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First-time Hymn Players Survival Guide.


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#31 stopperman

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 01:00

QUOTE(Barry Thain @ Oct 26 2007, 07:02 PM) View Post

Hi Stopperman

When the RSI remits you might want to say a few more words on the subject of the playover (which lines to play, strictness of tempo &c.)

Best wishes

barry


Hi, Barry,
Let me get this straight. You want me to walk out into a minefield, blindfolded, under fire, all the while being pelted with rocks from my own side, to mark out a fixed route that everyone can follow along safely. eek.gif

Do the faqs contain the Rules of Engagement?

And I thought this was such a friendly place .

Note to moderators - Help! Barry wants me dead, is this allowed wthin the forum charter? dry.gif

I did once push a toe out into this particular pirhana pool on another forum, years ago. We had to rename the thread "World War Three" The subject of tempo was OK., Whatever you refer to as '&c' was probably OK., But the question of where to stop a playover, had the nuclear weapon launch codes dusted off and ready for keying in. argh.gif

I'll think about it................. and I'll be watching you..........very, very carefully.

Kindest regards, and good to 'meet' you. ... no really, I mean it!

Chris B


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#32 Barry Thain

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 12:21

Hi Chris

I wish you no ill, honest smile.gif I guess your previous foray must either have been into a forum for organists or steam engine enthusiasts.

If I've understood correctly, however, the thrust of this thread is not 'how to be an organist' but 'how to play hymns when you are not an orgnanist'.

Had it been the former then you might have said 'Play the first two lines in strict tempo so the congregation knows what they have to sing at the beginning and are confident about the speed,' and yes, you might have got some argument.

But in the spirit of this thread I'd have thought 'Forget whatever it is you might think you are supposed to do and, instead, ask the regulars what they are used to' would be appropriate and non-controversial.

Best wishes

barry


QUOTE(stopperman @ Oct 27 2007, 02:00 AM) View Post


Hi, Barry,
Let me get this straight. You want me to walk out into a minefield, blindfolded, under fire, all the while being pelted with rocks from my own side, to mark out a fixed route that everyone can follow along safely. eek.gif



Chris B


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#33 stopperman

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 13:42

RE;- Playovers

I'd have thought 'Forget whatever it is you might think you are supposed to do and, instead, ask the regulars what they are used to' would be appropriate and non-controversial.

barry
[color=#3333FF]

Hi Barry,
I think that is an excellent way of handling the issue.

Those of us who are more experienced, handle playovers pretty much automatically, forgetting just how dreadfully exposing those few moments are for the novice.

I've now reduced my precautions to just a quick check all round for snipers.

Best etc.,

Chris B





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#34 mel2

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 12:26

Re; Playovers.

Wasn't sure what was meant by this at first and then came all those allusions to violence.

What's the problem? In 12 years playing hymns I've generally played the 1st 2 lines at the speed I intend to maintain and the congregation then join in at their own pace. We manage to sort out a compromise by the end of the 1st verse!

It must be a man thing. rolleyes.gif

Mel.
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#35 Keith the 'wannabe organist'

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 15:01

We usually play the first 2 lines of the hymn too, occasionally the last two, depending which sounds better (Tell Out My Soul for instance sounds good playing the last couple of lines to have the pedal note bringing everyone in)

Occassionally we like to confuse the conductor though and carry on playing past the second line biggrin.gif we can be cruel laugh.gif

Great thread though, I am enjoying it thouroughly. Thankfully I was eased into playing services more gently than this.

Keet
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#36 fsharpminor

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Posted 29 October 2007 - 15:13

Hi, Chris the Stopperman !
I was away all weekend so only just read your stories. Great stuff. You really BOMBARDE 'd us with a MIXTURE of all things.
I too have passed 60 last March so if youre in the Old Fogey league, then so am I! biggrin.gif
Like you I have had a non musical career, but music has always played a big part in my life. What could be better.
Anyway welcome to the forums. To get three pages of replies so quickly is brilliant (But of course length of posts helps !)
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#37 stopperman

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 01:50

Hi all,
Last week, Barry suggested that I say something about playovers, so here goes - though I would be grateful if the old hands on the forum would chip in and add their wisdom to this.

Here's some bits and pieces to kick off -

As a newcomer to the art, Always plan and practise your playover as a distinct item. Never assume that having practised the hymn, the playover will just naturally occur when needed. Mark up your copy if necessary.

