You may not know this, but I was, for a while, an organ scholar. I guess I was okay at playing the usual stuff and I did (for many years) play organ for Church services. It, along with Starbucks barista duty, was the way I supplemented my student loan (and parental contributions)*.
Anyway, a fine tradition among organists is the improvisation: something traditionally played at the end of a service when people are leaving in which the organist either uses elements of a well-known hymn or piece of music and then ‘noodles’ on it. It’s both fun for the person playing the organ and for those listening. And you wouldn’t believe the number of rock and or roll tunes that have made it into a service thanks to the cunning disguises applied by organists.
Often, these unwritten improvisations become compositions in their own right. I once had a flatmate at music college who was particularly good at them, and he often wrote them down afterwards. I recall he once did something along the lines of John Williams film tunes…
As I wrote earlier today, the musical world lost David Bowie today. And this afternoon, via Facebook, this grabbed my attention. It’s not officially an improvisation rather an arrangement (they tend to be a little more structured and more recognizable than an improvisation) but it’s still bloody awesome.
Not a good day. Took myself off to The Art Galleries…this was moving.
Posted by Gordon Wilson on Monday, 11 January 2016
*Several people ask me why I no-longer play, even though I am a total organophile (organs are the best instruments and are great for playing when you want something LOUD and Ground-shaking). Answer? I came to realize I was an atheist, and I felt uneasy… or rather hypocritical… taking advantage of those who did have faith by charging them to play organ for their services. IN essence, I felt I couldn’t be there unless I believed too… and I didn’t. And since most churches have organs, and few other places do, I kind of gave up playing (although I still can).
…and for those who are interested, the featured image is St. Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich, England, where I served as Organ Scholar for several years as a kid. It was TEH AWESOME to play… even though I can’t say the same of my time there…. but that’s a different story.