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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

June 23, 2011

Three-and-a-half beats?

evelyn @ 10:17 pm

Leading baritone: Some of these triplet quavers don’t have a figure three on top of them.

(Choir leader looks at me, raises eyebrows)

Me (at the organ): That’s right. They aren’t triplets.

Leading Baritone: But that means that … (counts) … that bar has three-and-a-half beats! Three-and-a-half?

Me (sheepishly but resolutely, as becomes a composer whose new translation Gloria is being road-tested): Yes.

(They all laugh)


Me (now putting head on block): You’ll have noticed that there is no time-signature at the start. If there had been, we would have needed others – a lot of others – throughout the piece. That particular bar would have been 7/8. I thought it would be less confusing just to leave all the time-signatures out …

(another pause)

Choir leader: OK, let’s try the whole thing again.


Gloria 2, now re-named ‘St Michael Gloria’, is something of an experiment. I have been trying to put into practice my theory that if you sing something often enough, like the parts of the Mass, you will learn it, no matter how ‘difficult’ it may appear at the outset. This, if correct, would mean that Mass parts don’t have to be easy to pick up.

Reactions to Gloria 2 had been mixed at the 9 April Singing Day. Misia, our leader, knew instantly that the lack of time-signature was deliberate. ‘Evelyn’s music is like that’, she said, kindly. They all had a go at singing it, with me accompanying on the small organ, and soon it seemed to be going OK. But these were musicians, of course.

In the post-Singing Day questionnaire answers, one person gave Gloria 2 a definite thumbs-down because of the rhythm. The same person disliked Sanctus 2 (now ‘Linlithgow Sanctus’), which had all the time-signatures in place, for the same reason. Leaving them out in the Gloria obviously hadn’t fooled her one bit. However, a number of others bravely thought they might try it in their parishes.

And now, here was I, introducing it in my own parish, with the added embarrassment of having composed the thing.


Leading baritone (after next run-through): Yes, well, it seems to flow, but these rests at the beginning of some of the ‘bars’ (you could hear the quotes) are a bit confusing.

Me (suddenly enlightened): Of course, they would be! They’re actually in there to help you because there’s a chord from the organ at each of these rests to bring you in. Listen – (I play a few bars).

Leading baritone: Yes, right. I understand now. That’s a lot better.

Me: Probably I should indicate these organ notes in the voice part.

Several voices: Yes!

Choir leader: OK, let’s do it all again.

Me (after they’d finished): Look, if you all really hate this thing, just leave it.

Them: No, not at all. We’re actually starting to like it.

Are they just being polite? We’ll see. Meantime, I’ll get those organ cues sorted out.


  1. I’ve now had a good look at Gloria 2, and I think that people who DON’T read music will find it easier than choirs. This may sound strange, but it flows well, and just listening to it while reading the words may be the best way to learn it. But I agree with your Leading Baritone about the organ notes at the beginning of bars.

    I’ll be trying it out in my parish! When can we get organ and chords versions, please?

    Comment by Alastair — June 25, 2011 @ 10:46 am

  2. Alastair, that’s an interesting view, and you may well be right. We’ll see before long, no doubt.

    I’ve added the cue notes to the online Gloria, which has now been rechristened the St Michael Gloria, and I’ve sent you the accompaniments – organ and chords – by email. If anyone else would like these, please contact me at massmusic@forthinpraise.co.uk.

    Comment by evelyn — July 3, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  3. re St. Michael Gloria: I agree with Alastair. The singing flows with the words.

    Comment by Elvira — July 7, 2011 @ 9:13 am

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