About the site
I am Mike Whitton. I’m a real person, and I play real organs when I can. Whilst this is the best way to accompany hymn-singing, it’s not always possible, particularly here in the West Highlands of Scotland. Many CDs and resources (of various qualities) have long been available, but, when the need arose for streamed services, these were not all suitable for copyright reasons. Hence this site.
About the hymns
The hymns you will find here are all traditional English-language hymns with familiar tunes from the traditional repertoire of British churches. All are in the public domain. So you will not find many recent ones here, partly for copyright reasons, and partly because people wanted familiar hymns to sing along to.
About the organs
The organs are the things on this site that are virtual, although they are virtual reconstructions of real organs, using the Hauptwerk software from Milan Digital. Their website explains how it works in detail –
The real organs that appear are from St Anne’s Church, Moseley, Birmingham, which is a kind of “default” organ with Hauptwerk, and St Lawrence’s Church, Little Waldingfield, Suffolk. There is a detailed description of the latter at
About the recordings
The singing and accompanying of hymns should be an interactive experience. That is why there always seems to be something lacking when a recorded accompaniment is used. If I play a hymn solely for recording, the result lacks the interaction with a congregation, to say nothing of the effect that being recorded has on my playing. Also, the “human” elements in my playing introduce irregularities that make no sense to a congregation that hears it at a different time. On the other hand, if I opt for strict computerized notation and a literal playback, it sounds just as mechanical and lifeless as it is. So there has to be some kind of balance. This is how I work.
Firstly, I play each line of the hymn on a keyboard, recording it in Noteworthy Composer. This gives me a musical notation that reflects what I have played, ironing out microscopic irregularities, which will only sound odd later on, but preserving my more deliberate phrasing.
Then, I make a copy of the lines for each verse, and edit the notation to provide appropriate phrasing for the different words in each verse. This is why I have to decide on a version of the words, out of the many that are in use for each hymn. Bearing in mind that I am trying to satisfy a demand for more traditional hymns, I often go for words to match, but I also often find that the older words have more subtlety of meaning, which can be reflected in the accompaniment.
As I go through this phase, I am starting to work out how to set it and on which instrument. I include code in the Noteworthy Composer file to select registrations for the instrument I have chosen. Then I can play the Noteworthy Composer file into the Hauptwerk midi sequencer program, which will play it on the selected instrument.
Now begins a long process of repeated amendments and replays, with fine adjustments to phrasing, registration and tempo variations. Whilst I generally try to keep tempo variations to a minimum in live performance, it’s surprising how dead the recording can sound in absolutely strict tempo, so I usually find a small variation here and there, apart from enhancing the words, gives a more musical impression. Also, I often introduce some changes of harmony during this process.
When I’m finally happy with what I hear, I use Hauptwerk’s facility to record audio output to generate an audio file, which I then upload to this site, create a page that links to it, and copy the words I have used to that page. From there, it’s over to you!