Extemporizing on the Hymn Tune “Helmsley”

“Helmsley,” a hymn suitable for Advent and/or Pentecost (depending on the church denomination/hymnal), is one of my favorite hymn tunes.

The melody alone appears below, although the audio file, which you can hear by clicking just to the left of the slider bar below:

…plays the four-part harmonization three times. Verse 1 is piano only, to establish the melody and its intended harmony.  In verse 2, the recorder (another instrument I play) comes in, augmenting the melody with notes in between.  In verse 3, the recorder turns to a harmonic improvisation in baroque-era styling, which I lean towards on the hammered dulcimer and diatonic autoharp as well.

If I were to play the same notes on the hammered dulcimer, you would hear many overlapping, sustained tones and a “leaning into” certain key notes along the way to evoke a longer ring, building a textured architecture of string sound.  There is also one huge, missing piece: the congregation.  Without folks to sing, I cannot do this!

My solo arrangement of “Helmsley” for diatonic autoharp may be found on my CD Thus Sings My Soul, complete with extemporized verses, and is suitable for a prelude, offertory or special-music segment in the service.

To arrange for these and more musical offerings to be part of a service at your church, contact me.

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