Shop talk or actually shop ramble a la jupe

 

I have been easing up on the demands I make of myself as an organist for a while. When I was sick, I was dragging myself over to church to continue learning upcoming music. ¬†I found that when added to the rest of my duties (choir director, meeting attender, de facto liturgy guy, and numerous other activities) that it might be good to schedule some easy music for awhile. Also during Lent there is no prelude this year because we are beginning with a little chant we sing over and over until the procession begins. The prelude seemed redundant. As I said to the skeptical person in the choir Sunday, “a preparation for the preparation.”

Anyhoo, this ended yesterday when I chose music for this Sunday and the next. Just the postludes.

We are closing this Sunday with a Lenten hymn, “The glory of these forty days.” It’s sung to a tune that has been around for awhile that is called Erhalt uns in German. This is the beginning of the text sometimes sung to it in the Germanic tradition.

Tunes in the North German tradition were far from uniform in their renditions in the 17th and 18th century. There were many different versions of hymnals floating around, usually without music. So which tunes were sung where becomes a point of contention.

This matters because of the many pieces composers like Bach and Walther and others based on hymn tunes.

The use of music based on hymn tunes has been useful to me. Much of my working church musician life I worked for the Roman Catholics who were trying to jump start a congregational singing practice after centuries of passivity. So organ music based on tunes made a lot of sense to reinforce the learning of melodies. This was especially true because most priests disdained the use of an entire hymn, preferring to truncate it to two stanzas.

I am convinced that the use of many stanzas of hymns in church communities also reinforces the melody in the communal mind of the congregation.

I can remember sitting on a panel in a local American Guild of Organists meeting where I was the only one on the panel that was strongly advocating the using of chorale preludes. The local mucky mucks (who are the high priests and priestesses of the reformed tradition) resisted with a smirk.

Nevertheless I think it’s pretty cool to use music based on the tunes in the organ music.

So I scheduled a little piece by Walther for this Sunday.

Walther actually uses a form of the melody which resembles the closing hymn. I have been known to alter pieces so that the listener who has just sung a melody would better recognize the piece as based on the same melody.

Whippy skippy, eh?

But I’m now committed to some practice for the postlude a week from Sunday. It’s the final movement of Sonata V by Felix Mendelssohn. I sort of fell in love with it yesterday.

Many organists (including my teacher at Notre Dame) don’t seem very enthusiastic about Mendelssohn’s organ music. This would be okay, except that I see and hear them play music more insipid stuff (to my ears) and then call it wonderful (“GLORious” is the working term I believe).

Yesterday I decided to give in and face the fact that I like Mendelssohn. I hear his music not as the product of a weak kneed romantic who is from suspect origin (Jewish ferchrissake), but as the product of a careful and classically trained mind.

I am convinced that his less than stellar reputation among academics is sorely tainted by antisemitism. Which always strikes me as almost funny since Mendelssohn was not only baptized as a child as a Lutheran but displayed a deep love of the style of the Lutheran chorale.

 

He even made them up so convincingly that more than one academic career has been wasted trying to find actual melodies that match Mendelssohn’s.

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C. Everett Koop, Forceful Surgeon General, Dies at 96 – NYTimes.com

I remember this guy vividly. He did some good and lived a long life.

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Devoted to Weight Watchers, but Workers Rebel Against Low Wages – NYTimes.com

The tupperware model of business doesn’t always work out for the sales people I guess.

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Yahoo Orders Home Workers Back to the Office – NYTimes.com

I learned a lot about how some businesses are allowing working away from an office in this article. It looks like Yahoo has handled this poorly. Not sure why they went so extreme. It seems like a case by case basis would have been more judicious and effective.

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In India, Missing School to Work in the Mine – NYTimes.com

Corruption at its finest. Note that the mine the reporter visits is owned by an unnamed government official. Ahem.

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Sequester Impact On States Detailed In New White House Reports

If you’re curious about what the government is actually saying about the upcoming cuts, this article has some information and links.

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