreover, some of the chorales are based on chant melodies (Christ lag in Todesbanden based on Victimae Paschali, Komm, Heiliger Geist based on Veni Creator). It just seems hateful to me not to play his music when so many esteemed Catholic organists (from the pre-VII era) played his music at Mass without hesitation.
  • Yeah, different topic.
  • I love the music of Antonio de Cabezón. He composed authentic Catholic organ music which isn't difficult to play.

    Check out his tientos.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    On the other hand...

    OCP has a three volume "Organ Anthology" that contains two volumes of chant-based music, modal interludes, and some hymn-based pieces. The third volume, however, is made up of "chorale preludes" based on G&P type music (I think "Eagles Wings" or "Be Not Afraid" might be in there...). I would personally (repeat, personally) object to these pieces being played at Mass on the basis that the music is in the style of popular song, and not based on a musical style that was essentially sacred; however, it would still be difficult to argue that this music is prohibited. I do wonder, though, why an organist capable of playing some of these pieces (and there are other similar collections out there) would not choose to play something, well, better.
  • We can agree that a sonata or symphony by a Catholic is no more Catholic than a sonata by a non-Catholic, but you wouldn't play a symphony in church, so the faith involved would be irrelevant.

    Apples and oranges.
  • and please don't get me wrong.

    I play Bach, and I love all of his music that I have ever heard, but I don't need to play it at Mass.
  • Anyone who knows me, knows that I just LUVS to be baited!

    Now, let's just get this whole "Bach doesn't belong in the Catholic Mass" issue settled. . . Like it or not, a great deal of the melodies upon which Lutheran chorales are based are derived from Catholic chant. Believe it or don't.

    "But David Andrew, But David Andrew" you say (to borrow a "Fr. Z"-ism), "Lutheran theology is heretical!"

    OK. Before you dismiss David Andrew as a crackpot, take a look at the cantus firmus of the first Kyrie from Clavierubung III, and tell me that it's NOT the Kyrie from Missa Cunctipotens genitor Deus.. Don't bother. I'll tell you it is, and I guarantee it, because it was part of my Masters degree thesis recital.

    Luther was a fallen Catholic priest. Simply because he threw over orthodox theology doesn't mean he entirely gave up everything having to do with the Catholic church. Much of the music of the Lutheran church has its roots in Catholic chant, and many of the beloved hoary chestnut hymns of Catholicism have roots in Lutheran (yes, I said it) chorales and hymnody, including "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" (which is based on the tune "Grosser Gott" or "Lobe den Herren," I forget which). Do YOU want to be the first one to pull this from the repertoire of Catholic benediction hymnody because of it's Lutheran pedigree?

    So, don't be so quick to chuck your Reimenscheider edition of Das Orgelbuchlein into the dustbin too quickly. You don't know what you might be missing!

    Oh, and, I've been to a few Masses at St. Agnes, St. Paul MN, and their organists regularly play Bach, Pachelbel, Buxtehude, and the list of German (Lutherans) goes on. You wanna tell them they're violating the rules of the game?

    (By the way, Incantu, I play Dupre's setting of "In dulci jubilo" every Christmas at the Midnight Mass. I believe it was the only one of the 79 he actually played in recital himself, as he loved it so much.)
  • Jscola30
    Posts: 116
    Holy God is Grosser Got, but I was under the impression this hymn was composed in Austria in the 1700s, found in the Katholicshes Gesangbuch.
  • Jscola30
    Posts: 116
    The Consolier Classics series by WLP, some of the pieces in there are really easy.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I could see someone objecting to "Es ist das heil" which is basically a statement of the Lutheran doctrine of Sola Fide. Or MAYBE (maybe) even "Schmucke Dich". But insofar as Luther got "Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland" right, what's so bad about it? It seems to me that Catholic theology, as I understand it, is not a theology of exclusion but rather inclusion. That is to say, others get things right insofar as they copied them from us. If Nicholai got "Wie schoen Leuchet" right, or at least the 3 verses out of 7 in your hymnal, in what way is it not Catholic? Because the author was not Catholic? I reject that. I reject that as theologically unsound. On that basis we ought to be burning our Graduales because all they contain is psalm verses and those were written by a JEW! No, Catholicism, ISTM, is about using that which is true, no matter the source. "Not by human flesh or blood but the spirit of our God was the Word of God made Flesh, Mary's offspring pure and fresh". Were any truer words ever spoken, Catholic or otherwise? Jeff, the problem with your stance is that at SOME point you'd better bring your books to church with a doctrinal checklist for each and every composer. Make sure they are 100% correct on every Catholic doctrine (and never voted for a Democrat!) or else don't play them. All the sexually deviant composers alone would leave you without any organ music written before the advent of equal tuning! Otherwise you're just unfairly singling out the Lutherans (or Anglicans) for exclusion.
  • *rolls eyes*

