Regent Classic’s musical tutorial videos for 2017 feature pieces from the ABRSM organ examination syllabus. Organist Jonathan Kingston is playing on a Regent Classic custom built digital organ which has 69 stops, with all couplers managed from tabs above the Swell manual. Jonathan gives a short introduction to each piece, offering some background and tips about performance and registration.
See the Organ Music Tutorial Series overview for links to more organ videos and information about them. There you will also be able to read more about Jonathan Kingston and the organs being played in this series.
Imperial March by Edward Elgar
Edward Elgar’s “Imperial March” features on the Grade 8 syllabus. It was originally written to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, scored for full orchestra. Various organ arrangements have been made over the years, including a particularly successful one by George Martin (not the Beatles producer, but the organist of St Paul’s Cathedral from 1888).
It was first performed by massed bands at the Crystal Palace, and then at a royal garden party, a state concert, and at the Albert Hall by the Royal Artillery Band. At the time it was written it proved extremely popular, capturing the mood of civic pride and national confidence at the end of Victoria’s reign. It has retained its popular appeal as the years have gone by.
Tips on performance and registration playing Imperial March
The piece comes off very well on the organ, having plenty of opportunities for dynamic contrast, orchestral registrations, and use of the building’s acoustics if you have them. Management of the instrument is a key challenge here, as is use of the swell box and control of tempo changes.
In Jonathan’s rendition for this recording, you can hear his effective use of the full swell in the later parts of the opening section, contrasting with the coupled great to sparkling mixtures. Some nifty piston pushing and swell box control at about 2’35” delivers a nicely graduated diminuendo into the central section. Here the choir and swell strings, partnered with a mellow great flutes and strings combo, are used to give a beautifully smooth orchestral texture.
From about 4’00 to 4’30” Jonathan builds a crescendo using the swell box and pistons, dropping back to a quieter registration on the swell at the beginning of the final section. When we reach the big final theme at 4’50”, he moves to an arresting great registration, coupled to the swell, with a fat tuba on the bottom manual to bring out the solo lines.
This is a noble and proud work, says Jonathan, so “lean into the big chords, drive through the lush harmonic textures, and don’t be afraid to wallow just a little”, especially if you have an acoustic environment that supports this. Above all, enjoy it!
Watch the Video Tutorial
If you would like to watch the video tutorial right now – here it is:
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Regent Classic Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.