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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist



February 10, 2018

Notes across the Pond

evelyn @ 11:00 pm

An alto (to stand-in choir leader from USA):     Half-note? You mean a quaver?

Stand-in leader:      What’s a quaver?

Me (to the alto):       No, no, a half-note is a minim. A quaver is half a beat, if you’re working in crotchets, that is.

Stand-in leader:      What’s a crotchet?

It’s all very well for me, of course. My favourite type-setting program is American, so I’m sort-of bilingual.  But this very specialised culture clash came as a bit of a shock to everyone else.

The American system is a sensible one, working down from the whole-note (semibreve) through half-note, quarter-note etc. The British names are quaint and intriguing, especially breve, semibreve and minim, which date from medieval times, when they were considered very short notes indeed. (Longa and maxima, the old names for longer notes, have fallen into disuse. Not surprisingly, as today any one of them would last for ever!).

I’ll give our stand-in leader a copy of the table below before the next practice. And as this learning exercise should be two-way, I’ll give out copies to the choir as well.

Oh, and a measure (US) is a bar (UK).

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