1. Introduction to "Ask Wilma"
2. Developing Piano Technique for the Organist
3. Duruflé's Méditation Errata
4. Pierre Cochereau Berceuse à la Mémoire de Louis Vierne 5. Memories
6. Dietrich Buxtehude Editions
7. Langlais on a Budget
8. César Franck
9. New Arrangement of Widor Easter Composition
10. Going Home

1. Introduction

My Inbox sometimes includes questions from organists and I feel the need to reply. So I thought I would post some of the responses in this section ASK WILMA. If you like, check back again to see if there are new replies since I will try to keep this section current. If I answer with a statement that is incorrect, please do write to me about the correction needed. I am trying to stay informed about editions, historical performance practice, errata, etc. etc.

I am also answering some questions in the American Guild of Organists' magazine, THE AMERICAN ORGANIST (TAO), under the title ASK THE EXPERTS. I believe several people will be submitting answers to this column. If any of the following answers of mine are duplicated in the magazine, I will indicate the date of the magazine. The actual complete questions will be printed in the magazine while they are not necessarily indicated in ASK WILMA.

2. Developing Piano Technique for the Organist

A student from the Bloomington, IN Pipe Organ Encounter (POE) asked me about the following:

“During the week, several people stressed the importance of continued piano instruction along with the organ. What particular area(s) of piano playing do you think would be the most important to work on?”

It is a little difficult to give a piano lesson by e-mail!!! But I will try. I remember from teaching you at the POE Conference that you already have very active, facile fingers which is a great place to start. Just be sure the wrist stays relaxed. There seems to be some tension developing in your thumb. This is not unusual. I believe half the keyboardists in the world have too heavy a thumb! I had the same problem in mid-life, but then studied with a very fine pianist and have worked to correct this. The fingers move vertically (up and down) but the thumb moves horizontally. Rotate to the thumb. Just put or place or rotate the thumb to where it needs to be without lifting it or letting it be heavy.

It would be good to start with scales. I suggest the following:

1. octave quarter notes - metronome at 60 or slower to the quarter
Rotate to thumb, but intentionally raise the fingers off of the key to
feel the "swing" of the finger and give those fingers a large swing
before the motions become small when the tempo is faster.

2. octaves eighth notes - metronome still at same tempo - 60 or slower
to the quarter.
First few weeks, legato eighths
Later, staccato eighths - let finger pull back quickly from key for
staccato - swipe the key. This helps develop those "pulling back"
muscles. Don't use the arm to make the staccato like a vibrated
touch I discussed. That comes much, much later.

3. octaves triplets - still at same metronome mark to the quarter
Rotate to thumb Active fingers but fingers will now stay
closer to the key - the faster the tempo the closer to the key
the fingers stay.

I would go this far. Perhaps at first do all the major keys. Then when that starts to be more comfortable, add the harmonic minor keys . Remember you can rotate slightly forward to make the 5th finger longer. Do perhaps six keys a day and the same keys for 4 or 5 days and then move on. Pracitce with the metronome the entire time. Try to feel the same "speed of the "swing" into the key on each note. I would keep the same metronome speed for a long time.

When all of that is feeling controlled, then I would start:

4. octaves sixteenth notes same metronome speed to the quarter
At first with these notes now moving more quickly, you might want
to get one or two octaves under control at a time. Remember,
evenness and control at this point is more important than actual
speed. The more perfect it is at this stage, the more easily will
come the controlled speed later.

AFTER you are able to do the 4 octaves well, you might try what I
like to do . I practice in rhythms, starting with 4 eighth notes,
followed by 4 sixteenth notes. The value of this is that you are
practicing only half of the scale fast at one time. Then of course
you turn it around and do 4 sixteenth notes, followed by 4 eighths.

When you feel you are ready you can put the metronome mark up a lilttle. However, do not push it up more than 2 notches at any one time. This whole process can be over months and months and a lifetime!!

If we use only small muscles when we play fast as at the organ, the muscles will not stay as active. We need to keep moving and developing those muscles at the piano. I should have said earlier that when you start with the quarter notes they can be forte (but not pushed from the arm), the eighths pulling back can be fairly forte. Then the triplets will not be quite as loud and the sixteenths will be less forte. Do not try to go fast on the sixteenths and vibrate. Feel the fingers pulling out of the key when you go fast. This makes the touch "clear" and "clean."