Any rule of playover stands to be utterly defeated by most Contemporary Church Music.

There is no 'trick' to setting a tempo - whatever you settle on, informed by your practising, will be accepted by most of the congregation, whether you and they are known to each other or not. A few may come up afterwards and say you were too fast, some might say you were too slow, and a gent wearing a military blazer will say you played the wrong tune anyway. If there's a choir, much theatrical brow mopping will tell you it was a mite brisk, whilst the basses, all leaning on each other, pointedly snoring, suggests that it could have been a tad quicker.

So, how would you set a tempo for your first excursion?. Honestly, there is no substitute for singing out loud to yourself while practising. You need to know where people are going to breathe, you need to experience for yourself any particularly important punctuations, any syllables outside the metre, will the anacrucis leave you playing 2,3,4,1, to a bar? ( not in your head, it won't, or on the piano, but you might be doing it on the organ. We'll come back to this.)

It's a curious thing, but nearly all trad. hymns are sung to pretty much the same tempo. Differences are related to particular organist/building/congregation combinations, rather than the hymns themselves. If you want a general-purpose tempo to start you off, as I think I mentioned in an earlier post, imagine a Sally Ann band playing Onward Christian Soldiers. Get your toe tapping to this and you won't go far wrong. Ignore any words, and just think of it as a metronome 1/1 beat, (otherwise a hymn in triple is going to take on a fairly novel rhythm).
Watch out for very 'wordy' hymns - lots of little black notes instead of nice, comfy, big white jobs. If you find that singing to yourself has mutated into a sort of incomprehensible, quick-fire ululation, you might want to come back on the revs a bit.
Conversely, if you're breathing at every bar line, either speed it up a bit...... or give up the fags.

When you arrive in church for your maiden voyage, nerves almost certainly will act upon you as high-octane fuel. Your carefully considered tempo, perfected in practise, is going to transform into a breathless dash around the keys which speedwise,exceeds anything of which you thought you were capable. You probably will need consciously to settle yourself, remember how you practised, the thinking that you employed to set the tempo, and generally to 'take a deep breath' before starting.

I think I have now bored you sufficiently about playover tempo, and I really do urge others to come in with their thoughts on this topic. thoughts of 'too much information' may occur, but frankly, somebody who is prepared to learn a wholly unique and specialised keyboard skill, put themselves publicly on the line in uncomfortable circumstances, and not fall into a heap if things go a bit awry : this sort of person will have the simple nous to sort out the bits that have meaning for them. So pile it in.

What segment will you use for your playover?

I guess that around 70+% of trad. hymns are amenable to the first two lines being used, as most arrive back at the chord of the tonic, or one of the inversions. So that's about 800 hymns sorted.! Is it?..... if you have available to you a copy of "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty..." - tune 'Lobe Den Herren", have a quick look at it. One of the all time greats, in just about every hymn book ever published. Play the first two lines of this and the situation becomes farcical. Even playing just the first line still leaves you playing an identical 6 bar phrase three times in succession, once on your own, then twice more with the people tagging along. It's certainly been done enough times, but lacks a bit in the elegance stakes, don't you think?
Playing the last two lines, as can be done with a great many hymns? Doesn't really feel quite right. And the last line alone ? to me it hasn't got the power of the hymn in it.
As it happens, I *do* use the first line as the playover. But instead of giving the last bar its three beats, I give it a good four and a half or five, lift off , wait long enough to think "Why me O Lord? whilst yanking out something really noisy to add into the stop selection. And then crash into an unmistakable sing start.
The point to be avoided is :- making the three identical six-bar phrases sound as if the needle's got stuck.
Be sure the congregation know that you have come to the end of the playover and it's time to stop checking their text messages.
This hymn is a gift to the organist from Saint Cacophonous of Fortissimo. You get to use lots of your big pipes, things that go bang, and all of your whistles. Enjoy.

As said above, someone who learns a musical instrument, an unfamiliar brand of music, and, finds their way to church after a Saturday night they can't remember, will have enough brain stuff to sort out a sensible playover. Just be sure to plan it, practise it, and stick to it.................unless you change your mind at the last moment, of course ..................... .

