Sheet music

Musical contribution - December 2011

Variations on the Sicilian Hymn - E.Thayer (1838-1898)

Dear organist, The composer for the month of December didn’t become incredibly famous.  Some organ lovers may have heard the Russian folk song variations before (recorded on CD JQZ 98034).  However, most people won’t be aware of the fact that this American organist also studied in Berlin and wrote choir works.

The composition starts off with the theme – the choral. We are familiar with this choral as “Oh how beautiful, how desirable”.  Thayer himself wrote: “senza ped.”, without pedal.  In that case it’s advisable to play it small, for example with a Principal 8’.  But a beautiful Dutch combination (8’,4’,3’ possibly c.f. with Cornet) is fine too.  Plus there are certainly plenty of other possibilities.

In variation 1 it would be advisable not to let the two keyboards differ too much. The second manual a little softer than the first one. Personally I would select flutes 8’ and 4’.

Variation 2 is probably difficult to realise on many pipe organs, as the highest note is an a’’’.  But we can certainly get close by playing the RH with a flute 4’ – plus one octave lower. This naturally won’t be a problem on a Johannus organ.  The composer has written an “oboe” for the LH.  This is fine, providing it’s played very softly and placed in a swell box.  Otherwise strings are also a good alternative.

Variation 3, the final, requires some pedal studying.  But you will truly get something in return. I would let the duration of the chords in the manuals depend on the acoustics in your specific room or on the amount of reverb you have set your Johannus organ to.  The less reverb, the longer the chords.

As you will have heard on the sound fragments, I have omitted the repeats.  This is because we are also familiar with this tune in the Netherlands without the repeat.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas.

André van Vliet