It would be good also to do some Hanon in somewhat the same procedure, perhaps in rhythms, not too fast too soon.

You might try some of the Mendelssohn "Songs without words." Now it is time to start "voicing" the chords, bringing out one melody over another part. Try playing a hymn at the piano, extremely slowly, not for the congregation but as an exercise, playing the soprano louder than the alto. Do it really slowly for some time. Then try playing the left hand with the bass slightly louder than the tenor. Then put both hands together. Voicing the chords means all notes of the chord are not at the same dynamic level. This will lead you into expressive playing. Not everyone agrees with me, but I think good voicing is helpful even at the organ because the hands are working naturally and musically.

Beside some of the Mendelssohn (start with the easiest ones first in order to work on voicing the sounds) I would hope that eventually you could start on some Clementi Sonatinas. These will necessitate different articulations in each hand, control of the dynamics, etc.

I know it is difficult to study both organ and piano at the same time, but it would be my hope you could find an excellent teacher on each instrument. Students who have studied both instruments with expert help are the ones who really excel quickly and make a major contribution to churches, schools and their own professional teaching and continuing improvement.

I think you have an inner musical gift and with good help you will feel rewarded in your development. You do not need very difficult repertoire too soon, but a steady building of the foundation which will allow your gifts to develop naturally and quickly.

I received an e-mail from a person who was trying to find for a friend a copy of The Fountain by Eric Delamarter. He called the Library of Congress and was told noone there had any idea how to find it. So he asked another organist who said Ask Wilma. So I replied that The Fountain was one of Three Nocturnes all of which are out of print. (I happened to meet Eric Delamarter when I was a young student at Eastman.) So I xeroxed a copy of the Three Nocturnes and sent the three to the inquirer.

For some time now I seem to be asked many questions and it has become a joke with my students saying just Ask Wilma.

3. Duruflé’s Méditation Errata

Response from my e-mail to James Frazier asking about possible errata:

Duruflé’s Méditation is a beautiful little piece, but there are several errors in the score. Yes, the F-natural in measure 41 carries through measure 42. Also in measure 41, the D in the left hand is a natural (along with the D-natural in the pedal). In measure 37, the pedal C-sharp is wrong; it should be the E immediately above it (one leger line). In the last measure, the chord in the left hand is problematic because it’s already being played by the right hand. The editor of the piece, Frédéric Blanc, suggests that the left hand chord be played an octave lower.*

Recent book by James Frazier: Duruflé: The Man and His Music.

*My own suggestion about the last ending left hand chord would be to play it on a very soft rank on another manual if this is available.

Berceuse à la Mémoire de Louis Vierne

The Cochereau Berceuse is an improvisation on the same Berceuse theme by Vierne in his 24 pièces en style libre, Op 31,Volume II, No.7.  This composition was originally improvised and recorded, and Frédéric Blanc transcribed it and is published by Dr. J. Butz-Musikverlag-Éditions Chantraine.  I sensed there might be a printed error on the downbeat of measure 79 and contacted Monsieur Blanc about this question.  He confirmed that the downbeat of measure 79 in the left hand should be E#, G#, B, which is then the same harmony as the beginning of measures 80 and 82.  The French lullaby on which these two compositions is based is “Dodo, l’enfant do” and can be found in the Rollin Smith book on Louis Vierne, page 533.  

5. Memories

Also found in The American Organist (TAO); April, 2010, p 35.

An organist wrote me recently asking how to organize the selection of Memories since he would be going from no Memories to 300 Memories. He asked a friend and guess what the friend said - "Ask Wilma".

I guess I should have said "Organize it anyway you like". In the end I am afraid I wrote a very long answer, much longer than it needed to be, but here it is:

Dear Sir,

I know you must be very excited about the possibility of having a memory system, especially with 300 memories.

One can show the many colors of an instrument when being extravagant with the number of Generals used. Being able to use so many subtle differences in the levels of changes is very helpful, both in anthem accompanying and in playing the literature. At St. George's, I had the General toe studs placed on both the left and the right (i.e. 1-6 on the left and 7-12 on the right). After all, sometimes you have the left foot free, and sometimes you have the right foot free! It is so difficult when all the Generals are on the left, especially when they are in several rows. (On a really large instrument you have practically to put your head under the console to see the top row.) When I have been able to influence other organists to do the same, they really liked that flexibility. I personally use the General toe studs so much more than the manual Generals. The last time I played at Notre Dame in Paris on the new console, it was interesting that the General toe studs were on both sides of the expression pedals. They started with General 1 on the right and continued to the left.