    If you want to discuss Martin Luther, Democrats, and sexual deviants, then maybe someone should start a new topic, because it's totally inappropriate to keep it going here.
  • G
    Posts: 1,396
    I thought I had recommended, but it must have been on another thread, Benoit's 50 (?) Elevations.
    There is some lovely, easy (I should know, I am a lousy organist,) Frescobaldi, but I can't tell you the titles or the book in which it is contained just now as it's over in the loft and we're snowed in.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • On second thought, I'll recommend Zipoli's Organ Works, which include a Communion, Offertory, Elevation, and Versets.

    It requires minimal pedal for some pieces (literally, a couple of long notes), and I wasn't sure if the organ you play has pedals ... so I was hesitant to recommend it, but I do think that it would be an excellent way to get started on pedals.
  • Jscola,

    You're correct. Should have checked my information first. It just seems that there's a fair few Protestant/Lutheran tunes that have made their way into the Catholic repertoire. I'll not comment on texts.

    Jeffrey Coggins,

    Please, get ahold of yourself. I am not interested in entering into a conversation about "Martin Luther, Democrats, or sexual deviants," and I don't think that was the point Gavin was trying to make either.

    You raised the issue of Bach's music and its appropriateness; any comments directed to that issue certainly are OT, and in that regard are fair game.

    I was merely mentioning that much of the music, that is, the notes on the page, as adapted and composed by J.S. Bach are actually based on Gregorian melodies, as were many of the chorale tunes. Of course, this doesn't take into account the many wonderful non-cantus firmus-based works of Bach (toccatas, preludes, fugues, trio sonatas, ciaconne, etc.) which can and I believe should be presented to the culture-starved ears of the PIPs.

    I agree with Gavin's albeit pointed remarks, and wonder, what makes the Elevations of Benoit any more appropriate than the music of Bach, but for the fact that they're based on the church modes, and Benoit used them during the Elevations after the Santus and Benedictus? If you're talking about "intentionality" of the composer, it's a slippery slope. What makes the tientos of Cabezon any more appropriate for that matter? To my knowledge, they aren't based on anything intrinsically authentically "Catholic" (appropos of your comment, above: "I love the music of Antonio de Cabezón. He composed authentic Catholic organ music which isn't difficult to play. Check out his tientos.") The tiento is nothing more than a Spanish version of the toccata and ricercare (or ciaconne), compositional forms popular in North Germany and Italy. Versets (French, Italian, Spanish) are very often based on secular song styles, and with limited exception bear little or no association with the chants they were meant to alternate with. So far as I can tell, absent a cantus firmus or words, a compositional form (fugue, toccata, ricercare, tiento, etc.,) can hardly be held to present any characteristic that would qualify it as "authentically" Catholic or any other denomination or theology for that matter.
  • Jscola30
    Posts: 116
    As a matter of fact, theres a (quite good) cd from Gothic called Catholic Heritage, a cd of chant based organ music. A good chunk of them are Bach's, pieces David has mentioned above.
  • I thought this discussion was about "beginner organ music".

    I'll just keep my "off the cuff" remarks to myself.

    Some people definitely take themselves way too seriously.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 752

    If you make a limiting statement about use of a particular kind of music in or during the liturgy, and then attempt to limit discussion of your statement ... well, you might just expect a response!
  • (A person on this thread had regrets about some of his comments and the direction they took the discussion, so I've taken an unusual step of deleting those comments at his request, as well as aspects of the thread that referred to them. To those who commented thoughtfully or otherwise, please accept my apology. This is a rare occurrence, as everyone knows. Sometimes this medium can take some getting used to and emotions can lead us to say things we regret. Again, my apologies to all.)
  • Thank you all for the suggestions! Now I am overwhelmed with options! I've been copying everything into a file on my computer and will have to figure out what I want to buy to start with once I'm not loaded down with college work, which thankfully, I will be done with in May :-)