Welcome to the first release in the 2018 Choral Accompaniment series. In this first tutorial we’ve chosen the rousing favourite, “O Thou the Central Orb” by Charles Wood.
For our 2018 tutorial series we’re concentrating on the organ as a means of choral accompaniment. Church choral music was chosen to illustrate the accompaniment of various parts of the liturgy and to highlight some well-known anthems. The setting for these recordings, St Mary’s, Chalgrove, is a beautiful medieval church stunningly restored in 2015.
You can find out more about the choir, the organist, the church and the other five videos in our introduction to the Choral Organ Accompaniment Series.
“O Thou the Central Orb” – Charles Wood
Like his near contemporary Stanford, Charles Wood hailed from the island of Ireland, and succeeded the former as Professor of Music at Cambridge University in the last few years of his life, after Stanford died in 1924. Wood had been in the first cohort of students of composition at the Royal College of Music, and is principally known for his Anglican church music, most of which was written in the later part of his life.
“O Thou the Central Orb” was composed in 1915 to words by H.R. Bramley. It exemplifies Wood’s skill at putting together satisfying anthems with robust organ accompaniments that epitomize the Edwardian English style.
In his recent book “O Sing Unto the Lord”, Andrew Gant speaks of Wood’s anthems as making “the archetypal noise of Anglicanism”. He rather amusingly refers to this anthem in particular as the ultimate all-purpose English anthem, “equally suitable for every occasion from a wet Thursday to a Diamond Jubilee, and every Sunday-after-something in between. It sounds good, and the words don’t mean anything at all. Perfect.”
Choral Music with Organ Accompaniment
The organ gets its chances to shine in the introduction, and in various linking passages. As Jonathan Kingston explains in his introduction to this recording, “This anthem is something of a mini masterpiece, offering a great deal of scope for contrast and tonal change.
Organ accompanists would do well to plan registration changes in advance and to facilitate them by plenty of swell pedal shade, observing how best to support the variety of choral textures and reserving the grander combinations of the instrument to the build up within the concluding bars. This is a moment where the whole ensemble of the swell division may be used, making prominent use of the double reed at 16 foot pitch alongside the mixture, which are the two necessary ingredients when linking to the pomp and dignity of the romantic English choral tradition.”
Watch the video of Charles Wood’s “O Thou the Central Orb” below. This is played by Jonathan Kingston on a custom built Envoy 23-S, which is a very popular church organ.