I think organizing the system can be really quite easy. St. George's Casavant organ has 128 memories. When I was there full time, I kept a small notebook at the side of the organ with the number of each memory listed. Generally, I saved 1 - 25 for regular Sunday morning services, with registrations for hymns, anthems and voluntaries. I saved other blocks of memories for guest organists. I used some of the higher numbers for repertoire registrations that I especially wanted to keep.

I teach an Organ Masterclass once a month for any organists who would like to attend and play for the class. I save many of the highest numbers for registering compositions that these organists might need for playing in class. Often, they will arrange to come set the registration themselves, or I will meet them to help them. These memories usually are then erased after their playing in class. I can always look at the notebook to see the performer and the repertoire.

One of the features I like so much about our SSL system is that each memory can be locked separately with the key to the combination lock. The key stays on the organ for everyone's use. If I see that a memory is locked, I will be sure to check the book before erasing it. I have always tried to be sure to unlock the memory if it is available to be used again. I appreciate the ability to lock the memory as a protection, just as much for myself as for others. It can be devastating to erase a memory by accident, especially if a number of hours has been spent planning the registration.

I should tell you that the gentleman who installed the Casavant at St. George's took two toe studs, and one makes the memories ascend, and the other to descend. So, if I am playing a wedding and need to take time to reach a special composition set on memory 100, while holding the last chord of the previous piece, I can scroll quickly up to that memory with my foot. Unfortunately, the organ was installed before Sequencers were used so frequently. Therefore St. George's does not have a Sequencer. However, I think it is important for students to learn to be facile with registration before depending on the Sequencer.

Again, I think the organization of the memories is quite simple and at the discretion of the principal organist. However, I think it is imperative that you keep a record of how you assign the memories. I must tell you, however, that recently Nashville had a severe thunderstorm and a lightning strike erased all 128 memories! Time for a new notebook!!

Best of luck for this exciting future!


6. Dietrich Buxtehude Editions

An organist named Kim told me she was learning the Buxtehude TeDeum, and that she had a CD of Harald Vogel performing the work. She was learning the composition from the Hansen publication, edited by Josef Hedar. The order of the sections in the printed music was different from the order of sections on the recording. Her question to me was, "Which one is correct?" I first looked in the Liber Usualis and found that the order of the chant was like that of the Vogel recording. Then, I sought out other publications of Buxtehude's complete works. In recent years, I have usually played Buxtehude from the Breitkopf publication, edited by Klaus Beckmann. The sections of the TeDeum there were played in the same order as in the Vogel recording. I also discovered that there were two newer editions being published, which both include the same order of sections as Vogel.

To answer Kim's question, I would choose the order given in the Liber and the other publications, since three of the editions agree and Harald Vogel is such a renowned musicologist and organist. However, an organist might want to buy all of the Chorale Preludes in the Hansen edition because they are in one volume (Volume IV) and are much less expensive. More of the differences in editions would be found in the Praeludia than in the Chorale Preludes. When one looks at the tablatures, is it any wonder that musicians could ever agree on anything? The pedal was not written on a separate line, so the lowest voice might be written for either the left hand or the pedal and may vary with different editions.

The various editions are listed as follows:

Hansen publisher, edited Josef Hedar – 4 Volumes (Volume 4 Chorale Preludes)

Breitkopf publisher, edited Klaus Beckmann – 4 Volumes (Vol. 1,1; Vol. 1,2; Vol. 2,1; Vol. 2,2)

Barenreiter publisher, edited Christoph Albrecht – New (5 Volumes; $45. - $50. per volume)

Broude Brothers publisher, edited Michael Belotti – (In process, not complete. First two volumes are $225.-)

7. Langlais on a budget:

Jean Langlais, Incantation pour un jour Saint

Chorale Preludes for Easter, Book 1, Masters Music Publication $12.95

Orgue et Liturgie, Paques, Vol. 1, pg. 27, Schola Cantorum $40.00

Schola Cantorum (published singly) $36.00

8. César Franck

Never in my life have I seen so many new critical editions of organ music. None of us are ever paid enough to be able to purchase all we really need as a resource. Unfortunately, there are not libraries in Nashville that are providing all that most of us need in order to compare editions.

