Category Archives: From the Organ Console

From the Organ Console – Sunday 12th October 2014

Preludes & Offering – All from Vesper Voluntaries by Edward Elgar

  • Preludes: Introduction (adagio) D minor, MVT 1 (andante) D major, MVT 2 (allegro) D minor, MVT 3 (andantino) in F major
  • Offering music MVT 4 (allegretto piacevole) in B major

About Edward Elgar ……

He came into contact with the organ at an early age through his father’s duties as organist at St George’s Catholic Church, Worcester, and in his typically thorough way he taught himself to play from the tutors of Rinck and Best. In 1885 he succeeded his father in the post and it was probably during this time that he began to sketch the Vesper Voluntaries. In their final form they were one of the first fruits of his, in the event ill-fated, move to London from his beloved Worcestershire.

In the autumn of 1889 he and his new and adored bride Alice moved into a house in Norwood, near the Crystal Palace. Here he could hear orchestral concerts more or less daily, an important feature in the process of his growth as a composer. It was a difficult period in his development; the eventual master of the symphony, concerto and the oratorio was just beginning to emerge from the provincial writer of salon pieces and light orchestral scores.

His first major choral work, The Black Knight, was already sketched out and gently simmering inside his head, while the overture Froissart had been commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival for performance in September 1890. However, in spite of a few successes, he failed to make much headway and in 1891 the Elgars moved to Malvern, where he at last found the contentment that enabled him to blossom into the composer of the ‘Enigma Variations’ and all that was to follow.

Early in January 1890, shortly after the move to London, Elgar sold the Vesper Voluntaries to the publishers Orsborn & Tuckwood for five guineas – hardly great riches but rather more generous than the terms offered by Novello & Co. at the start of their relationship with the composer – and they appeared as Book 26 of The Vesper Voluntaries for the Organ, Harmonium, or American Organ. They are designed to be played on a two manual instrument without pedals but Elgar provided indications where they could be used if available. The latent grandness of many of the ideas makes them eminently suitable for expansion onto a larger canvas. The set comprises eight voluntaries with an introduction, an interlude between the fourth and fifth numbers and a coda; although designed to be played separately the pieces make a thoroughly satisfying continuous sequence, full of characteristic melodic and harmonic touches. The use of the same theme in the introduction, interlude and coda binds the work together and Elgar already adopts the quasi-orchestral approach to organ writing which was to be such a feature of his magnificent Sonata in G major a few years later.

Recessional music: Choral Song – Wesley

Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876), the outstanding church musician of Victorian England, was successively organist at the cathedrals of Hereford, Exeter, Winchester and Gloucester, and he spent seven years at Leeds Parish Church between the second and third of these appointments.

The whole work of Choral Song and Fugue, written at Exeter, is the third of his first set of Three Pieces for Chamber Organ, both sets having been written for the organ at Killerton House, Broadclyst, Exeter, the home of Wesley’s pupil Lady Acland, to whom they are dedicated.

It comprises a cheerful, tuneful first movement (played today) followed by a fugue in which all textbook notions of this daunting form are quickly swept aside: its headlong progress is eventually checked by the arrival of the remote key of C sharp major, and at this point Wesley engineers a return to the home key of C major which has an almost Beethovenian audacity.

Choir Introit – The peace of the earth be with you

This short song is found at CH4 number 798. It’s words and music are from a Guatemalan folk song. There is a scripture reference to John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

There is also a link to our Harvest Thanksgiving last week, as we remember the creation in the Heaven’s, the Rivers and the Oceans. It is in four part unaccompanied harmony.

Choir Anthem – Jesus, is the Name we honour

Our Anthem today is also from CH4. It’s a newer worship song that we’ve sang as a hymn at least once – during the summer of this year. It was written in 2005 both words and music by Phil Lawson-Johnston.   He is one of the most sensitive worship composers in Britain, and has always stood slightly outside the mainstream of worship musicians who’ve come to prominence in the British church over the past two decades. Known principally through his work with classically-influenced worship group Cloud who took their spirit-filled and intimate worship style out from their base at Holy Trinity, Brompton to churches up and down Britain in the 70s and 80s and, as the author of songs like “We Will Magnify”, “Jesus Is King” and “Give Me A Hearing Heart”, after 15 years in the worship ministry Johnston remains his own man.

