Hello fellow Theatre Organists! It's time for a new "chapter meeting" of our little club. Hope you're all perked up and ready toput another theatre organ playing "trick" up your sleeve.
The following registration is one that you have probably used over and over again. It's a general setting of orchestral stops and flutes, and is great for all around playing. I want to use this one to illustrate what sort of "tricks" you can use to make it sound fantastic on your instrument.
Solo: 8' Diapason, 8' String (adjust for blend), 8' Vox Humana, 8' Flute, 4' Flute.
Accompaniment: 8' Diapason, 4' Flute.
Pedal: 16' Bourdon, 8' Flute.
(If your solo and accompaniment Diapason starts running into itself because of the solo notes overrunning the accompaniment notes, swap the accompaniment Diapason out with a similiar, but slightly different sound...perhaps an 8' String and 8' Flute).
If you have an accompaniment 8' French Horn, try substituting that for your accompaniment Diapason. Also, if you find the Vox Humana rather soft on this registration, try blending a 8' Saxophone into the solo registration.
Use all the tremulants.
Now if you play a medium tempo piece on this, it's just an ordinary (well blended) 8' based combination of medium volume. However...if you add the 16' and 4' couplers to the solo stops, and the 4' coupler to the accompaniment stops, you will then have a very pleasant sounding Full Organ registration. If your organ doesn't have couplers, then add to the solo stops you have turned on,all the voices you have in the original 8' combination at 16' pitch and 4' pitch, and the accompaniment Diapason 4' and Flute 2'. In the pedal you might want to add the next louder 16' pedal stop, or 8' pedal stop...but not too much more in the pedal. Not all of these stops are going to be present at 16' and 4'...but add as much 16' and 4' stop duplications as you can find on your stop rail.
You may like your own 8' based combination even better than the one here. And if so, please use your own 8' based combination....the point I want to make with this combination is that you can add the couplers to your basic 8' registration and make fantastic things happen with just the flip of a few tabs. If your stop rail is "open" (where all the pitches of most stops are controlledby individual tabs) it might be a little more work...but the sound will reward you just the same.
Now let's do some "inventive" stuff with this registration. This is what I like to call "The Radio City Music Hall" sound...or better still, "The Dick Liebert Sound". He was the artist that I first heard doing this on the Music Hall organ, and it never has dissapointed me in it's effectiveness.
Here's the set up. Please register the original combination I started with in this post. Then alter the solo stops by putting on the Unison Off Coupler, and the 16' Sub Octave Coupler. (If you have an open stop rail, register the Diapason, String and Vox at 16' only, and include the 8' and 4' Flutes). On the accompaniment, alter the Diapason for something just a little lighter, like, perhaps, 8' Flute and 8' String. The pedal stops are OK as set up.
Here's your first "theory" rule: Always play this registration...(the way we're going to play it here)...in the key of G, or higher. If you play it any lower, it's going to sound aweful!
I have chosen the tune..."That Lucky 'Ol Sun", because it starts on the lowest note you would dare play on this combination....any notes lower than G2 on the solo will kill it's effectiveness. If you have that piece, please do bring it to the music rack and play the tune. You may have to transpose it into the key of G from it's original key.
Play the melody in the LH, starting on G2 of the Solo manual...and chord accompaniment one octave higher in the RH, down on the accompaniment. Wow! There's that big theatre organ sound, rumbling around in your listening room, just like it was Radio City Music Hall itself! Pleaseobserve your chords in the RH as you accompany the bass solo melody...I always duplicate the solo notes of that bass melody on the accompaniment manual, just one octave higher....it's sort of like playing "block style". The top fingers of the RH takes the melody, and the lower fingers of the RH make the harmonies for the chord. The LH is just lazily playing the melody one octave lower, one note at a time. As the bass melody moves up and down, I always move the RH up and down the same distance...always maintaining a one octave spread.
Now, when you come up to the middle part...the bridge....you'll suddenly understand why you have 'overhanging keys'. With the left hand, hold down the last bass note (on the front edge of the key) with your little finger, and with the other fingers of the left hand, reach down to the accompaniment, and pick up the notes you areholding with the RH. (This is a little tricky..you'll want to practice this "bridging" a few times). This will free up your RH so you can reach up to the stops and make a change...which if you have couplers, just take off the Unison Off coupler...the organ will do the rest. If you have an open rail,reach up and turn on the 8' Diapason, 8' String and 8' Vox. (Still holding on to that G Major chord with your left hand, did you notice that nice Crescendo that just happened when you made that stop change, right before you started the bridge....nice!) Then quickly lift both hands from the keys, andswap them around so now the RH is playing in the 3rd octave range of the solo manual, and the LH is playing in the 2nd octave range of the accompaniment manual. Now begin the bridge. The bridge is rather short, and easy to play. However, we're not done yet...when you reach the last chord in the bridge, you willbe playing a melody note A in the third octave, and a D7 chord under it...
Now lets make a "key change" and add some more full organ for our last go round....so,holding down your A melody note, and the D7th chord all together (this time with the right hand)....Reach up with your LH and put on the 4'Coupler on the solo(for open rails, add the 4' Diapason, 4' String, and 4' Vox)...and again, a nice Crescendo sound just happened....Now change your D7th chord to an F7th chord, still holding down that A on the top....and you have a nice "transition chord", that will take you intothe key of Bb. Now finish up the final verse in the key of Bb. Perhaps you might add a soft 2' Flute on the solo...just as you're finishing upthe last phrase of the piece...finish it up with plenty of volume.You know how to improvise some flourishes like this, I'm sure.
So here's a terrific arrangement of"Lucky 'Ol Sun"...just like Dick Liebert would haveplayed it at the Music Hall many years ago.
Please do try to getthe music to this tune..."Lucky 'Ol Sun"...and learn to play it in thekey of G, withpretty much the same stops and technique as I've given here...you won't be sorry for having learned how to play this classic theatre organ piece, especially with this special "trick technique"...andat the same time, you will have become proficient inworking the stops around for this "big organ sound". Don't fret too much about stumbling around on this for a while...it took the better part of a year for me to master this technique. If you can master this faster than I did....well then, you're a pretty good theatre organist!
Best wishes. Next time, we'll do some magic things with the"toy" stop....the Kinura.