A use for the "Vox Dei" stop

There's a short hymn by Franz Liszt called "O filii et filiae", from his oratorio "Christus".

It's a light and gentle choral piece, meant to be sung by only the female members of the choir, backed by the least alarming stops of the organ. You can hear a bit of it in this MP3.

I quite like the hymn, but that's mainly because I consider it to be the preamble to a simply excellent musical joke.

The punchline to that joke was provided by the celebrated Canadian organist Lynnwood Farnam.

Farnam produced exactly one composition during his 45 years on this planet. That composition, published after his death but apparently played by him on numerous occasions when he was seeing if a particular organ was prone to catching fire when abused, was a Toccata on "O filii".

I don't know about you, but I'm a fan of mash-ups. Pastiches. Crossovers.

"O filii" is about how Mary Magdalene finds the tomb to be empty, and so it's all hopeful and happy. Peaceful, mellow. God wants you to buy some sandals and a nylon stringed guitar and spread the Good News.

Farnam's Toccata is, to my mind, what happens when someone likes the chord changes in that hymn, but figures that they would be better presented at the volume of a Manowar concert and with more of an Old Testament, or possibly Norse, feel.

The Toccata's God is more the sort of deity who, if He absent-mindedly allows you to see one trillionth of His magnificence, will force you to start banging your head on the ground as hard as you can.

The piece opens with a chord entirely suitable for the arrival of your Sun Eater out of hyperspace. And then, if anything, it gets louder.

I, for this reason, think it's just hilarious if the choral "O filii" is followed by the Toccata. It's a sort of cosmic Good Cop, Bad Cop routine.

But you needn't take my word for it. Mark Quarmby, an Australian organist who'd be a hundred times better at playing keyboard instruments than me even if he'd never figured out any of that weird foot-pedal stuff, has an excellent rendition of the Farnam Toccata available for download on his Recordings page.

(I've taken the liberty of mirroring the MP3 here, to reduce the likelihood of all you yahoos melting down Mark's server.)

I've actually met Mark Quarmby. He's a university friend of my mother's.

He's an unassuming fellow. Not at all a member of the cape, beard and monocle school.

He looks like an accountant.

It's those ones you have to watch, you know.

13 Responses to “A use for the "Vox Dei" stop”

  1. JoeyLemur Says:

    Definite 'triumphantly glassing a planet' music.

  2. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Also unquestionably worthy of consideration:

    Gustav Holst's "Mars, the Bringer of War", from "The Planets".

    "Mars" would have been merely a good option, until The Venture Bros. came along.

    Now, it's essential:

    I'm frankly ashamed that it took me this long to start watching The Venture Brothers. It's fantastic. If you've missed it, you must now check it out.

  3. pittance Says:

    You may joke about the graphs with no numbers but almost precisely that was used by an infant milk company to compare milk types for babies in the UK.

    On asking for the data people were basically told that the data did indeed exist and was, of course, righteous in its unarguable support of whatever weasely point they were trying to make - however they'd only give the numbers to 'health professionals'.

    Any of the unwashed public presumably might be misled when confronted by these strange things the professionals call 'num-bers'.

    After a bit of this the page was pulled only to live on in Google's cache - where it generated more bad publicity for a while (admittedly amongst people who already thought they were weasels...)

  4. Jax184 Says:

    That last link, to venture_mars.avi, resulted in an 8 second long, windows media player crashing, VLC confusing, random mess. In a way, I wonder if that's actually not a good thing, as I was just as crashed and confused once I saw what I assume was the full clip.
    May I be the first to say "Jesus Christ on a moped playing a banjo, what the hell was that??"

    I did however recognize the music as the opening theme to EV Nova.

  5. pittance Says:

    Apologies - I appear to be incapable of clicking the correct link to actually comment on the story I was talking about in comment 3 above.

    Inserting emergency on-topic comment:

    The organ music was good, couldn't get the avi to work.

    Also I once saw death metal guitar + orchestra version of Mars which worked very well.

    The nosebleed techno Jupiter wasn't so good though.

  6. pete Says:

    There is an artist called Matt Stokes in the UK, who has made a CD called 'Sacred Selections' which has recordings of Death Metal music using church organs. He's based in Newcastle, where Venom come from...

  7. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Stupid downloadable clip removed, replaced with handy-dandy Google Video version.

  8. Jax184 Says:

    A technical improvement, but I'm afraid I still don't understand.

  9. Matt W Says:

    As your local CPA I resemble that remark. Unfortunately your mirror is banned by the work firewall, but Mark's works fine.

    Pittance & pete - How about some links ?

  10. RichVR Says:

    I guess you have to know those two guys from having watched many episodes of The Venture Brothers to be giggling like a moron at the end of the clip. Two strong cups of Kona help too.

  11. moetop Says:

    A couple of more candidates
    Verdi's Dies irae ( Not an Anime fan, but it was one with the best audio quality on Youtube)

    I cant find link, but Prokofievs Evil God and Dance of the Pagan Monsters from the Scythian Suite, should rank up there, if not by name alone.

    While i doesent have the same presence as a "real" organ, nor directly fit into this, I cant pass up the oppertunity to link to Phil Cirocco's Novachord retoration with some very eire samples of what it sounds like near the bottom. "improvisations". The "first spooky sounds" one is my favorite .

    I am still waiting for him to release "the better sounding full versions."

  12. moetop Says:

    Dear lord what happened to my spelling?

  13. pete Says:




    Are about the best I can do for evidence of Matt Stokes existance... I do have a friend with the CD, so I might be able to get some of the audio tracks.

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