MP3 Arlan Wareham - Herald Angels from Glory
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21 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Organ, CLASSICAL: Contemporary
For this album, I picked a wide variety of familiar Christmas hymns and carols. Some are played mostly in a straightforward way, as I would play them for congregational singing, although even in these cases, I used a greater diversity of stops. Others are considerably "arranged". So you will hear many different styles, from warm, lush settings, to bold, joyful chords, from lilting lullabies to haunting oriental rifts.
ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL TRACKS
The title of the first track, "Herald Angels from Glory", which is also, of course, the album title, is a combination of the two tunes it includes: "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Angels from the Realms of Glory". The arrangement is very simple here, with a few surprises, an opening cascade on the carillon, and a couple of trumpet fanfares.
The second track, "O Little Town of Bethlehem", is slightly more arranged, particularly in the middle section where the melody is in the tenor with a soaring descant in the soprano. Of course, the mood throughout is serene and contemplative.
The third track presents a less well-known traditional carol, "A Great and Mighty Wonder". It is also know by its original German name, "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen". This track includes a direct rendition as found in hymnals followed by a re-arrangement that puts the melody in the tenor.
The fourth track is a piece by Johannes Brahms setting the same tune that we just heard in the previous track. But Brahms changes it considerably. If you listen closely, though, you can hear how Brahms based his work on the original melody.
The next track is a simple, yet jubilant setting of a great Christmas favorite, "Adeste Fideles", or, in English, "O Come, All Ye Faithful". Here, I mostly let the music speak for itself, using increasingly louder stop settings as the piece proceeds.
The sixth track is a chorale prelude based on "Adeste Fideles". The melody appears a phrase at a time in longer notes against a rapidly moving countermelody and a stepping bass.
Tracks 7 through 11 are a set of theme and variations, based on the traditional tune, "Greensleeves", also known as "What Child Is This?". Track 7, of course, is the original theme.
Track 8, the first variation, is a pastorale, with the melody declaimed above a background of long sustained chords.
For track 9 (the second variation, "Motet"), I went back to a style that I learned to love in college, 16th century counterpoint. This piece follows the stylistic rules of that period fairly closely. The melody is in the tenor, and you may have to listen quite closely to hear it, since the 4 parts are quite independent of each other.
The third variation (track 10) is a lullaby, written in a gentle, lilting style. However, it has a little secret mostly hidden away in it. In the tenor there appears a somewhat altered (okay, maybe even warped!) version of "Silent Night", which is played twice through, though warped differently the second time.
The last variation on "Greensleeves" (track 11) is a toccata, with the melody appearing in long notes in the pedal.
There are two very familiar tunes for "Away in a Manger", so I decided to use BOTH of them! Track 12, then, is really a medley, and so it's quite "arranged", as well.
"Angels We Have Hear on High" (track 13) is another old favorite. This arrangement also includes an middle part where the melody is in the tenor and the soprano gets a nice descant.
Again, for track 14 ("It Came upon the Midnight Clear"), I put the melody in the tenor part of the time with another lovely descant in the soprano. In this case, the middle section is also in a different key.
"Venite Adoremus" (track 15) is probably not as well known. But it's a charming traditional melody.
"O Holy Night" (track 16) is a well-known song that is usually sung as a solo. This arrangement includes the solo, the regular organ accompaniment, and choir parts for the chorus, all played on the organ! In fact, this arrangement would definitely require at least 2 organists to play it live.
Track 17 includes the familiar melody, "Silent Night", in several varied arrangements, including one where the melody is played on the chimes.
The album concludes with another set of theme and variations (tracks 18 through 21), these on the tune "We Three Kings of Orient Are". Track 18 contains the theme, and track 19 is another 16th century counterpoint arrangement ("Motet"). Track 20, however, is perhaps the most unique arrangement on the entire album. For this setting, I was influenced by the Arabic (and Arabic-influenced Hebrew) songs that I sometimes hear on the radio here in Israel. For that reason, I called this variation "Orientale". I closed this set of variations, and thus the entire album, with another toccata.
ABOUT THE ORGANIST
I began piano lessons before I started school, so I literally learned to read music before I learned to read! My first piano teacher, Mrs Rittenhouse, taught me to love music. When she had to retire, I studied with Mrs Hempel, who taught me how to go beyond just the written notes. My third piano teacher, Mr Hicks, who was also my first organ teacher, introduced me to the joys and the rigor of classical music. All of my teachers gave me a good foundation in musical theory, as well, which I really learned with gusto.
