Global Music in Services (Part 1)
My pastor wants me to incorporate global music into our services. We don't have a piano in the sanctuary and we have limited percussion resources, as well as the limitation of people capable to play them. Can I do these hymns on the organ? Thank you!
World Music Wonderer
At the Richmond Convention of the AGO last June, Doug Brown presented a brilliant workshop on creative ways to accompany global music at the organ. Believing that we must find ways to adapt Latin-American repertoire to the organ, I am delighted to offer the following essay from Doug Brown.
Dear World Music Wonderer,
The pipe organ is more versatile than we organists think. Let’s start with music from Latin America. At Ginter Park Presbyterian Church in Richmond, we use the chorus Somos uno en Cristo every week to follow the affirmation of faith. The first step with a Latin American tune is to try to find a dance rhythm that might be hiding in the music, and I find it pretty easy to imagine people dancing the tango to this tune. If we put a very basic tango pattern in the pedal, we end up with this:
All that’s left to do is to fill in the left hand with basic harmonies as much as you’d like. Don’t worry about the rules of tonal harmony; in a tune like this, rhythm trumps harmony!
I went to hear the Peruvian singer Eva Allyon a couple years ago. She was accompanied by a band that included a couple percussionists; I was mesmerized by how beautifully they passed between 6/8 and 3/4. The pipe organ is quite capable of doing more than one thing at once, so I thought about these percussionists when leading the Brazilian hymn Cantai ao Senhor from the organ console. It’s a little challenging, but the rhythmic drive is much more exciting when you combine triple and duple meters:
For the Caribbean hymn Si tuvieras fe, I long for the sounds of salsa: brass instruments and piano. I’ve done it before with me at the organ and a second player at the piano. If you’re not coordinated enough to play the melody with the accompaniment, you could try recording in the basic hymn on the organ trumpets into the playback feature of a pipe organ and using a shimmery registration on a lighter manual to play the salsa rhythms.
Next time, we’ll explore hymns from Africa. Good luck!
Director of Music at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Virginia, and at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, Virginia.
These examples are based on ones used at a workshop for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Convention for the American Guild of Organists.