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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

August 1, 2016

Bridal chit-chat (22): confronting Widor

evelyn @ 1:14 pm



Groom (on the phone): … and the cascading one as we go out.

Me: (oh no, not Widor) Cascading one?

Groom: You know the one, it’s very fast-moving.

Me: (please, not Widor) You mean the ‘Entry of the Queen of Sheba’?

Groom: No, that’s not its name. I think it’s called ‘Toccata’.

Me (fighting a losing battle): Oh, the famous Bach D minor Toccata? Da-da daa. Dadadada daa daa.

Groom: No, not that one. And it isn’t by Bach. I remember now. It’s by someone called Vee-dor. They’ve had it at royal weddings.

Me (forced into a corner): Oh yes, that one. But (suddenly remembering) the organ in your church is a very old and limited electronic. The Widor Toccata wouldn’t work. It would sound awful. (And that’s actually true. I’m not prevaricating now. What a relief.)

Groom: Oh, didn’t you know? They’ve had their new organ installed at last. It cost £18,000 and it’s beautiful.

Me: (another organist will be needed) I’m not sure I could get it ready in time. It’s a very long piece. Probably best to find you someone else …

Groom: Are you sure you won’t do it? We’d really love it if you would.

Me (coming out with the truth at last): I CAN ONLY PLAY THE FIRST THREE PAGES!

Groom: Well, that would do.

Me (nonplussed): But if I run out of music?

Groom: Couldn’t you just go back and play the first three pages again?

Me: (Hmm. That’s a thought) Well, I suppose I just might be able to …

Groom (briskly): Great. That’s settled, then.

The Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Symphony is a really exciting piece and I love listening to it. But it takes a lot of work. Technically, I should be able to manage it, with a few adjustments for my small hands, but the real problem is the sheer length of the thing. Depending on the edition you are using, there could be around ten pages of fast semiquavers cascading away, and needing practice. And practice. And practice.

There is a ‘made-playable’ version which misses out the semiquavers altogether, but these myriad little notes are what the piece is all about. The main melody is very simple; the decoration is everything. The groom had it right, and shouldn’t be denied his cascades.

However, as he wisely implied, you don’t need all of it for the end of a wedding in a small church. So I revised the first three pages, tacked on the bars from the very end of the piece, and prayed for a nice sunny day that would have them all out of the church in double-quick time. It worked, although I did feel a bit of a fraud.

I’ve now decided I must get back to a steady practice routine on this one, and do a few more pages.

Maybe one day I’ll play the whole thing.

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