In college, I couldn't decide whether to major in math or in music, so I did both! The music major was by far the more demanding of the two, requiring more units and occupying much more of my time, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here, I expanded my knowledge of music theory, composition. history, and, of course, performance. Besides improving my playing skills, my organ teacher, Donald Vaughn, taught me an immense amount about the history and design of this unique and powerful instrument. I also learned a great deal from my composition teacher, the late Perry Beach.
In graduate school, I studied math, and my career has been based on that. However, in recent years, my interest in the organ and in musical compositions has been rekindled. And advances in technology have allowed me to bring you this music, recordings of real pipe organs meticulously and carefully crafted from my own home studio in Tsfat, Israel. I hope that you enjoy this music as much as I enjoyed making it!
HOW THIS MUSIC WAS MADE
If you've read this far, congratulations! If you've REALLY been paying attention, you may well be wondering exactly how I made this music.
The process begins with someone (not me!) meticulously recording each pipe of the organ, individually. This means literally thousands of recordings! The E. M. Skinner organ used for this entire album was recorded by Milan Digital Audio. I bought these samples from them.
But this alone is not enough. Each pipe makes a particular sound when the air first enters it (when one first presses the key on the keyboard) and another unique sound when the air is cut off (when one releases the key). During the time in between, the sound is quite steady, so the sample can be looped to allow the note to be played as long or as short as desired. Also, a way is needed to select the various pipes in a manner similar to the way a live organist sitting at the organ console does, that is, by selecting the stops desired and pressing the keys. All of this is handled by a program running on my Windows PC called Hauptwerk, from Crumhorn Labs. In other words, Hauptwerk provides the front end to play the organ samples. By the way, the word "Hauptwerk" is German for "high work" and is generally the name of the main manual division on a German organ (whose pipes are mounted immediately in front of but high above the organ console in a traditional organ). In English, this manual division is usually called the "Great".
This still leaves the question of how to play the organ. Here's where something called MIDI ("Musical Instruments Digital Interface") comes in. This is a protocol that was developed decades ago to allow electronic musical instruments to communicate with each other. This is used, for example, to let a musician control a wide assortment of synthesizers, sampled sounds, drum machines, and even lighting controls from a single keyboard or other electronic instruments, such as an electric guitar.
So, one way to play these organs is to have an organ console that is equipped with MIDI. This is NOT how I do it, however! Instead, I have another program, Digital Performer, which is a sequencing program, that runs on my Macintosh. This program sends the MIDI messages to Hauptwerk (on the other computer) via MIDI cables, and this is what actually "plays" the organ. Of course, Digital Performer allows me to determine exactly which notes on which manual or pedal will be played, when they will begin, and when they will end. It also allows me to set when the stops will change. With Hauptwerk, I pre-set which combinations of stops to use, and Digital Performer merely sends Hauptwerk a signal telling it to move to the next (or the previous) combination. Luckily, Digital Performer has a pretty good user interface, including some musical notation, so this process is not as hard as you might think. I do have an electronic keyboard, also connected to the computers by MIDI, and usually use it to enter the notes. I don't have to enter every single note this way, however. In fact, copy and paste come in VERY handy here!
The sounds of the organ come out of the PC sound system, either through the speakers or through the earphones, depending on which I plug in. But, when I want to record, Hauptwerk can also send the sound to a WAV file (the standard musical file on a regular music CD) in addition. This means that only the organ sound gets into the file (on my PC hard disk). I don't have to worry about ambient sounds, such as someone slamming a door, or the A/C fan, or a mooing cow (yes, we do sometimes have cows near our house here!), or a big construction track vehicle rumbling by (which also happens here!).
Of course, the main challenge for me in all of this is to make the music SOUND as though a live organist were playing it. The organist is basically note perfect, since I DON'T see any reason to DELIBERATELY enter wrong notes! But I DO pay considerable attention to the lengths of notes, especially repeated notes, and to making subtle variations in tempo, as I would certainly do if playing the music live. As for results, I'll leave you to judge, but I think you'll be amazed at how realistic it sounds! I must say, it's quite a thrill for me!
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