Just a little note about maintaining tempo. If there is a choir, you'll likely have no problem, they'll carry you along, which as a novice, may well suit you down to the ground. If however it's just you and the congregation, then the whole responsibility for tempo is yours. It is however commonplace for there to be some spectacularly tuneless, decibel enhanced, bod out there who 'takes charge' of all things vocal. Any tempo you set will be altered by this character, because s/he has to be able to say afterwards in't pub that s/he "kept the organist in line". The vocal quality of this character may put thoughts of iron foundries and light-aircraft engines into your mind, but you still have to make a decision.

Are you secure enough to force the tempo to your reckoning of where it should be?

Will you go along with the foghorn out there, 'cos you hope never to set foot in the place again, and let's just get this over with as conflict-free as possible?

Enter - Soddes Law. The noise you likened to cat-strangling in a dustbin factory, actually emanates from a sweet old lady, albeit of generous proportions, who wants only to be your best friend. Realising that she is out of time with you, she benevolently adjusts tempo to where you are....... or rather , to where you *were*. This occurs exactly at the moment when you decided to surrender, and adjust to where she is.... or rather... etc., etc., etc.. The ensuing see-sawing of tempos, whilst vastly entertaining to the interested observer, will reduce your composure to that of a gastro- enteritis sufferer with a sneezing fit.

Great heavens !! is that the time?

Must go,

Chris B

ps. nearly forgot.... The anacrucis thing. You have to seperate it from the first beat of the complete bar of course. Dead easy on a piano, even if the anniecrunchie wotsit is a full beat, you can still smack in the first down beat with serious intent, and it plainly will be what it's supposed to be.
On the organ, which fails utterly to acknowledge any increase in key pressure, no matter how big and strong you are, you need another method to indicate that the first bar is only a little thing with not much in it. Commonly, we shorten the orphan beat/s a bit. (actual staccato is not quite appropriate), and a brief lift-off before coming back onto the down beat, and then away you go.
Sorry, that was a bit tortuous wasn't it. I'm sure someone else will put it better. Nighty-night.


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#38 Dulciana

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 02:04

QUOTE(stopperman @ Oct 30 2007, 01:50 AM) View Post

The ensuing see-sawing of tempos, whilst vastly entertaining to the interested observer, will reduce your composure to that of a gastro- enteritis sufferer with a sneezing fit.



I liked that bit. laugh.gif

One thing that really makes me want to throw something at the organist if I'm in the congregation is this hanging onto the first note of the hymn for what is sometimes an age - i.e. after the playover - the first note that they actually sing. Okay, he's waiting for everybody to catch on to the fact that 'we've started now', but in reality it means that most people only come in about halfway through the first line because they're scared to be first off the blocks. I can listen to duff notes, organ too loud, whatever, but this one really makes me want to scream.
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#39 stopperman

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 08:24

From Dulciana

One thing that really makes me want to throw something at the organist if I'm in the congregation is this hanging onto the first note of the hymn for what is sometimes an age - i.e. after the playover - the first note that they actually sing. Okay, he's waiting for everybody to catch on to the fact that 'we've started now', but in reality it means that most people only come in about halfway through the first line because they're scared to be first off the blocks. I can listen to duff notes, organ too loud, whatever, but this one really makes me want to scream.

Hi Dulciana, I am surprised that you come across this 'gathering note' still. It has been very much out of favour for a generation or more now. Good thing too, I'm entirely with you.

Best wishes

Chris B
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#40 guilmant

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 09:38

QUOTE(stopperman @ Oct 30 2007, 08:24 AM) View Post

From Dulciana

One thing that really makes me want to throw something at the organist if I'm in the congregation is this hanging onto the first note of the hymn for what is sometimes an age - i.e. after the playover - the first note that they actually sing. Okay, he's waiting for everybody to catch on to the fact that 'we've started now', but in reality it means that most people only come in about halfway through the first line because they're scared to be first off the blocks. I can listen to duff notes, organ too loud, whatever, but this one really makes me want to scream.

Hi Dulciana, I am surprised that you come across this 'gathering note' still. It has been very much out of favour for a generation or more now. Good thing too, I'm entirely with you.

Best wishes

Chris B

Sadly, the practice still continues, mainly in the non-conformist circles. I used to play at an evangelical church in the evening and an anglican one in the morning as a school boy and had to remember which was which when it came to hymns.

