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Music in Worship is Selah's occasional newsletter for church musicians, with interviews and helpful articles for choir directors, organists, and leaders of congregational song

Playing Hymns
"Holy, Holy, Holy" (Nicaea)
Austin C. Lovelace

The tune Nicaea for me is the epitome of the problems of articulation in hymn playing at the organ. The very first problem lies in the three words "Holy, Holy, Holy"-they must be articulated very cleanly, not slurred together in the French style of articulation (a lá Dupré). There is no need to break all repeated notes in the alto and tenor, and yet in measure five the bottom three voices must be broken to set up the 8th note in the soprano. Measure three illustrates the need for the left hand to take out alto notes which are difficult or impossible for the right hand to reach. Here, taking out the first three alto notes played as thirds with the left hand is a simple solution. Measure seven illustrates the need to break all voices at a cadence where an 8th-note upbeat is found. (Also at the final cadence.) In line three the different words for stanzas 2 and 3 call for different articulation. Likewise in line four, the words call for breaks after "art" and "power" and carrying over the barline into the final two measures. Such articulation gives a clear rhythmic feel to the hymn without being too choppy. To do otherwise makes a lugubrious mess.

As in all hymns, the organist must "play the words." It should begin with a full bright combination; stanza two might add a mixture; stanza three could use something darker (16' and 8' reeds?); and stanza four should end gloriously with all banners flying. I play it at around 108 to the quarter note. If the hymn is the opening one (where it belongs), my "Variations on Holy, Holy, Holy" (Selah 160-727) makes effective preparation for the congregation's singing.

Austin Lovelace is well-known as a composer, organist, choir director, clinician, and workshop leader. Selah is pleased to have a number of his compositions in our catalog.


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