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#703729 - 01/19/08 04:06 PM Registration help?
lam132 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 12
I've been asked to accompany a small women's chorus for one piece for a service, which I've never done before (on organ). I've studied organ and all but I never felt confident about picking my own registrations - my teacher picked for me, and I don't live near her anymore or I would ask her. I have even less of an idea of how to pick registration for accompanying a choir. The piece is the Kyrie of Faure's Messe Basse. I played a lot of French music and vaguely know how I want it to sound, but any suggestions or basic guidelines would be greatly appreciated. Unfortunately I have yet to see/play the organ but I can try to post a stop list or at least what kind of organ it is when I find out this coming week. Thanks!

#703730 - 04/20/08 04:47 PM Re: Registration help?
ryank@12 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/16/08
Posts: 19
It all depends on the sound of the choir. If the choir is light-sounding (with many sopranos), use some lower pitched stops in the manuals, like a 16' stop. If the choir is heavy-sounding (with many contraltos), refrain from using 16' stops in the manuals. Because the piece is French, it was composed with the idea of French registration, with strong reeds topped off by a large mixture. A few flutes also help, though. If you intend on using a 16' voice in the manuals, make sure it is a flute and not a reed if at all possible. If the choir is very small, ditch the reeds and accompany them with a flute choir.

#703731 - 05/02/08 04:16 PM Re: Registration help?
whippen boy Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
I'm sure the performance is already over (how did it go?); but I'd like to comment anyway, since I do not feel RyanK's advice is the best approach. I've accompanied the Messe Basse on many occasions, and am also familiar with the organs at Fauré's church (La Madeleine in Paris).

Do not[/b] use 16' manual tone to accompany singers! This makes a very muddy effect, not at all what the composer intended.

Just because the score is French does not mean that you throw on all of the reeds and mixtures! If you are playing a Toccata, that would be appropriate. But the question is about accompanying a small chorus of women's voices. The fewer the stops you can use, the better. The texture should be transparent - just enough to support the singers and give them a sense of pitch.

In French organ music most registrations will be indicated in the score - if you have trouble translating them, there are resources available on the Internet - or ask here.

I don't have a copy of the Messe Basse here, but seem to recall that it might also be registered for harmonium (?) - if that is the case, you need to adapt the registrations for organ. The easiest thing to do is to register according to the dynamic markings.

A good rule of thumb: play mainly on the Swell, so you can control the dynamics with the expression pedal. You might have an 8' Flute/Bourdon/Gedeckt or soft string stop on the Great, coupled to the Swell - move both hands to the Great whenever you need a bit more power.

I don't use too many Great stops, but will change stops on the Swell quite often.

If your instrument has a lot of 8' stops, you should use them in different combinations (along with some judicious 4' tone) before you start adding higher pitches or reeds. This is more in line with French romantic registration practices (specifically for accompanying).

The softest sections should be on an 8' Swell string stop (such as a Viola da Gamba) plus the Swell 8' Flute or Bourdon. This is what I'd call the "default" accompanimental registration on just about any organ. \:\) If the choir has any difficulty hearing the pitch, add a 4' stop as long as it is soft.

For mf sections you might add another 8' flue, a louder 4' stop, or even the Oboe (but I'd keep the expression box more closed than open).

For a forte I might add an 8' Principal, or a 2' stop. A fortissimo may use either a Mixture (if it is not too high-pitched) or a Trumpet.

The main thing is to not overpower the singers - if you cannot hear them, you are probably playing too loudly!

I sometimes use the Swell Viola and Celeste for a pianissimo passage; you can try this alone, or with the 8' Bourdon for a different effect.
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