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#41 Guest: mrbouffant_*

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 10:30

QUOTE(guilmant @ Oct 30 2007, 09:38 AM) View Post

QUOTE(stopperman @ Oct 30 2007, 08:24 AM) View Post

From Dulciana

One thing that really makes me want to throw something at the organist if I'm in the congregation is this hanging onto the first note of the hymn for what is sometimes an age - i.e. after the playover - the first note that they actually sing. Okay, he's waiting for everybody to catch on to the fact that 'we've started now', but in reality it means that most people only come in about halfway through the first line because they're scared to be first off the blocks. I can listen to duff notes, organ too loud, whatever, but this one really makes me want to scream.

Hi Dulciana, I am surprised that you come across this 'gathering note' still. It has been very much out of favour for a generation or more now. Good thing too, I'm entirely with you.

Best wishes

Chris B

Sadly, the practice still continues, mainly in the non-conformist circles. I used to play at an evangelical church in the evening and an anglican one in the morning as a school boy and had to remember which was which when it came to hymns.

Sometimes it is necessary because of local conditions. If you are a relief organist and that is how they do it, there's no point ploughing on in strict time after the first note - it just gets embarrassing. At my current parish there was a sense of that when I started but we have all got used to each other after seven years so now the faithful gallop along with me and my rather keen tempi! I normally get someone moaning to me after I've been away that the relief organist (of which there are a few we use) was too ponderous!! biggrin.gif
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#42 jod

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 11:12

When I have a congregation that won't sing to my tempo, all thoughts of subtle musical registration go out of my mind. Its a case of "right whats the loudest sound I can make from this beastie that sounds vaguely musical" I then stick to my guns and by verse three they've got it.

Just venturing into the position of using the pedals for the final verse. I normally play manuals only.
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#43 sbhoa

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 12:44

QUOTE(mrbouffant @ Oct 30 2007, 10:30 AM) View Post

QUOTE(guilmant @ Oct 30 2007, 09:38 AM) View Post

QUOTE(stopperman @ Oct 30 2007, 08:24 AM) View Post

From Dulciana

One thing that really makes me want to throw something at the organist if I'm in the congregation is this hanging onto the first note of the hymn for what is sometimes an age - i.e. after the playover - the first note that they actually sing. Okay, he's waiting for everybody to catch on to the fact that 'we've started now', but in reality it means that most people only come in about halfway through the first line because they're scared to be first off the blocks. I can listen to duff notes, organ too loud, whatever, but this one really makes me want to scream.

Hi Dulciana, I am surprised that you come across this 'gathering note' still. It has been very much out of favour for a generation or more now. Good thing too, I'm entirely with you.

Best wishes

Chris B

Sadly, the practice still continues, mainly in the non-conformist circles. I used to play at an evangelical church in the evening and an anglican one in the morning as a school boy and had to remember which was which when it came to hymns.

Sometimes it is necessary because of local conditions. If you are a relief organist and that is how they do it, there's no point ploughing on in strict time after the first note - it just gets embarrassing. At my current parish there was a sense of that when I started but we have all got used to each other after seven years so now the faithful gallop along with me and my rather keen tempi! I normally get someone moaning to me after I've been away that the relief organist (of which there are a few we use) was too ponderous!! biggrin.gif



They catch on quickly enough.
The organist locally I would most like to do damage to is the one who doesn't quite use a gathering note but has a habit of playing the first melody note then starting. Often he does this every verse! blink.gif
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#44 stopperman

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 13:17

From Jod,

[i]When I have a congregation that won't sing to my tempo, all thoughts of subtle musical registration go out of my mind. Its a case of "right whats the loudest sound I can make from this beastie that sounds vaguely musical" I then stick to my guns and by verse three they've got it.[/i]

Organistic artillery... love it!!! smile.gif

Thoughts of "Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild" - with 'Full Swell to Reeds, coupled through Great Diapasons 16,8,4,&2 plus Trumpet, Mixtures, and any stray mutations, all to Pedals with Contra Tombone 32, and Ophiclede 16. If you need a bit more for the last verse, you could fetch the Tuba Magna down from the Solo Division........ ohmy.gif


Just venturing into the position of using the pedals for the final verse. I normally play manuals only.

Very best of luck with your forays into the pedal division. It really is the most fantastic thrill when it starts to come right.

Best wishes,

Chris B
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#45 Barry Thain

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 13:45

Dear Chris

I cannot begin to tell you how much I am looking forward to your First-time Psalm Players Survival Guide smile.gif

Best wishes

barry
[retreats to bunker]
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