The Art of Accompaniment
December 1997 - Grasmere Church
Directed by John Morris

Most, if not all, of our events involving the organ have been devoted to recital music. This event was the first involving the organ in its main function as an accompanying instrument except when played by those members of the CSO well known as global virtuosi.

Three organists volunteered as trainee accompanists : Joan Acheson, Colin Rae and Alf Sefton. In the morning they were able to practise and receive advice from John concerning all the most important aspects of tempo, dynamics and registration. Apart from the hymns the other items were sung by the Deo Gracias quartet.

In the afternoon the trainees practised with John conducting and further problems that arose were dealt with. Then at 4 pm a short service based on Advent themes was conducted by Bob Wilkinson, Vicar of Grasmere which included the prepared items. These were a psalm and responses sung to plainsong (accompanied by Joan), Noble's Magnificat in B minor (accompanied by Colin Rae), and Mendelssohn's 'Daughters of Zion' (accompanied by Alf Sefton). John Morris played for the hymns. The introductory voluntary was played by Alf and John concluded with Bach's 'Nun Komm, der Heilen Heiland'.

Perhaps the most impressive facet of this event was the enormous amount of preparation devoted by John Morris in preparing the trainees, selecting the items, appointing the quartet and constructing the service. As a musical offering this service was exactly what a musical service should be with the sung and said parts in perfect proportion.

The event would have been put to better use with a few more trainees. Perhaps December is not the best time to guarantee volunteers. Nevertheless it enabled Alf to relive his former glories with a difficult accompaniment performed with great panache. Colin Rae tells me he now realises how important it is to pull the stops out before starting to play. We look forward to Joan Acheson's next appearance. Our quartet was exactly right for the church and the service despite a little insecurity in intonation. A small but appreciative congregation completed the scenario.

For those not used to accompanying, lessons learnt in the battle provided were both salutory and invaluable.

The need for a further event on this topic would now seem very desirable, possibly based on a demonstration/lecture basis than on a formal service.

I have again to thank John Morris for this event because the work involved carried a far greater reward than the small honorarium we were pleased to give him. Thanks are also due to Joan Acheson for the refreshments, Andrew Seivewright for permission to use the organ, and the Vicar and Wardens of Grasmere Church


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