Most of us have used the Durand edition many years for playing Franck. We have then depended on lists of "Errata," such as the one provided by David Craighead and Anthony Godding. The newer Universal edition has corrected the mistakes and is beautifully laid out on the page. Also, you might like to know that both the alternate ending and the traditional ending of the Pièce Héroïque are printed in the Universal edition. There are four volumes of the major works with L'Organiste (smaller pieces for harmonium) in Volume 5. The Six Pièce are in Volumes 1 and 2, Trois Pièce in Volume 3, and Trois Chorals in Volume 4. Oops! I spoke too soon about all the errors being corrected. I was just teaching the Prelude, Fugue et Variation Op. 18 and found in Vol. I, p 62, measure 18, the 3rd beat in the right hand should be F# D (not F# C#). Perhaps that error will be corrected soon.

Gayle asked me about a composition for Easter with brass. My suggestion was the following:

9. New Arrangement of Widor Easter Composition

Charles Courboin was a well-known organist, remembered especially for his thirty years as organist of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and his appointments at the Wanamaker organs in both New York City and Philadelphia. Courboin's son lived in Clarksville, Tennessee, near Nashville, and upon the suggestion of other musicians, gave a box of his father's organ music to me. In that assortment of music there was an out -of- print, anthem-length composition by Charles-Marie Widor for choir and two organs. I asked Eberhard Ramm of Nahville to arrange the petit orgue part for brass quintet with added optional timpani. The name of the composition is Surrexit à Mortuis, a Latin text for Easter. (In the original score there is an added second text, Sacerdos et Pontifex.) In the newly arranged score for choir, organ, brass quintet and optional timpani, the Latin Easter text is included, along with an English translation by Mary Race and me. A Nashville company, Aardworks, has now published this arrangement of Widor's work which I have edited. This new score of Surrexit à Mortuis (Today Christ has conquered death) can be purchased from Lois Fyfe Music in Nashville, TN (www.loisfyfemusic.com) or Aardworks (www.aardworks.com).

In that same box from Courboin's son were some of the out of print St. Lawrence Sketches by Alexander Russell. I recorded these Sketches and Improvisations on the ProOrgano label CD 7186.

Also in the box was the out of print Méditation à Sainte Clotilde by Philip James which I played on a number of my organ recitals. So many organists wanted copies of the music that Lois Fyfe of Nashville's Lois Fyfe Music requested Archive copies be printed and made available for purchase. Philip James was an American who studied in France with Joseph Bonnet and Alexandre Guilmant .The Méditation honors César Franck who was the titular organist at the Basilica of Sainte Clotilde in Paris, by quoting the theme of the Franck Symphony in D Minor.

Click here for New Gems, Old Treasures and Other Collections

Frequently, I have been asked to play "Going Home" for memorial services. Not knowing how to find the music, I simply played a few phrases by ear, but I hoped eventually to know more about the composition. I have listed below the origin of the music and the circumstances surrounding the addition of the text.

10. "Going Home"

Symphony IX in E minor, Op. 95
Anonin Dvořák (1841-1904)
Largo, ma non tanto

The Dvořák Symphony IX, the New World Symphony, was performed at Carnegie Hall in December, 1893. Dvořák was interested in black music and the peasasnt music of Czechoslovakia. William Arms Fisher, student of Dvořák, heard the performance and later wrote the text "Going Home." Paul Robeson, a well-known black singer, made this song popular through his many performances.

Organ arrangement published by Barenreiter H1809, arr. M. Kampelsheimer

Comments by Wilma Jensen

This publication is a transcription of 71 measures taken from the complete 127 measures of movement II, Largo, from the New World Symphony. Marking each measure number will facilitate references for solo lines, which can be played by English Horn as heard in the Symphony. (The Oboe may be substituted for the English Horn.)

In the original score, the English Horn plays the solo lines in the following measures:
Measures 7-18
Measures 45-48

With this particular arrangement, the following measures could also be added if so desired.
Measures 21-24
Measures 49-57, stopping after beat 3