Sheet music

Musical contribution - September 2015

bladmuziek met potlood

Grand Choeur (William Ramsay Spence) (1859-1939) USA or Canada.

Little is known about the organist / composer William R. Spence. Some people think that he was an English-born American, while others only mention America, but I have read somewhere that he spent his entire life in Canada. Even the year of his death is subject to debate. We say 1939.

As the title implies, the piece begins with a certain bravado. First a six-measure phrase, followed by the theme, which is repeated for 16 measures. In measure 25, the dominant key is repeated twice for 16 measures, only to return to D-major (measures 42-47 = measures 9-24)

In measure 58 we see a chorale in B-major (third down). In measure 90 this chorale is repeated after an excursion to G-minor in measures 74-89), but with the addition of the pedal. From measures 105 to 117, Spence works on a transition to return to the main theme in the dominant key using material from the theme.

The conclusion is also interesting. Measures 128 and 129 bring us to F-major (upper third of D) and measure 130 is in B-major (lower third of D, with the quint in the pedal) only by changing the melody enharmonically. Above an organ point, he places the necessary chromatic to once again play the first theme.

The main theme is always registered fortissimo or higher. We play measures 25-40 on the ‘swell’. This can be done using a ‘full swell’ with the swell pedal. Measures 58-104 is played mezzoforte / piano. This can be done in the French style, with an oboe, but it sounds just as good without.

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this arrangement from a composer with whom I am completely unfamiliar.


André van Vliet