Welcome to the first of five videos in our Organ Registration Tutorial Series for 2019! In this first tutorial we’ve chosen to discuss two contrasting chorale preludes by J. S. Bach – Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639) and the Trio on Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (BWV 655).
In this tutorial series Francis Rumsey and Jonathan Kingston discuss and demonstrate approaches to registration for distinctive genres and styles of organ music.
The aim is to give you some ideas about stop combinations that might be appropriate, and tips about handling some of the organ management challenges. As will always be the case, the final decision about what to do is always down to the individual player, and while there are almost no unbreakable rules there are certainly performance traditions to be taken into account, boundaries of “good taste”, things that really don’t work, and (more rarely) specific directions by the composer.
Overview of the Organ Registration Tutorial Series
We’ve chosen five topics to discuss in this year’s series.
- The first video below looks at registering Bach’s chorale preludes, using two contrasting trio examples.
- The second considers how to deal with the different sections of a big North German school work in the stylus phantasticus.
- During the third, Francis and Jonathan discuss examples of how to handle a perennial challenge in organ performance—that of rendering extended crescendo and decrescendo passages while minimising obvious steps in loudness and timbre. That’s done with the aid of a Psalm Prelude by Herbert Howells.
- Our fourth tutorial spends time with Franck’s Chorale in A minor, considering how to register the different sections of this well-known work for authentic effect.
- Finally, the fifth tutorial takes you on a tour of some widely used hymn tunes. A number of our viewers have requested more information about dealing with hymn accompaniment, so we’ve encouraged Jonathan to impart his wisdom on things like play overs, word painting and last verses.
Bach’s Chorale Preludes
For the first tutorial in this year’s series, we’ve chosen to discuss two contrasting chorale preludes by J. S. Bach.
The first, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639) will be well-known to many, and is the only trio in Bach’s Orgelbuchlein (“Little Organ Book”). It’s clearly marked for two manuals and pedals, as are one or two of the others in the collection, implying a separate registration for the melody and accompaniment.
Jonathan and Francis discuss alternative tone colours for the solo and accompaniment lines to ensure that the melody is suitably distinctive, and not overwhelmed by the accompaniment.
The Trio on Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (BWV 655), on the other hand, is from a collection sometimes known as “The Eighteen” or Leipzig chorale preludes. It feels a bit more like a trio sonata than a chorale prelude to begin with, with the pedal part taking an integral bass accompaniment role. Like Ich ruf zu dir this one’s also indicated for two manuals and pedals, but here both manuals are playing bright semiquaver figurations derived from the chorale, and overlapping a lot in pitch. Neither hand has a solo chorale melody.
For the last third of the piece, though, the pedal line switches to take on a more traditional role, sounding the chorale melody almost verbatim. The challenge for Jonathan is how to find complementary registrations for the two manuals, and what to do with the pedal registration in the light of that line’s changing role in the music.
Recording the video series at St Mary’s in Witney
We recorded our 2019 tutorials in the beautiful chancel of St Mary’s, Witney, home to a Regent Classic custom-built organ. In this series Jonathan plays a Viscount Regent 356 instrument, which is based on the company’s renowned and sonically convincing Physis technology. 56 stops are disposed over three manuals and pedals, enabling the authentic performance of a very wide range of organ literature.
The organ was voiced specifically for the permanent installation in this building, taking into account the church’s acoustics and the need to support both liturgical accompaniment and the performance of an eclectic repertoire.
Follow the Organ Registration Series on YouTube
Latest posts by David Mason (see all)
- Introduction to Choir Master Hymn Player - 25/04/2019
- Welsh Church Organ Pilgrimage: Part One - 18/04/2019
- Supporting Diocese of Leeds Organists Training Programme - 10/04/2019