Category Archives: From the Organ Console

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


Regular music updates

are available online at

search for

“Williamwood Church Music”

Sunday 17th August – From the Organ Console

Today’s Organ Music … about the composers

Caleb Simper was born in 1856 and died, aged 85, in 1942. Simper, who was a typical Victorian composer with a ridiculous name, is a once-famous but now forgotten church music composer. Victorian church composers were often not of the highest quality, and few would rank Simper with Stainer. But the fascination of Caleb Simper is his invisibility. Here was a man who sold over 5 million copies of his sheet music. In the 1890s he moved to Barnstaple where he spent the remainder of his active life working as a choirmaster, organist and composer. In the last capacity he produced a prodigious amount of Anglican church music and organ pieces, written in an unsophisticated, popular style

May Brahe (born 6th November 1884, died 14th August 1956) was an Australian composer, best known for her songs and ballads. Her most famous song by far is “Bless This House”. Brahe published under her married name and no less that nine (!) pseudonyms. This allowed more frequent publication, as publishers were reluctant to publish more than four of her songs in a year. The names she composed under included: Mervyn Banks, Mary Hannah Brahe, Donald Crichton, Stanley Dickson, Alison Dodd, Stanton Douglas, Eric Faulkner, Wilbur B. Fox, Henry Lovell, Mary Hanna Morgan, and George Pointer.

Music as you gather
Song without words (Book 3) – C Simper
Melody (Book 3) – C Simper
Meditation (Book 1) – C Simper
Pastorale (Book 1) – C Simper

Offering Music
Bless this House by May Brahe is by far her most famous composition. The lyrics are by Helen Taylor. It was first published in 1927 and the original artist was John McCormack. In the USA it is often sung at Thanksgiving which it has a strong association with. It’s also found in spiritual and inspirational collections (such as Doris Day and Perry Como). It has also been included in many Church Hymnals.
The lyrics are simple, sincere and are a prayer to God. It is fitting that we do “Bless this House” our very own Williamwood Parish Church as a house of and for God. As we search for a new minister we Bless our House and it’s people…… (a selection of the lyrics tell us …)
Bless this house, O Lord we pray
Bless this door that it may prove, Ever open, To joy and love Bless the people here within, Keep them pure and free from sin

Recessional Music
March In G (Book 1) – C Simper
This is a fun and joyful organ postlude, starting with a wonderful solo Reed triplet fanfare. You will definitely be leaving church today with a swing in your step. The piece has the first theme and a quieter but no less jaunty middle section with a solo melody, before the original theme comes back. A development section full of triplets explodes into the reed section of the organ, before the original theme returns, this time with the fanfares. The main theme has some interesting pedal sections – listen out for them!

Summer Choir Introit
Come, all you people! Found at CH4 757 is a Zimbabwe folk song by Alexander Gondo, and arranged in CH4 by John Bell. It can be described as a simple and festive gathering song. It starts with a cantor, then adding the ladies, then adding the harmony lines of the men in turn. Finally the cantor line returns with a descant in the final time through. I am sure you can imagine a procession of clergy or choir singing this song with percussion and dance, with terrific joy and rhythm, to call all God’s people to come and worship our maker.
Come, all you people!
Come and praise your Maker. Come now, and worship the Lord.

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


This week’s music–10th August

From the Organ Console
JS Bach and Noel Rawsthorne


Music as you gather:

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is the common English title of the 10th and last movement of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 (“Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life”), composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1716 and 1723. Written during his first year in Leipzig, Germany, this chorale movement is one of Bach’s most enduring works. The original text can be translated as
Jesus remains my joy, my heart’s comfort and essence, Jesus resists all suffering, He is my life’s strength, my eye’s desire and sun,
my soul’s love and joy; so will I not leave Jesus out of heart and face. —from BWV 147, Chorale movement no. 10
It is unusually elaborate, treated more like an aria than a chorale. It is perhaps the best-loved cantata movement from Bach’s entire output and is a certain crowd pleaser for any group of listeners! Listen out for the Chorale melody on the swell reeds of our Church organ.

