For our 2018 tutorial series we’re concentrating on the organ as a means of choral accompaniment. Accompanying a choir requires that the instrument supports boldly in a limited number of places, but recedes at many other times to allow the vocal parts to come through. It is also heard in solo role joining choral sections together or providing an introduction that sets the tone for what is to follow.
In this series church choral music was chosen to illustrate the accompaniment of various parts of the liturgy and to highlight some well-known anthems. Many of the pieces will be within the range of typical church choirs. Listening to these performances you can hear how well just four professional singers — Emily Armour, Elspeth Marrow, Joseph Thompson and Jack Lawrence-Jones — bring these pieces alive.
The setting for these recordings, St Mary’s, Chalgrove, is a beautiful medieval church stunningly restored in 2015. Music will no doubt have long been an important part of the worship in what was a very wealthy parish. You can find out more about the singers, the series and the recording sessions involved in our earlier “Tutorial Videos 2018 – Behind the Scenes” post.
Psalm 20, to a chant by Gerald Knight
Our fourth release for 2018 is a setting of Psalm 20, to an Anglican chant by Gerald Knight.
Anglican chant is one of the glories of choral services in cathedrals, and in parish churches with a strong choral tradition. Done well it is sublime, but done badly it can be dire. It is an excellent test of the organist as accompanist, providing opportunities for subtle variations on the basic chant while remaining “underneath” the choir at almost all times.
Psalm 20 is one of those psalms of David written “for the director of music” or “for the choirmaster”. Goodness knows what trials and tribulations David thought the director of music must have been undergoing—perhaps he had been told he needed a church faculty for adding some lights to his music desk, or had just been asked to play “Shine Jesus Shine”—but we start with “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary, and grant you support from Zion.” Later we get “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed”, so get your choir to sing this and perhaps that new organ might not be so far off after all.
Gerald Knight (1908–1979), who wrote the chant, was organist at Canterbury Cathedral from 1937 to 1952, having been educated at Truro Cathedral School and Peterhouse, Cambridge. (Read the full story of the recent Regent Classic installation of a temporary organ at Canterbury Cathedral.) Gerald Knight also directed the Royal School of Church Music for a long period, from 1954–1973, after it moved to Addington Palace (which had been the former country seat of the Archbishops of Canterbury).
Advice on playing this tune
This delightful chant in A flat major lends itself to a range of possibilities in the organ accompaniment. As Jonathan Kingston points out in his introduction, accompanying psalmody set to Anglican chant is rather an art form in itself. There is not necessarily a prescribed set of rules to follow once accuracies of correct harmony and pointing are in place.
Jonathan suggests that the organist should be sympathetic to the contrasts of the verses and might reflect this by varying stop changes regularly, by playing an octave higher or lower, or by soloing a counter-melody in order to suitably reflect the contrasts of text and to impart some musical drama.
Clearly voiced stops at 8 foot pitch and making the most use of any enclosed divisions will see success in blending organ tone with choirs and congregational voices. Any appearance of manual reeds at 16 or 8 foot pitch are best applied with expression boxes closed, he proposes, so that a graded crescendo may be most effective.
Watch the Video Tutorial
This is played on a custom built Envoy 23-S, which is one of our most popular church organs.
About Jonathan Kingston’s Musical Background
Jonathan was an organ student while studying with Ian Tracey and Ian Wells at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral before being appointed Sub Organist at Bradford Cathedral, aged 18. Assistant Director and Director of Music appointments followed at Stowe and Bromsgrove Schools before an appointment to The King’s School in Ely where he served Ely Cathedral as a deputy organist.
Jonathan is a recording artist for Naxos, Priory and EMI Records and is an ABRSM examiner and coordinator touring the UK and internationally. As an organist, he has appeared with many leading orchestras and choirs including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Halle, London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus and English Symphony Orchestra as well as featuring in many live broadcasts on BBC radio and television.
He is the newly appointed Director of Music at Stony Stratford Parish Church where he presides over the magnificent Willis pipe organ.
Jonathan’s Work With Viscount
Jonathan’s work with Viscount Classical Organs encompasses performing and presenting promotional and tutorial material for the company and his freelance portfolio covers educational outreach, teaching, performing, examining and musical direction. He covers several areas for Viscount from sales, demonstrations, voicing of instruments and performing. His playing features on the current promotional DVD material for Viscount, and he would be very pleased to hear from any churches or individuals requiring an engaging and lively recitalist. If you would like to connect with Jonathan directly, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@jonkingston) or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Digital Organ Being Played
Jonathan plays this piece on an instrument based on our Envoy 23-S. A ‘Physical Modelling’ based instrument with 23 stops in a real wood veneer cabinet. It has a huge internal library allowing the user to create 4 totally individual voice pallets from classic English through Baroque and Romantic. It benefits from a full complement of divisional thumb pistons and additional toe pistons. The standard 23-S organ has a 30 note pedal board while the instrument in the film has a 32 note board. For more information have a look at the specifications here.