February 27, 2010 | Greenville, North Carolina
On February 27 Dr. th Ann Labounsky, FAGO, presented a workshop on improvisation for a rapt audience of eager students and experienced church musicians at St. Paul´s Episcopal Church in Greenville. Dr. Labounsky, Chair of Organ and Sacred Music Studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, had presented a concert of mostly French organ music the night before at the same location featuring many spirited and spiritual works by Langlais, Tournemire, Vierne, Barraine, and Franck.
The one piece not from the French oeuvre was J. S. Bach´s Fantasy and Fugue in g minor BWV 542 but Dr. Labounsky played it in the manner of instruction she received as a student of André Marchal. The concert concluded with a improvisation using the submitted tunes Panga Lingua and Eventide, and an encore. The wonderful and inspiring improvisation left us with great anticipation for what we would learn in the workshop the next morning. We were not disappointed as she led us through the basics of improvisation and the concept of using form and models first then jumping into the improvisation. The workshop started out using chant since it was easier than metrical hymns as we quickly learned.
The concepts of phrase extension using Panga Lingua again, was the first concept covered quickly followed by through composed interludes, ritornello, ternary form, rounded binary form, toccata and variations. Dr. Labounsky stressed the fact that the colors (sounds) must be selected first and then follow the suggested forms. She also suggested that we all review harmonizing ascending and descending scales as well as the church modes. She also suggested that we practice playing the theme with constant variation of harmony (chords) as well as contrasting it with playing it in the dominant key. Dr. Labounsky covered simple toccata figure construction with broken chords in ascending patterns and sequential usage while the pedal gets to use motivic development of the theme. Many attendees were given the opportunity to tryout the different techniques and forms and their efforts were warmly received by their peers.
Dr. Labounsky offers suggestions and encouragement to a workshop attendee during an improvisation exercise. Dr. Ann Labounsky is shown with her former pupils, Andrew Scanlon (left) and Mark Gansor (right). Andrew is the Organist- Choirmaster at St. Paul´s Episcopal Church in Greenville and Mark is the Organist at Lakeside Baptist in Rocky Mount.