The hymn reminds us of our Life in Christ, the coming again of Christ; and our adoration and our worship of Jesus and His Name. There are many scripture references, Acts 4:12; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 13:15; John 3:35; Matthew 1:21; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 17:14; and Revelation 19:16.   I want to think on John 3: 35 – The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. “The Father loves the Son”. But what is the meaning of this reason? Does he regard all others with hatred? The answer is easy, that he does not speak of the common love with which God regards men whom he has created, or his other works, but of that peculiar love which, beginning with the Son, flows from him to all the creatures. For that love with which, embracing the Son, he embraces us also in him, leads him to communicate all his benefits to us by his hand.

He has indeed placed all things in His hands, but God has placed the care of His creation in our hands so it is appropriate that we thank God though His Son for our glory of creation, our physical nourishment and sustenance.

The music is lively and catchy! Verses are in unison followed by a straightforward SATB harmony. I’m sure you will be tapping your foot as we sing it!

Alan Mathew, Organist

Sunday’s Music – 5th Oct 2014

Not surprisingly, today’s organ music and anthem from the choir has a ‘Harvest’ theme!

We Plough the Fields “Wir Pflugen” (Joseph Prentiss)
Now thank we all our God “Nun Danket” (Lani Smith)
We gather together to ask the Lord’s Blessings “Dutch folk tune” (F. Ritter)

These three preludes are based on the Hymn Tunes associated with Harvest Hymns. They come from a complete set of Liturgical settings for the Church Organist. The first two familiar tunes feature solo reeds and a nice accompaniment. At the mid-way section we hear the hymn tunes as we are used to, before the solo and variations come back.

The third prelude is based on a lovely Dutch folk tune. The tune itself is quite reminiscent to the same lilting slow-ish Scotch Snap rhythm that the Skye Boat song has. The words are quite nice too, and are probably more associated with American Thanksgiving and have references to praise and thanksgiving for all seasons and events… such as asking a blessing on us as we gather for worship, that we should sing praises to his name, and he doesn’t forget his flock. Moving on we think about God creating and maintaining his kingdom, and that he defends it for which we praise him. This may be the physical kingdom on earth we remember at Harvest or the spiritual heavenward kingdom that we enter in Salvation.

OFFERINGVariations for Thanksgiving (Colin Curtis)

This is a lovely gentle piece for flute stops and the softer Clarinet stop. It’s in the calming triple time signature and features the tune alternating between the bass and treble. This is an arrangement of the Dutch folk tune that is set to the words ‘We gather together’.   It’s not very familiar to us here in the UK but quite catchy and I’m sure you will hum along!

RECESSIONALFestival Postlude (Nelson)

We are today celebrating our ‘Harvest Festival’ so what way better than to finish off with a flourish? This Festival postlude has a solo reed introduction with quite a few quaver notes, followed by an almost responsive four part phrase. The middle section is a little more subdued with a new theme being introduced. Finally, we return to the joyous and uplifting flourish that we began with, taking us to a final and grand coda section for full organ.

ANTHEMGod who made the earth

This is a Korean folk melody and text arranged by John Bell for CH4. The music is gentle and lilting and has an almost Celtic air about it. Unison verses are followed by the harmonic chorus. The text reminds us a little of the bible passage for everything there is a season… moving on to spring new life and harvest cultivation being likened in parallel to the Passion, Death and Resurrection… ‘though dead and fallen, burst to life and rose up again!’

Enjoy the music! Alan Mathew, Organist.

From the organ console – 28th September

Our theme of ‘Love’ continues today and for the next few weeks.

The Bible describes love, and then we will see a few ways in which God is the essence of love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).  This is God’s description of love, and because God is love (1 John 4:8); this is what He is like.

Music as you gather

The Music as you gather continues the Romantic classical music songs and themes.

