Category Archives: Organists and Composers

Second Sunday in Lent – 24 Feb 13

A. Édouarde Batiste

A. Édouarde Batiste

Opening Voluntary: Verset – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)

 At Communion: Antienne – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)

 Final Voluntary: Ite missa est – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)

Antoine Édouarde Batiste was born in Paris in 1820 and was the son of Jean Batiste, a baritone singer and composer in the Imperial Chapel of Napoleon III.  He entered the Conservatory of Paris at the young age of 8 and remained at that institution for the rest of his life, being elevated to the status of full professor in 1839, when only 19 years old. Batiste was the organ student of François Benoist (1794-1878) and studied composition with Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) and Jacques Fromenthal d’ Halévy (1799-1862).   In his student years, he won many prizes at the conservatory including those in solfeggio, harmony, accompaniment, counterpoint, fugue and organ. In the year of 1842, he became the organist at Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs in Paris, where he remained for 12 years.  In 1854, a new four-manual organ was installed in the church of St. Eustache and inaugurated by a number of famous organists of the time, including César Franck (1822-1890).  This organ, built by the firm of Ducroquet, was felt to be one of the most important in modern Paris.  That same year, Batiste became the principal organist at St. Eustache and remained in that position until his death in 1876. Batiste was a well-regarded recitalist and performer of his day.  Eulogizing his playing after his death, Joseph G. Lennon, an American who had studied privately with Batiste wrote, “Batiste’s organ playing was one of the chief attractions for foreign musicians visiting Paris. On his programmes were always found compositions from the greatest masters of this noble instrument…His improvisations will never be forgotten by organists who were fortunate enough to hear him extemporize preludes, fugues, offertoires, communions or elevations, while his treatment of the organ in accompanying voices was simply marvelous.” In that role as accompanist, Batiste was the organist for the premier performance of Hector Berlioz’ (1803-1869) Te Deum, which was conducted by the composer himself and performed at St. Eustache for the opening of the Exposition Universelle of 1855.

Batiste composed literally hundreds of pieces for the organ that became popular both in America and in England. English organist, William Spark (1823-1897), himself the organist at Town Hall in Leeds and the editor of Batiste’s works for their English publication, wrote about Batiste’s compositions in his 1888 book, Musical Memories. He particularly admired his Andante movements which he described as “not only very melodious but also very skillfully constructed.” “Batiste’s organ music,” he opined, “ is sometimes noisy, always brilliant and not so sacred and dignified as English church music is expected to be.” Unfortunately, Batiste’s music fell rapidly into disfavor not long after his death.  Only a short number of years after Spark, American organist, Clarence Eddy (1851-1937) wrote in 1897 that, “Batiste was a prolific composer, but his compositions are played very little now even in France and not highly esteemed.”

Today’s organ pieces are from Batiste’s Opus 24 and 25 collection published as Cinquante Pièces and consisting of some 50 compositions for liturgical use.

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3d Sunday after Epiphany – 27 Jan 13

King's Chapel, Boston

King’s Chapel, Boston

Opening Voluntary: “Introductory Voluntary” – Francis Linley (1771-1800)

At Communion: “Voluntary” – Thomas Loud (1792-1886)

Closing Voluntary: “A Fuge or Voluntary” – William Selby (1738-1797)

All of today’s incidental music is counted as being of “Early American” origin, although all of the composers were of English birth. Musically, they all shared a common heritage and produced highly conventional and similar compositions for organ. It would not be until significantly later, in the mid and mostly late 19th centuries, that organ building and composition would take on a unique character in the United States.  In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, however, much of American organ music in the English speaking parts of the colonies and the United States was indistinguishable from that of its English parent.

The Opening Voluntary is a composition by Francis Linley (1771-1800).  Linley, blind from birth, married a wealthy and also blind woman and was able to set up a music publishing business.  After his wife deserted him and his business failed, he came to Philadelphia in 1796.  He stayed in the United States for only 3 years before returning to England in 1799 where he died only one year later.

The short piece at The Communion was composed by Thomas Loud.  Son of an English piano maker, Loud came to Philadelphia in 1812 where he worked as an organist, pianist and piano-maker. In 1824, he and two of his brothers founded the Loud piano company. The piece played today is from a book published by “Loud’s Piano Forte and Music Store “in Philadelphia in 1841.  This book had the rather grand title of The organ study, being an introduction to the practice of the organ: together with a collection of voluntaries, preludes and interludes, original and selected, a model of a church service, explanation of the stops and their combinations, studies for the instrument and examples of modulation intended to aid the extempore student: accompanied by an engraving and description of the mechanical construction of the organ.

The Closing Voluntary is by William Selby (1738-1797). Selby was a native of England and emigrated to Newport, R.I. in 1774.  In 1776 or 1777 he came to Boston as organist of King’s Chapel, but, during the revolution, when King’s Chapel was closed and unused, Selby was forced to become a storekeeper. In 1783, he returned to his duties at King’s Chapel and became active as an impresario and teacher as well. He produced one of the first sacred concerts ever to be given in Boston, with a program of vocal , choral and instrumental works by Bach, Händel and, of course, himself.


