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Playing or learning the organ, hints, tips and tricks, registrations, techniques, fingerings, ...
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PostTue Mar 20, 2018 10:28 pm


I have "finished" arranging Rhapsody in Blue for piano and [theater] organ. (The piano part is note-for-note the original, and the organ is playing the reduced orchestra.) There are still many cosmetic issues to address in the engraving, but that's beside the point.

The trouble is, I have never actually played a theater organ before (much to my chagrin!) but as my church's Hauptwerk organ is looming on the horizon, I thought "Rhapsody in Blue" would be a fantastic way to show off the theater organ sample set that I will have on there - (no official set has been chosen yet, suggestions welcome). The arrangement is also a surprise gift for my fiance, who happens to be a very fine pianist. She doesn't know about this yet. I'm sure she has forgotten by now, but when we first met some years back in college, she mentioned to me that she wanted to play this piece at some point in her life and I told her that if I ever had a way to fulfill that wish, I would do everything in my power. So..... here we are.

So, here's what I am needing....

I know there are some fine theater organists on this forum who would be capable of providing GOOD, SOLID, and EFFECTIVE input and I would really appreciate suggesting for registrations, as well as any input you may have regarding making the part a bit more idiomatic to the theater organ. I am NOT willing to send out this arrangement to tons and tons of people. I would, instead, appreciate it if some of you folks who know each other quite well could recommend a few people you know would be right for the job, so I might message them privately about this. The arrangement is NOT for sale, and is not available to the public since it is obviously copyright protected, etc.

Any help and recommendations would be truly appreciated.

Please message me if you are serious about trying to help with the project. I will certainly credit you on the score and would be willing to return the favor to help in any way that I can on your future endeavors.
Drew A. Worthen
Master of Music in Composition - Butler University
Director of Music & Website Admin - Greenwood UMC
Field Engineer - Diversified (Formerly Sensory Technologies)
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PostWed Mar 21, 2018 10:50 pm

Hey Drew:

Kind of a tall order ride of out the gate :-) For starters, I view TO registrations in two, kind of gray camps: Theatre organ for the sake of its unique sound; a Unit Orchestra where registration is as imitative as possible. For the latter it helps to have music that will lend itself. A easy example would be the Nutcracker's "Sugar Plum Fairy":
8' Bourdon in the Pedal, Accomp = soft strings / Diapason, Great = Chrysoglott, Solo = Clarinet.
When played correctly, it sounds more like the recording than a theatre organ.

Here is an excellent video from a series of basic TO registrations:
If you haven't done so already, download the free Paramount 3/10 from ParamountOrganWorks. You should be able to apply what you learn from the video to this sample set.

Jelani Eddington is a world class organist who painstakingly frets over his registrations and seamless changes to orchestrate his recordings and live performances. The results are spectacular! You can listen to his recording many times without fatigue as there are so many timbre changes all done logically. Ironically here is a recording of Rhapsody in Blue with theatre organ (Jelani) and piano (David Harris).
If you listen closely to the 0.49 -- 0.53 time mark section you'll here one those seamless registration changes. 8)


Danny B.



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PostThu Mar 22, 2018 8:54 am

British theatre organist Quentin MacLean (who later emigrated to Canada) was an FRCO (Fellow of the Royal College of Organists). He made a famous arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue which fortunately is available on Youtube. He uses the piano attachment on the organ to play the piano parts. This should be extremely helpful to you in working out registrations:

If you can't work out what registration he's using at any point please let me know – I should be able to make an educated guess, as I'm in England and have played a couple of Christie organs – though none as large as the Regal Marble Arch. There are at least two other transcriptions of the piece on Youtube – you'll see them when you go to MacLean's version. My training is as a classical pianist and organist, but I've always loved theatre organs, so let me know if I can help further.

As for sample sets – the Paramount series of Wurlitzers has sampled tremulants, which give an authentic sound; there are five versions available altogether, at different price points.

Milan Digital Audio's Masterworks 3/31 Wurlitzer is an older set with software tremulants – less authentic in some ways, but the advantage is that you can adjust the speed and depth of the trems. I find this MDA instrument works quite well as a classical organ if the trems are turned off; and voicing of the reed ranks sounds to me more even than on the Paramounts. ... nstruments

As already mentioned, the Paramount 3/10 is a free download, so this would be a good starting point.

Finally – keep in mind that some Romantic church organs are very suitable for playing orchestral transcriptions – especially those of E M Skinner. At least two of his organs have been sampled for Hauptwerk – most recently

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