Hebrew Slaves Chorus by Giuseppe Verdi. This piece is from Nabucco, an opera in four acts to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera. It is also known by its Italian title “Va, Pensiro,” (Fly, My Thoughts). Nabucco was based on the Biblical story of the plight of the Jews as they are exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. The historical events are used as background for a romantic and political plot. It’s been said that the web of characters form a powerful theme of love and thirst for power and longing for freedom. There is a link to Psalm 137.

Offenbach – Barcarolle, from ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’. The Tales of Hoffmann (French: Les contes d’Hoffmann) is an opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann. Hoffmann is the protagonist in the opera. The Barcarolle, “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” is the opera’s most famous number. A duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano, it is considered the most famous barcarolle ever written and described in the Grove Book of Operas as “one of the world’s most popular melodies.” The text, concerning the beauty of the night and of love, is by Jules Barbier.

Choral Introit

I love you Lord, and I lift my voice – reminds us that our love for God is an integral part of our worship, that we do rejoice in that love and that it is indeed a sweet, sweet thing indeed. The song is by Laurie Klein and was written in 1978. The Choir sing this together but with the sopranos singing the words and the inner parts being the accompaniment themselves.

Psalm 18:1 ‘I love you, Lord, my strength.’ Look it up at hymn 770, please follow the words and use it as your own personal Call to Worship. If you want to sing it quietly with us then please do join in.

Choral Anthem

Father we love you, we worship and adore you. With a Trinitarian structure in its three stanzas, this popular hymn is one of the finest praise choruses as well as prayer hymns from the mid-1970s.
“Father, We Love You” first expresses our humble love and devotion to God and then offers Jesus’ own prayer, “glorify your name” (see John 12:28; 17:1-5). God’s name is glorified in the completion of Christ’s ministry on earth, in the faithful testimony of God’s family, the church, and in the praises of angels and saints in heaven. As we sing, we also pray for God’s glory to arise from “all the earth” (see Ps. 108:5 and Isa. 6:3). Thus the text has a biblically cosmic ring: “all the earth” refers to our whole lives, all the nations, and, in fact, the entire creation!

It has classic four part harmony. The Summer Choir introduced this song during the summer and it Church Choir enjoy it also. We sing it accompanied and unaccompanied. In a similar way to todays’ introit the sopranos take the lead in the middle verse.

Offering Music

Mozart – Serenade in G major, K. 525 ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’ – Romance (Andante). The composition for a chamber ensemble was written in 1787. The German title means “a little serenade,” though it is often rendered more literally but less accurately as “a little night music. “The work was originally written for an ensemble of two violins, viola, and cello with optional double bass, but is often performed by string orchestras and there have been many transcriptions.

The second movement, in C major, is a “Romanze”, with the tempo marked Andante. A feeling of intimacy and tenderness remains throughout this movement. It is in rondo form, taking the shape A–B–A–C–A plus a final coda. The movement can be described as evoking a gavotte rhythm: each of its sections begins in the middle of the measure, with a double upbeat.

Recessional Music

The Prince of Denmark’s March (Trumpet Voluntary) by Jeremiah Clarke is another instantly recognisable Romantic Moment within Classical Music. The march is popular as wedding music, and was played during the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981.

Three words that aptly describe the piece could certainly be Royal, regal, and stately.

The solo reed used today on our Allen Organ, is in fact 4 reed stops used in combination – Contra Fagotto (16’), Trompette (8’), English Tuba (8’) and Trumpet (8’). Our organ’s “standard” reed stops (C.Fag and Tromp) are a little weak on their own to be used as solo stops, but by utilising our Allen Card readers we can add the extra two stops which are robust and actually quite striking!

Use the times of music to listen, relax, and meditate; let the music, with its melodies and harmonies, transport you to a place of calm and gentleness whilst we remember that we are in God’s House. Enjoy this week’s music.
Alan Mathew, Organist & Director of Music

From the Organ Console – 21st Sept 2014

Our theme of ‘Love’ continues today and for the next few weeks. Hopefully you will hear the meaning of God’s Love for us in our Anthem later on in the service. John 3:16 tells us of the love God has for us and the extent of that love—so great that He sacrificed His only Son on our behalf.

I was inspired to a ‘Love’ theme when I selected the choir Anthem ‘Love Divine’ by Howard Goodall, which the choir will sing in a few weeks’ time. It was from here that I had the idea to find some other music on that same theme that myself and the choir could use

Music as you gather

In CH4 there is a section for ‘Love of God’. Two hymns on that theme are found at numbers 519 and 474. Unsurprisingly no.519 is ‘Love Divine’ but a lesser known hymn is found at no.474, ‘Hail to the Lord’s anointed’. It is the set tunes to these hymns that form the first section of Organ Music.

These hymns remind us of God’s Love for us – John 3:16 tells us ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ Please read over the words to these two hymns as we prepare for worship.

Hyfrydol – a melody by RH Pritchard, arranged by R Vaughn Williams and taken from his set of three hymn preludes. Hyfrydol means ‘Cheerful’ and what better way to describe God’s Love for us. It has an almost stately feel to it, which is directed by the composer himself – Moderato Maestoso. It is played using the principal foundation stops of the organ.

Es ist ein ros – a 16th Century German Melody, arranged for organ by John M Rasley. The tune name translates to ‘Lo, how a rose e’er blooming’, and was first published with that text in the Cologne Gesangbuch of 1599. Es ist ein ros is a rounded bar form tune (AABA). The tune has characteristics of a Renaissance madrigal. This arrangement has Solo flutes on the great organ accompanied by softer stops on the swell.

Choral Introit

I love you Lord, and I lift my voice – reminds us that our love for God is an integral part of our worship, that we do rejoice in that love and that it is indeed a sweet, sweet thing indeed. The song is by Laurie Klein and was written in 1978. Today we pick up the tempo a little and we sing it unaccompanied. You will hear the close harmonies from the choir intertwined with the words.
Could Psalm 18:1 ‘I love you, Lord, my strength.’ have given the songwriter inspiration? The word love is used, but it’s not the usual Hebrew word for love. However, it does emphasize intimacy, expressing David’s personal devotion. You can look it up at hymn 770, please follow the words and use it as your own personal Call to Worship.

Choral Anthem

We all know the hymn ‘How deep the Father’s love’ we sing it often from CH4. The choral arrangement is by Larry Shackley who is a full-time composer and music editor from Columbia, SC. Larry’s published music includes over 200 choral pieces, seven cantatas, and 400 keyboard arrangements, as well as vocal and instrumental collections and numerous orchestrations. This arrangement naturally has an American feel to it, and it suits the words, music and rhythm perfectly. It is accompanied on the piano, so it has a lighter feel to it.

I want to use a meditation I found on-line to start our thinking on some of the words of the song, and that you indeed know the deep, deep love of God.

‘How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure, That He would give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure’

‘Inconceivable!  Who swaps the perfect for the imperfect?  Who chooses me—woeful, sinful me—over perfect love and fellowship with Jesus . . . even for a moment?  God the Father!  It goes beyond all my reason and imagination that God chooses to treasure his fallen, ragged, filthy creation, but he does.  It’s a love I can’t fathom.  It’s a love to wallow in.’

A bible passage to think on is Mark 15:22 – 24. It reminds us of the sacrifice and the love.

Offering Music

How deep the Father’s love for us – is a beautifully crafted modern worship song by the renowned Christian song writer Stuart Townend. He penned the lyrics and wrote the melody. The arrangement at the offering is the one that he would be used at live events and recordings.

Recessional Music

Felix Mendelssohn’s Allegro from his Organ Sonata No. 2 is a favourite recessional at weddings – so the love theme continues! It is marked ‘Allegro maestoso e vivace’ which translates from music speak to normal speak as ‘A direction to play lively and fast’ whilst being ‘Majestic and Stately’. It begins with a happy dotted rhythmic section with a rising scale like phrase and octave leaps in the pedals (fig 1). It uses almost full organ and listen out for the running notes in the pedal section! (fig 2)

You could describe the movement as being built on a broad, dignified, symmetrical basis, the spirit resembling somewhat that of a stately march. Its form is simple and has but one theme.

Use the times of music to listen, relax, and meditate; let the music, with its melodies and harmonies, transport you to a place of calm and gentleness whilst we remember that we are in God’s House. Enjoy this week’s music.
Alan Mathew
Organist & Director of Music

From the organ console: Sunday 14th September

Today’s Music …

The music you will hear today from the choir and the ‘incidental’ music as you gather, at the offering and at the recessional starts a theme which will continue for the next four weeks.

The theme is ‘Love’

Love has many different facets, from the love we have for one and other as members of a Christian family, the love we have for our own families, the love we have for our partner and the love we have in our hearts for God our Father.

I was inspired by ‘The Theme of Love’ when I selected the choir Anthem ‘Love Divine’ by Howard Goodall, which the choir will sing in a few weeks’ time. It was from here that I had the idea to find some other music on that same theme that myself and the choir could use – and there you go ‘the Theme of Love’ it is for September and the start of October.

Music as you gather

The organ preludes aren’t specifically from a ‘love’ theme, but are written by a French composer, and they do say that France is the land of love? These preludes are from a collection called ‘Vade-mecum de L’Organiste’, roughly translated as ‘a useful collection for the organist’, a suite of 10 movements for various sections of a church service.

The composer is Louis James Alfred Lefebure-Wely, born and died in France (1817-1869), who as well as being a composer was also an organist. His compositions were often considered less substantial than those of say Franck, and have not held such a prominent place in repertoire.

Offering Music

This little ‘verset’ arrangement is by Noel Rawsthorne, on the hymn tune ‘Love Divine’ by Stainer – the same as today’s choir anthem. The melody is contained as a solo line in the inner harmonies of the arrangement, a little like in the ‘tenor line’ position of four part harmony. It is played by a louder stop than the rest of the harmony, on the great organ.

Recessional Music

Now, this may seem an ‘odd’ selection for a Sunday morning service, but it does continue the love theme. The ‘Wedding March’ from Mendelssohn’s Mid-Summer Nights Dream is instantly recognisable from its opening trumpet fanfare. This transports many back to the day they took their vows and started married life, or people who celebrated with family at that joyous occasion.

Many people don’t know the ‘middle section’ as they have normally left the church by that point, but please do stay and listen to the quieter section which has a dance like feel to it, in contrast to the familiar marching first and last sections.

Choral Introit

The choir’s introits will continue to start our services, and the theme of love brought me to CH4 and the song ‘I love you Lord, and I lift my voice’. It reminds us that our love for God is an integral part of our worship, that we do rejoice in that love and that it is indeed a sweet, sweet thing indeed. The song is by Laurie Klein and was written in 1978. We sing this for three weeks, each time in a different way. This week accompanied and in full 4- part harmony. It’s gentle and relaxing. You can look it up at hymn 770.

Choral Anthem

The hymn ‘Love Divine’ was written by Charles Wesley who was part of that great dynasty of Wesley’s. The words are considered by many to be among his best texts. A verse from John Dryden’s poem “Fairest isle, all isles excelling” used by Henry Purcell’s opera King Arthur were undeniably Wesley’s inspiration. In fact, it was set to a Purcell tune in John and Charles Wesley’s Sacred Melody (1761).

Many of us will remember it from school, church and of course weddings. There are many tunes that it can be sung to. In our own hymn book it can be sung to the great welsh tunes of Hyfrydol and Blaenwern, but John Stainer also wrote a tune for the text and that tune is simply called ‘Love Divine’. It is that tune that the choir sing today.

We use the full range of voices in the arrangement today, from accompanied SATB harmony, men in unison, unaccompanied SATB harmony, sopranos singing the melody with the inner parts themselves providing the accompaniment, and at the very end full unison singing against a varied organ accompaniment.

We spent a lot of time whilst practising this and the other ‘Love’ anthems looking at how we sing and say words differently. Hopefully, that hard work as paid off and you hear the words clearly and hear their true meaning. In singing words a particular way you need to support them with stronger breathing, and by projecting your voice this in turn adds to a more rounded and warmer sound which is typical of this type of singing.

From the Organ Console – Sunday 24th August


Today’s Organ Music …

We all hear hymn tunes each week as we sing praises to our Lord, but from these tunes (many of which have beautiful melodies) composers and arrangers throughout the centuries have made arrangements, alternative harmonisations and compositions based on them. In the 1600’s we had Dietrich Buxtehude and in the 1700’s we had JS Bach, both of home have countless chorale preludes based on Lutheran hymn tunes. Ralph Vaughan Williams has his famous “set of three” based on the Welsh Hymn Tunes Bryn Calfaria, Rhosymedre and Hyfrydol, written in the 1920’s. This genre of Hymn Tune preludes aids us organists in setting the scene for worship by using liturgical music in an extended musical way.

Music as you gather

Prelude on Darwalls 148th “Rejoice! The Lord is King” is a lively and robust arrangement from Henry Coleman. It is short in terms of length, but acts as a superb “Call to Worship”. It starts with the familiar arpeggio like opening phrase and develops whilst retaining the instantly recognisable tune, finishing with a full and grand coda, based on the final phrase from Darwall’s hymn tune. This prelude uses the principal chorus of organ stops (Gemshorn, Spitzprinzipal, Prinzipal and Oktav) with some reeds added for colour!

Prelude No. 2 in G major “Rhosymedre” by RV Williams. This particular hymn prelude is the most popular of the three in the prelude set and perhaps the most substantive. It’s been described as a calm and thoughtful piece and is a lovely addition to any service of worship. It uses the gentler stops on the organ, from the “lush” string stops (Salzional, Viole D’Orchestre and Dulciana) and the warm flutes stops (Gedackt, Koppelflote, Hohlflote and Spitzflote). No longer in CH4, it is to be found as a hymn tune in CH3.

Offering Music

Onward! Christian Soldiers is our concluding hymn today and also the music in our time for reflection during the offering. The hymn tune is of course written by written by Arthur S. Sullivan, but in this instance is arranged by Jon Schmidt. It is very in keeping with the march like style of the hymn, but has nice little motifs based on the first phrase of the hymn, that crop up at the beginning and again later in the arrangement. There is a nice repeated dotted rhythm in the bass very reminiscent of a big bass drum and an obligatory change of key!

Recessional Music

Nun danket alle Gott by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (born, 21 November 1877; died, 9 April 1933). He was a German composer who wrote in a late Romantic style. He is mainly remembered for his music for organ and harmonium, his favourite instrument. He wrote a set of 66 Chorale improvisations for organ, the best known of which is called Nun danket alle Gott (Now thank we all our God).

It may not be immediately obvious that this well known piece is based on the hymn Now Thank We All Our God. Fragments of the melody are present, but mainly presented in disjointed notes (marked by an x in the score). It is perhaps easier to see than to hear.

Summer Choir Introit

Praise the Lord, with the sound of Trumpet! Somewhat similar to Francis of Assisi’s “All Creatures of Our God and King” and Herbert Brokering’s “Earth and All Stars”, this text is a wonderful catalogue of things, times, and places. All instruments and all occasions can be used to sing our praise to the Lord. Note that God’s praise is warranted not only in the good times but also in “the time of sorrow” or in “the peace and quiet” (st. 2). Natalie Sleeth wrote both text and tune of this fine praise hymn in 1975 when she worked with church school children and a junior choir at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. “Praise the Lord” was one of twelve hymns published in Sleeth’s Sunday Songbook (1976). As the text suggests, “praise the Lord anytime and anywhere” and “everywhere in every way”!

Next week and Communion Sunday we welcome Philip/Shena Fox to play our organ and lead Summer Choir (next week only) and we pray that God will richly bless them as they take part in our worship.

From the Organ Console returns Sunday 14th September.

Use the times of music to listen, relax, and meditate; let the music, with its melodies and harmonies, transport you to a place of calm and gentleness whilst we remember that we are in God’s House. Enjoy this week’s music.

Alan Mathew

Organist & Director of Music


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