Hilf, Gott, daß mir gelinge (Help, God, that I succeed) BWV 343 – is a Chorale Harmonised by Bach. This Chorale is in G minor but finishes in a G Major chord which is referred to as a Tierce de Picardie.

Summer Choir Introit:

Singing we Gladly, worship the Lord – is a “new” hymn from CH4. It is lively and rhythmic. The tune itself is a Guatemalan folk melody, arranged in CH4 by Rev John Bell. The words remind me of a verse from Ephesians 5:19 – “speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” and another verse this time from Psalm 95:2 – “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” We don’t sing all the lyrics, but the verses remind us of the world today, in which we pray for the Holy Spirit to come down from heaven to enter our hearts, set our souls on fire or ablaze with a holy flame. The chorus is simply praise –and there is nothing wrong in pure praise!

Offering Music:

Aria – this lovely piece of music is by the former Organist of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. Noel Rawsthorne was organist there from 1955-1980. Noel is, emphatically, one of those folk who are busy enjoying their retirement, but how marvellous it is for us that Organists, Choristers, Congregations and Audiences everywhere have considerable cause to be thankful that the manuscript page has been as much the recipient of his most recent energies as his beloved garden and greenhouse. At the heart of his compositions is the lovely Aria – elegant, fluent, pulsing with emotion but not with the heart on the sleeve: above all, memorable.

Recessional Music:

Hornpipe Humoresque – our recessional today is by Noel Rawsthorne. His compositions and arrangements are found in many contemporary collections of organ music. His Hornpipe Humoresque is an amusing set of variations on the familiar Sailor’s Hornpipe, in the styles of (and with apologies to) Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, 1st movement), Vivaldi (“Spring,” 1st movement, from The Four Seasons), Arne (Rule Britannia) and Widor (“Toccata” from Symphony for Organ No. 5).

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

Regular music updates are available at or search Facebook for “Williamwood Church Music”

From the Organ Console–Sunday 3rd August 2014


Today, the 3rd of August 2014, marks the end of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. The closing ceremony takes place at Glasgow’s Hampden Park and will bring to a close 12 days of Sporting achievements.

Today’s summer choir and organ music takes a “topical form” in that all have some sporting connection. It’s not every day that an important event (or Games Festival) takes place on our door step and it would be remiss of me not to take my inspiration for my music from “the Games”.

Music as you gather:

Chariots of Fire is an instrumental theme written and recorded by Vangelis for the soundtrack of the 1981 film of the same name. The recording has since been covered by numerous performers and used as theme music for various television programmes and sporting events. Of course Eric Liddell was a devout Christian and a Scot, who was forced to choose between his religious beliefs and competing in an Olympic race

Eye of the Tiger – is a song by American rock band Survivor. It was written at the request of actor Sylvester Stallone, who was unable to get permission for Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”. The song was to be the theme song for the movie Rocky III, in which Stallone was playing the main role.

The Trap (main theme) – The soundtrack was composed by Ron Goodwin and the main theme is familiar as the title music used by the BBC for London Marathon coverage.

One moment in time – This inspiring song became the theme song for NBC’s coverage of the 1988 Olympics from Seoul, South Korea. The lyrics speak of reaching the pinnacle of one’s life, and both the fear of falling short and the thrill that can only be explained by one who has achieved his or her dreams.

Caledonia (Scotland!) – Nothing to do with Sports, but I couldn’t have something that didn’t make reference to Scotland! It’s a modern Scottish folk ballad written by Dougie MacLean in 1977. The chorus of the song features the lyric “Caledonia, you’re calling me, and now I’m going home”, the term “Caledonia” itself being a Latin word for Scotland. It was used as the Homecoming Scotland 2009 theme, a campaign by VisitScotland which invited people to come home to Scotland in 2009 on the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’s birth

Summer Choir Introit

Guide my feet while I run this race, is an African American Spiritual song, with a reference to 1 Corinthians 9:24 – You know that many runners enter a race, and only one of them wins the prize. So run to win!