Music for Additional Listening – Grand Solemn March by Henry Smart

The Grand Solemn March in Eb was one of the most popular of Henry Smart‘s organ compositions in his day and was frequently performed at recitals through the end of the 19th century.  This masterfully-performed version is actually played on a fully digital organ using the software Hauptwerk.  The sample sounds employed are from the 1892 Willis organ of Hereford Cathedral in Great Britain.


Baptism of the Lord – 13 Jan 13

BAPTISM OF CHRIST (Durer)

Opening Voluntary: Voluntary in G – Henry Smart (1813-1879)

 At Communion: Chorale Prelude on Erhalt uns, Herr– J. G. Walther (1684-1748)

 Closing Voluntary: Intrada in E Major Charles W. Ore (b. 1936)

Today’s opening voluntary is a work by Victorian-era, organist and composer, Henry Thomas Smart. Smart served as organist at several prominent London parishes including St. Philip’s, Regent street, St. Luke’s, Old Street, and lastly at St. Pancras for 14 years until his death.  Plagued by problems with his vision that began in early life, Smart was totally blind by the age of fifty-two. His improvisatory skills allowed him to continue performing, however, in spite of his disability. He was particularly noted for his use of the pedals, which was said to be more inventive than other British organists of the period. Although Smart’s music was extremely popular in his own time, and his organ compositions figured prominently in recitals through the end of the 19th century, changing musical tastes would later denigrate much of his work, such that a 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article described his organ compositions as “effective and melodious, if not strikingly original.”  Sadly, Smart’s works are now little remembered apart from his hymn tunes which include REGENT SQUARE, frequently paired with the Christmas carol text, “Angels from the realms of glory” (#93, The Hymnal 1982) and LANCASHIRE, usually sung with the text “Lead on, O King eternal” (#555, Ibid.).

The prelude at the communion is based on the German chorale tune, Erhalt uns, Herr (sung as our closing hymn, #132, The Hymnal, 1982)  and is a work of renowned German organist,  Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748). Although less well known today than his famous cousin and contemporary, J. S. Bach (1685-1750), he was highly regarded in his own time and served as court organist at Weimar.  Although not all survive today, he recorded in his autobiography that he had composed over 200 works based on chorale melodies.

The closing voluntary is a work of the contemporary organist, Charles William Ore (b. 1936).  Ore studied at Northwestern University in Illinois and the University of Nebraska.  He was professor of music and chair of the department of music at Concordia University in River Forest, Illinois from 1966 to 2001.  This free composition was published in 1981 as part of a larger collection of “Fanfares and Intradas.”  Today’s work in the key of E major is designated as a composition “for an occasion of some magnitude.”


2d Sunday in Advent – 9 Dec 12

adventcandles2

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on Freu dich sehr – Alfred Fedak (1953-)

At Communion: Bereden väg för Herran – G. Winston Cassler (1906-1990)

Closing Voluntary: Freu dich sehr – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

The opening and closing voluntaries today are based on the tune of our offertory hymn, “Comfort, comfort ye my people” (#67, The Hymnal 1982). The text was written by Johannes Olearius (1611-1684) and is a meditation on Isaiah 40:1-8.  Olearius was a German Protestant theologian and hymn writer. He began his university studies in theology at Wittenberg University in 1629 and became part of the theology faculty in 1638. Olearius wrote a commentary on the entire bible and was the editor of the Geistliche Singe-Kunst (Leipzig, 1671) one of the largest and most important German hymn books of the 17th century. Comprised of over a thousand hymns, more than three hundred were Olearius’ own works. The tune with which the hymn is paired, known as PSALM 42 or Freu dich sehr, was likely composed by Louis Bourgeois (1510-1560) and first appeared in the Calvinist hymnal, Pseaumes Octantetrois de David first published in Geneva in 1551. In German Lutheran tradition, the melody came to be associated with the text “Freu dich sehr, O meine Seele,” and is, thus, often known by that name. The settings played for the Opening Voluntary are selections from a Partita (a collection of variations on a tune) by American composer and organist, Alfred Victor Fedak (b. 1953). Fedak is a graduate of Hope College and holds a master’s degree in organ performance from Montclair State University in New Jersey.  He is presently the organist at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Capitol Hill, in Albany, NY.  The concluding voluntary on the same tune is a setting by south German, Baroque organist and composer, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706).

