The launch of the latest version (version 6) of the magnificent Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ has stimulated me into producing a few recordings of Christmas music. This software produces an incredibly realistic sound. However, don’t get this software if you don’t have the computer to go with it. Because it copies all individual pipe sounds into RAM, it devours all the capabilities of my iMac Pro with 32 GB of memory. Even then, it cannot replay the highest-quality samples with some organs so I am going to have to get an upgrade early next year – to 128 GB. A specification such as this would have been unheard of years ago.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
We kick off with ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, which includes the descant for the final verse. It ends with the thunderous 32 foot Contra Posaune stop on Pedal, and the majestic 16 foot trombone on Great. Samples were taken of the organ in Salisbury Cathedral.
We move from the sound of the organ going nearly ‘full blast’ to the subtlety of ‘Silent Night’. I’ve played this piece on two organs. We start with the Salisbury Cathedral organ, where the cathedral acoustic is much in evidence. Then, we have the William Hill English organ, with a much drier, closer acoustic.
In the Bleak Mid Winter
We are spoilt for choice with the carol ‘In the Bleak Mid Winter’. Gustav Holst’s version appeared in The English Hymnal in 1906. Below is the version of the carol composed by Harold Darke. This is probably my favourite Christmas carol, and I love the words of the final verse. Samples are of the Salisbury Cathedral organ.
Here is the ‘Coventry Carol’ played on William Hill English organ. It’s rather a bleak sounding carol, with its minor key and slow, solemn tempo. I love it, particularly the change at the end to a major chord.
O Come All Ye Faithful
Here are four verses of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, complete with my favourite descant versions for verses three and four. Organ samples were recorded in Salisbury Cathedral.
Other recordings you may be interested in: