Page 33 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 33

for them to do other than sing the melody). If the left-hand part is leaping around all over the place
in arpeggios, organists will struggle, unless they are trying to display their pedal virtuosity, which clearly is
not the point of the exercise.
CMQ Are there good ways of simplifying an accompaniment for use on the organ?
TB Yes. Play the melody with the right hand, thin chords (two or three notes) in the left hand – perhaps on
a separate manual if available – and use pedal to provide the bass line if possible. That should be simple and playable, assuming the rhythm of the melody has been properly learnt. It is certainly a workable starting point.
Of course, it may be necessary to do some homework in advance. You could sketch out the melody for one hand, block chords underneath (often these can be taken from the guitar chords marked in) and a pedal line (which could be very simple). Taking things to the next stage, you can aim for a four-part arrangement, a bit like the ones you can see in Singing the Faith, the Methodist hymn book. These are a bit more choral-friendly and they sound idiomatic on the organ. I recently wrote an article for Sunday by Sunday giving some simple guidance towards creating a four-part, hymn-like arrangement of a worship song [Issue 80, March 2017]. Another point is that the music can often be simplified by leaving things out, especially if there are elaborate, pianistic inner parts
in the arrangement.
CMQ How can an organist best contribute to the teamwork in a worship band?
TB If the band is a small one, the organist can, at the very least, provide a bass line, and with that a richness of texture that would otherwise not be there. With backing chords as well, skilful use of registration can also help the dynamic range and simulate the effect of a bigger band. This can make a world of difference to how the
band sounds and how well the congregation sings.
It is interesting that band-led worship often has a greater dynamic range than organ-led worship.
For example, the band will sometimes drop out entirely, which organists almost never do. On a bigger level – similar to when an organ joins in with the orchestra – you can enrich the overall sound of a larger band, even if it is only a single bass note transforming a particular moment. This can be a revelation to worship leaders, and probably to organists as well. It can be huge fun playing in a band, and if the organist is contributing in a positive and creative way, you start to win friends and build a cooperative relationship.
I think it’s tragic – not too strong a word – that this can often be missing and instead we can end up with the equivalent of the Berlin Wall! Organists often have experience of running choirs and managing and encouraging people, which can be helpful in the context of a band. Additionally, organists often have some knowledge of harmony and can be willing to experiment a bit to give a wider harmonic palette – just substituting one chord for another in a worship song can sometimes really transform the feel of a particular verse and underline the words. Or, being willing to play what’s usually a guitar riff on the organ. That can be quite cool.
Playing what’s usually
a guitar riff on the organ can be quite cool!
CMQ So, a musical compromise may be necessary when involving the organ in this repertoire. Can you elaborate?
TB If there is a tension between two styles of music, where perhaps one half of the congregation wants traditional and the other half doesn’t, I think there has to be a move towards the blending of styles where perhaps each week you’d have a different balance of contemporary and traditional. This is preferable to doing all of one and none of the
other and thereby cheesing off half of the congregation. If the organist walks away when a new vicar starts introducing worship songs, then the traditional music could die entirely. Instead, think about how there could
be creative interplay between both styles and a new and productive synthesis created. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, you can be more blessed in church by the music you don’t like than the music you do, in that you are charitably subordinating your own taste to that of your neighbour in Christ. Hopefully, they will do the same!
CMQ What would your top tips be to an organist aiming to play, for example, Graham Kendrick’s Servant King or Meekness and Majesty on the organ?
TB I would suggest the following: „ Simplify the bass line. So, if it jumps around but the guitar chord stays the same, just hold a sustained note or repeat the same note in a rhythmic way. „ Ensure the rhythm is correct, especially if it is syncopated. Once
a congregation has got used to singing it wrong it is hard to correct.
„ Maintain a solid pulse. This can often come from the bass line. It is hard to recover once the rhythm
drifts in a syncopated piece.
CMQ Could you give some examples of recent worship songs that you feel work particularly well with the organ?
TB In no particular order:
„ Keith Getty and Stuart Townend: Speak, O Lord
„ Richard Simpkin’s new tune for ‘How firm a foundation’
„ Vikki Cook: Before the throne
„ Keith and Kristyn Getty: There
is a higher throne
CMQ Do you have a favourite bible quote that sums up the right way for organists to approach
a worship song, and indeed their whole ministry?
TB Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 2. 3–4
This is a good one for band members as well, and vicars and churchwardens, and, for that matter, PCC members, coffee rota members and so on and
so forth! It sums up how we should
do church.

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