Offering Music:

Go the distance is a song from Disney’s 1997 animated feature film, Hercules, and is performed in the film by Hercules (age 15) who possesses god-like strength and finds it increasingly hard to fit in with his peers. The song serves as Hercules’ prayer to the Olympian Gods to help him find where he truly belongs. His prayers are answered, as he is revealed to be the long-lost son of Zeus, king of the gods. Hercules is also told that he must become a true hero in order to re-join his father on Mount Olympus. The number is later reprised when Hercules sets off on his quest to become a true hero, proclaiming that he wants to “go the distance” in order to prove himself.

There are many parallels in the lyrics with that of our Christian journey and faith – such as the “crowds cheering a hero’s welcome” with a depiction of Palm Sunday; an “unknown road to embrace my fate” with the events of Good Friday; and the daily challenges we ALL have in our day to day living and actions – stay on track, being strong, hope, looking beyond glory, and finally facing the harms of the world until we find our hero – namely Our Lord!

Recessional Music:

Superman (including the Main theme and Can you read my mind) written by the legendary John Williams

Not necessarily a sporting song as such, but it is iconic and instantly depicts in our minds eye the Man of Steel – Superman. He’s a strong, powerful, and caring character. He has the care and safety of the world and all its people in mind all the time. Selflessly putting himself at risks for others. Again, are there parallels here?

Audiences seem to love the retelling of Superman. One thing not missing from the film is a good music score. In the original 1978 Superman movie, a major character in the film (that was seen but not heard), was the score to the movie, which was composed and written by legendary composer John Williams. To this day, the iconic Superman theme song is frequently heard worldwide at sporting events and other places.

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

Check out next week’s From the Organ Console for what the music will be, and a bit about each item.

Regular music updates are available at

or search Facebook for “Williamwood Church Music”

About this weeks Music …… 27th July 2014

This week’s opening voluntaries are by Johann Pachelbel. A German Baroque composer, organist and teacher who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak.

The first is actually two.  We have two settings by Pachelbel of the Lutheran Chorale of 1524 “Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein” (“Oh God, look down from heaven”) with words written by Martin Luther paraphrasing Psalm 12. It was published as one of eight songs in 1524 in the first Lutheran hymnal.  The melody which Luther probably wrote or at least influenced was set by composers for instruments like harpsichord and organ, and for voices. Johann Pachelbel composed the two chorale preludes played today for organ as part of “Erster Theil etlicher Choräle (Choräle zum praeambuliren)” before 1693.

The second voluntary is so well known it needs little introduction – it is Canon on D.  Famous at many different events but probably best well-known at weddings, and in many different arrangements. It is probably one of the most famous pieces of classical music of all time!  We don’t even know exactly when it was composed, although it’s thought it was around 1680.  There are a few unsubstantiated claims that the music was written for the wedding of Bach’s brother, Johann Christoph, on 23 October 1694, but this is pretty unlikely.  The Canon’s popularity snowballed in the 1970s, after French conductor Jean-François Paillard made a recording. Since then, the music has been recorded hundreds of times, and the iconic harmony has made its way into pop songs, films, and adverts. But even before the public got hold of the piece, classical composers knew Pachelbel was on to a good thing – Handel, Haydn, and Mozart all used the iconic bass line in some of their compositions in the following years.


Our Offertory Voluntary is the beautiful “Bist du bei mir” (Be thou with me) attributed to Bach.  It is an aria in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, hence why it is attributed to Bach.  It has often been described as a delightful little piece suitable for a quiet interlude and reflection in a service of worship, so very ably fills the offertory “slot” this week.  Listen for the rising, falling repeated  phrases in the melody which create a nice shape and texture, before a repeat with a different registration.


The recessional voluntary is Schubert’s Marche Militaire, which comes from the Three Marches Militaires, Op 51, D.733.  Today’s recessional is the no.1 March in D Major.  It’s one of Schubert’s most famous of melodies, and has been arranged for full orchestra, military bands and transcribed for many other individual and combinations of instruments.  It is marked “Allegro Vivace” and like all three marches are in ternary form (A > B > A) with a trio which leads to the reprise of the main march.  Allegro refers to the tempo (cheerful or brisk) and vivace is the mood marking (lively).

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

Alan Mathew
Organist & Director of Music