 The short composition at the communion is based on our final hymn for today, “Prepare the way, O Zion” (#65, The Hymnal 1982).  One of the great Advent hymns of the Church of Sweden, this hymn has been in continuous use for more than 200 years in that country. Written by Frans Mikael Franzén (1772-1847), it was first published in a trial collection of hymns in 1812 before its inclusion in the Church of Sweden’s Den Svenska Psalmboken of 1819. Like “Comfort, comfort ye my people,” the hymn is based on the biblical text of Isaiah 40 as well as Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21. The hymn came to the United States in the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal of 1958 and made its first appearance in The Episcopal Church in The Hymnal 1982. The tune, Beredem väg för Herran, is by an unknown composer and first appeared in print in the 1697 version of Den Svenska Psalmboken.  The setting at the communion was composed by American organist G. Winston Cassler (1906-1990).  Cassler studied at Oberlin College and was a pupil in England of Sir Ernest Bullock. Cassler was professor of music at St. Olaf’s College in Northfield, Minnesota until his retirement.


Feast of Christ the King – 25 Nov 12


Opening Voluntary:
Prelude on DIADEMATA – Wilbur Held (1914-)

At Communion: Composition in D Major – Georg Rathgeber (1869- ?)

Closing Voluntary: Fanfare in Bb – Charles Ore (1936- )

Today’s opening voluntary is based on the hymntune, DIADEMATA, which we sing today as our entrance hymn, “Crown him with many crowns,” (The Hymnal 1982, #494). Composed specifically for the text by Sir Georg J. Elvey (1816-1893), this tune has been irrevocably married to this particular text from its first publication in Hymns Ancient and Modern in the year of 1868. The tune name is derived from the Greek word for “crowns.” The opening voluntary based on the hymn tune was composed  by Episcopal organist, Wilbur Held (1914-) and was published in 1979 in a collection of Hymn Preludes for the Pentecost Season. It is a composition in an ABA format with the “A” sections presenting an elaborated version of hymn tune in the melody accompanied by passing notes in the manuals and scale passages in the pedal.  The “B” section is a minor key variation which is followed by a brief transition passage before the return to the “A” theme ending with a concluding fanfare that echoes the structure of the “B” section. The solemn and festive character of the composition as well as the tune upon which it is based are highly appropriate for today’s feast day celebration of Christ the King.

The brief piece at the communion is by German 19th century composer, Georg Rathgeber , born 7th June, 1869 in Laudenbach, Germany.  He was a choir director and teacher in Hechingen, near Stuttgart.

The closing voluntary is a free composition by contemporary organist and composer, Charles William Ore, born in 1936 in Winfield, Kansas.  Ore studied at Northwestern University in Evanston and at the University of Nebraska. He later taught at Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska and was organist of Pacific Hills Lutheran Church in Omaha and currently serves at First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. This piece is the eighth and last in a collection published in 1981 as Eight Fanfares and Intradas by Augsburg Publishing House. Like the opening voluntary, this is also a composition in an ABA format and is subtitled as a “Fanfare for the Baroque Spirit.”  The A sections at the beginning and the ending suggest a horn call in fourth and third and fifth intervals in the melody and are contrasted with the central “B” section in a g minor key.


All Saints Sunday – 4 Nov 12

Henry Thomas Smart

Opening Voluntary: March in G – Henry Thomas Smart (1813-1879)

Closing Voluntary: Voluntary in G – Henry Thomas Smart (1813-1879)

Henry Thomas Smart (1813-1879)

Today’s opening and closing voluntaries are both works by Victorian-era,  English organist and composer, Henry Thomas Smart.  Smart was born in London on 26 October, 1813.  Although his father was a musician and music publisher, Smart initially studied for a law career.  He turned, however, after only four years at the bar, to a career in music which he continued for the rest of his life.  Smart served as organist at several prominent London parishes including St. Philip’s, Regent street, St. Luke’s, Old Street, and lastly at St. Pancras for 14 years until his death.  Plagued by problems with his vision that began in early life, Smart was totally blind by the age of fifty-two. His musically talented daughter, however, was able to transcribe his compositions for him, and his improvisatory skills allowed him to continue performing in spite of his disability. He was particularly noted for his use of the pedals, which was said to be more inventive than other British organists of the time.  In addition to organ works and choral music, Smart composed non-religious works including several secular cantatas, an oratorio and an opera.  Somewhat against the trends of his day, he was vehemently opposed to the re-introduction of plainchant which he characterized as a “style of music utterly barbarous.” Although Smart’s music was extremely popular in his own time and his organ compositions figured prominently in recitals through the end of the 19th century, changing musical tastes would later denigrate much of his work as “Victorian stodge,” and the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article describes his organ compositions as “effective and melodious, if not strikingly original.”  Sadly, Smart’s works are now little remembered apart from his hymn tune compositions which include REGENT SQUARE, which is frequently paired with the Christmas carol text, “Angels from the realms of glory” (#93, The Hymnal 1982) and LANCASHIRE, usually sung with the text “Lead on O King eternal” (#555, Ibid.). Smart died in London on 6 July 1879 at the age of only 65 years. Such was his popularity in his day that services and recitals were organized across the country on the last Sunday of July of that year in his honor and memory.  His biographer, William Spark, records a full 109 of these events, including the music performed.


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