Landmark Organ Sound, Performance, and Luxury
by Rosemary Bailey
Having begun my musical life back when we had relatively few choices when it came to tone variety on the organ, you can only imagine the effect that orchestrating the Atelier has had on me. What fun! It's interesting how my repertoire has expanded to include selections driven by the available instrumentation itself. This sort of “reverse engineering” has even impacted the scope of different songs on my latest recording, “Just For You”. Here's an example…
One of the genres I have always liked to perform is the Latin styling. So I try to always include a selection or two using one of those effects. However, the days of being restricted to the simple rumba beat are long gone. For example, on track #5 of the CD, a Brazilian tune called “Canto De Ossanha” takes advantage of a rhythmic backgrounds featuring multi-timbered percussive instruments typical of that region. I actually fell in love with this Atelier feature first…then found an appropriate melody to compliment it.
It's the same story for the Argentine tango “Por Una Cabeza“. After viewing the movie “Scent of a Woman“ with Al Pacino, I was determined to find out the origin of the haunting, passionate dance theme. Easy — I just looked at the credits at the end of the DVD. After researching a bit, I found out it is actually an older folk song from South America. Of course, my mind immediately went to the Habanera and the Traditional Tango backgrounds on the Atelier 900 to be the basis of my arrangement. But after listening to the soundtrack a few more times, I realized the technique applied to the solo violin in the verse of the song could also be duplicated on the AT-900 by using the Articulation Voice. Thank you, Roland! Now, by registering the guitar, rhythm, Art. Violin, etc., I was able to create a realistic orchestral interpretation of this traditional melody. Would I have gone through the procedure of doing all this if I didn't have the advantage of Atelier technology at my fingertips? In a word…“no”. So you see, sometimes I find myself gearing new arrangements to features I know will compliment the song. Then, of course, I learn to play the song itself…not the other way around.
The same holds true for the selection using the theater pipe organ sounds on the AT. “It's a Grand Night for Singing“ from the classic Broadway musical “State Fair” is suitable for the style heard on these instruments…comprehensive instrument combination, lots of glissandos, percussive accents throughout, etc. Fortunately Roland has already suggested an array of combinations, (both on the control panel and in Quick Registrations), that makes life a little easier for us to navigate the creation of an authentic theater organ ensemble typical of bygone days. No automatic rhythms or backgrounds here, please…just straight-out performance with full chords, interesting manual percussion accents and a touch of Roland technology…for example, “Active Expression”.
Did you know that theater organs have more than one wide pedal for the right foot? Actually up to four pedals may appear under the console. Here’s why. Many times the organist prefers to isolate the particular volume levels of certain instruments. Remember, the only way to accomplish volume manipulation is to open and close the vertical shutters housing the ranks of pipes. So the performer chooses the volume pedal opening a particular group of pipes which he/she wants to enhance. However, one of the pedals is always delegated to be the “crescendo” pedal. Now we have a gradual building of sound as the pedal is depressed slowly increasing the orchestral registration. On the Roland Atelier, this is called “Active Expression”. There are a number of examples of this available for the player to utilize. Going back to my CD, the listener can here a dramatic portrayal of the Active Expression concept on the final track called “Jack Sparrow”, the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean“. Listen for an example of the Active Expression concept toward the middle of the arrangement played slowly when the human voice effect is implemented very softy and uncomplicated. Then, while sustaining a full chord on the upper manual, the AX French Horn swells from being tonally non-existent to being predominant…then gradually lessens to its original audio setting. Wow! What fun is that!
Well, I hope I have given you, my friends, a few ideas about how to start conceptualizing your organ arrangements. There's no right or wrong here, simply what works for me. Be mindful of whatever music you listen to…especially the highly instrumental material. You probably will find remnants of it in your own playing down the road. Remember to explore whatever Atelier you are using…I still do to this every day. And don't be afraid to simulate things you've heard on the radio, television, or on the big screen. These are great inspirations for the musician at an Atelier.And, oh yeah, the “chicken or the egg” question….whether to set your favorite exciting registrations to a song you know, or, to actually learn a song specifically to make use of the spectacular registrations of the Atelier, either way is just fine. After all, what do I know? I was raised near downtown Chicago.