Friday, June 5, 2015

The year in review

It is time for me to do my annual report on what I've been feeding my congregation. This is where I take the selections from my Godmusic page, which represent some of the pieces I have been playing in church all year, and tally them up to see when and where they have all been coming from. I can see whether I've been offering variety or whether I've gotten stuck in one time and place; also, where that might be.

The selections that made the internet don't, of course, represent all of the solo organ or piano music played at the services: the postlude is nearly always improvised, and I don't always post both the prelude and offertory. But of the ones recorded from 2014-15, here are the results.

Temporally, my selections ranged from the 15th to the 21st century. I played a grand total of one from the 15th, two from the 16th, two from the 17th, 20 from the 18th, 12 from the 19th, and 31 from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Nationally Germany won with 26 selections, followed by America with 25. France had 6, England and Croatia 4, and Lithuania 2. There were one each from Spain, Italy, Scotland, Norway, and Russia.

The clump of pieces from Germany in the 18th century isn't odd. That's Bach's time and place. I didn't just play Bach, however. Buxtehude and Walther and Hanff got in there, too. But old J. S. got 9 representations, 4 from the spring semester, all on the piano, only one after January, and 5 organ pieces in the fall semester. Mostly at the beginning, when it was time for the grand unveiling after the refurbishing, and at Christmastime.

Why should it matter where I get my music? And why should I do a periodic inventory? Partly curiosity. But if the world really is our parish, and if the tradition is bigger than we are, it is important not to just park in one corner of the repertoire and stay there. For some organists, it is all Bach all the time. I happen to think very highly of him, and play a healthy supply. But in order not to give the impression that the church is about what happened 300 years ago, or in Germany, I make certain to play other music as well. The 20th and 21st centuries actually led the way in terms of selections, which is not always the case, but it ought to have a pretty important vote since these are times in which we live. I refuse to believe that it is only the present age which matters and that anything old is by definition unimportant, but while we are taking our enormous tradition into account we ought to be cognizant of the voices of our own time in this maelstrom.

Since my primary focus from Sunday to Sunday is on what selections work with the scripture and sermon, the hymns, the season of the year, the mood of the service, and only then might I concern myself with whether I am playing too much German Baroque music and not enough of anything else, this end of the year check gives me an idea of what sort of balance I am keeping or not keeping. Of course, I don't expect complete equality across time and space. Besides, I get passionate about certain areas of the repertoire and don't mind sharing that with my congregation. Next summer the Chorale is going to Spain. Expect a lot more Spanish music to show up in church next season! I haven't played much yet, so it will be a chance to grow and to experience another part of the vast literature of Christenorgandum.

(note: the season doesn't really end until July 5, after which I mostly improvise the selections for a couple of months for regenerative purposes. The tallies above take the remaining selections into account also.)

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