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Pope Gregory

Pope painting depicting St. Jerome  (left) with Pope Gregory I (Haaretz Website)

In 2002, I was offered a position as organist for English Masses in a Polish Parish. Over the previous 12 years, I had been organist at a parish where the Pastoral staff wanted mostly contemporary hymns for their liturgies. At my new position, the Pastor, Rev. Stanislaus Kondeja wanted mostly traditional hymns.

                                         

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                      

 

4/9/38 - 5/12/12                                          SANCTUS

                                                               dedicated to Reverend Stanislaus Kondeja                                                                                                                 

90% of my repertoire had to be shelved. The biggest challenge, though, would come when he let me know he wanted Gregorian Chant introduced to the congregation. The accompaniments for the chants included in all the Liturgical Resources are chord-based which, for me, is completely at odds with the flowing serenity of the vocal line and I told him chant would be better without organ accompaniment. He said simply, “I know you can do it.” (He was impressed that I used the organ’s pedalboard for the bass line, seeming to realize some organists don't.) I happily accepted the challenge. He expressed a conviction that over the course of a thousand years, only the most inspired examples of the art had survived. I was determined to make it work, and let his faith in the value of chant direct me. He had taken me to a wall in the rectory, early on, to draw my attention to an icon of the Trinity which I have now chosen for my home page. He identified each of the three figures. Very shortly afterward, I decided my accompaniments for the chants would be 3 part.

 

My brother David took an interest in the project, giving me further inspiration and encouragement to work on other chants I hadn't looked at yet, as he learned to sing them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paintings of  David, in his garden house and in the wild, by our brother, Andrew, and some photos of David's "Garden House" environment.

In making a case for 3 part organ arrangements, I’m first suggesting that two or more notes played simultaneously on one manual of an organ can have a texture-muddying effect when brass or woodwind stops are included in any particular registration.

 

When melody and inner voice are segregated on separate manuals, the possibilities for interesting contrasts and smoothness of execution are considerable.

 

The evolution of these 3 part arrangements was also affected by practical considerations; the most pressing of which was the widening of the distal interphalangeal joint of my right hand middle finger after surgery. The affected joint interferes with smooth transition from chord to chord (or interval to interval) in the execution of a conventional 4 part arrangement, tending to get caught between black notes.

 

Prior to this practical difficulty, I had, over several years, become increasingly uncomfortable with 4 part arrangements, and I’d gradually come up with a setting technique that helped with two problems: piling up of unresolved harmonic tensions and awkward fingering. An organist, Kenneth Lubben, once suggested that occasional practice  on manuals alone could force a player’s awareness of the need for effective finger substitutions when moving from chord to chord; a need which could go unnoticed when “continuity” is “provided” by a foot pedal bass line. I had discovered that the two inner voices in a 4 part arrangement could play off each other providing a pulse, or ebb and flow involving a continuously alternating tension and release (one of two notes held  for a full beat, the other for half). For me this ebb and flow not only offered relief from unresolved harmonic tensions, but freed up one finger for half a beat, allowing it to move to the next note without the extra step of a finger substitution.

That was fine for a while, until my ability to handle so many notes

began to slip.  

 

 My Gregorian Chant arrangements had been 3 part for years, and when my finger became a problem, I simply continued to refine my arrangements of traditional and contemporary hymns in that direction. I got to thinking the “two inner voices” had, in a sense, been one all along! 

In the end, the 17th century lyric poet, George Herbert, may have said it best in the poem “Easter”  the first of “Five Mystical Songs” so beautifully set to music two centuries later by Ralph Vaughn Williams:

            ..............

            Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song 

                    Pleasant and long:

            Or since all music is but three parts vied

                    And multiplied;

            O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part, 

            And make up our defects with his sweet art.

Even after the transition  from 4 to 3 part, my arrangements still had too many notes. At the end of every musical phrase (or sentence) where  the melody note is held, I had the inner and bass parts contributing  busy counterpoint. I was even advised  by Alice Parker, who was kind enough to critique my work a few years back,  “ (that)…the ear tires of the constant movement." (It was the Parker/Shaw collaboration that awakened me to the joy of music in 1949 or 50.) Her advise was timely, and now, at a point where my reflexes sometimes seem non existent, I can still play with lively tempos.  

The  main body of Hymns on the "MUSIC" page is arranged alphabetically in an attempt to dissuade  listeners from assuming the first few and last are somehow the “best of” the list.

My scores are set up with Finale Music Notation Software. If an organist, who uses a current  version of Finale,  is interested in downloading any of these .pdf's as  Finale Documents , please contact this website with any specific request. I can understand anyone wanting  to delete fingering, pedaling, articulations or misc reminder markings sometimes leftover from earlier stages of the arrangements' ongoing refinement process (fingerings or pedaling partly revised since or text reminders out of place after many page "resizings", and symbols ,  like the one for "Turn," NOT  used to indicate a "Turn".)

 The "leftovers"  or other unedited stuff can, of course,  be distracting or off putting to someone attempting to learn a new score.  Since I can play from them "as is", I’ve simply pushed on to new arrangements and refining musical aspects of  existing ones. Eventually, as health allows,  I intend to get to all the fingering, pedaling, and other notation issues  in all the documents. My work has  value to justify a rigorous editing process, but at this point I have to set  priorities.  For now,  I  have a  .pdf score for all of the hymns  in my recordings  library; a library  which,  I hope, will continue to grow.

Drawing of Father Stanley.
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Screenshot of Father Stanley.
My drawing of my wife with her parents when she was a child.
My drawing of my wife with her father holding a freshly caught fish.
Drawing of my wife as a newborn.
Self portrait.
Drawing of my son and daughter-in-law.
My drawing of my wife holding her younger sister when they were children.
Drawing of my wife.
Drawing of my son and wife.
Drawing of my son and daughter-in-law.
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