“Dear Vidas, recently more people have wanted to practice on the organ in the chapel that I practice on. It is a 3 manual Johannus, and it is just fine for me.
We are asked to sign up in advance for no more than four hours a week - I usually sign for two hours on two separate days. Naturally if no one has signed up, I guess anyone can practice during that time.
During the first semester a number of sections of a university required class have to visit the chapel during one week. That means that the time available to those of us who want to practice is more limited. We don't have that problem the second semester, - at least so far.”
And here is the question that Morton is writing about:
“My struggle is bringing pieces I learned many years ago back to life again. Why didn't I keep them up? Because previously I didn't have a 32-note pedalboard for a number of years at my disposal - and I had no opportunity to play JSB's Prelude and Fugue in D (which I've brought back to life somewhat), his Prelude and Fugue in G Minor (which is not played often) and the first Chorale Prelude from the 18 Great Chorale Preludes.”
This is a sophisticated piece--
Vidas: On a chorale fantasia called, “Komm, heiliger Geist” by Bach, from the Leipzig collection, right? Anyway, he writes further:
“I was able, however, to bring back to life, for example, the Toccata from Boellmann's Suite Gothique. I was able to bring back a JSB Prelude and Fugue in C that is never played but which is not too difficult. I was able to bring back a JSB Prelude in G Major (there is no fugue with it - it is found in a Concordia Wedding Book collection)”
So, Ausra, Morton is struggling with bringing pieces up to speed from many years ago.
Ausra: Well, that’s a common struggle. He told in his letter that actually, some of his pieces, he was able to manage quite well, to recollect quite easily, because they were easier pieces. With other pieces, of course, it’s much harder to regain the skills.
Vidas: Ausra, have you played--recently, maybe, from recent years--a piece from your early days, from your student life, which you maybe mastered in the Academy of Music in Lithuania or even in America?
Ausra: Well, yes, definitely.
Vidas: What was the piece?
Ausra: Well, the last piece, I think, was E-flat Major Prelude and Fugue by J.S. Bach from Clavierubung III.
Vidas: And you played it many years ago?
Ausra: Well, not too many years ago, but yes, that was my piece from my last doctoral recital. So it was some eleven years ago.
Vidas: In Nebraska.
Vidas: So I remember this moment, when you first opened this piece here at home, and you were rather worried, how it would come out, the first time.
Ausra: Well because, it’s a long piece--this was my biggest worry.
Vidas: And how it turned out? How long did it take you to get back to the previous skills, with this piece?
Ausra: Well, about a month, actually.
Vidas: How long did it take for you to learn, to master this piece eleven years ago?
Ausra: Haha, I think I learned it faster than I had repeated it!
Vidas: Yeah, it was like, like a marathon.
Ausra: Because I know that I learned the text of all that part of Clavierubung in a month. But that time I was young and diligent.
Vidas: And now, you are not young anymore, but still diligent?
Ausra: Well, I don’t have so much time to practice as I did in those days.
Vidas: So for Morton, it’s the same situation as for you, right? It will take probably a month for him to get back to this previous skills--with one piece, not with a lot of pieces, just one.
Ausra: Sure. I would suggest, in general for all the organists: when you learn your piece, and you like it, and you know that in the future you might want to repeat it and perform it again. So time after time, just play it through, sometimes. That way, you will keep in shape and when you will want to perform it again, it will be much easier for you to do it.
Vidas: Occasionally. Once a month.
Ausra: Maybe once a month, or every other month.
Vidas: It’s like sight-reading, basically, but an old piece.
Vidas: Just play it once, and put it away for a number of months. And practice something else, and then come back--and this piece will be there, waiting.
Ausra: Yes, definitely.
Vidas: But I’m practicing now, a few pieces, also, from my previous years; and for the fall semester, it will be also a challenge to regain my skills, with maybe D Major Prelude and Fugue by Bach, BWV 532. And I’m not still positive about that.
Vidas: But it’s one of the options. So yes, I will also take about a month to refresh my skills.
Ausra: That’s a funny piece, especially the opening of it. Very fun to play the pedal part.
Ausra: Have fun and good luck with it!
Vidas: I would say the fugue is more complicated than the prelude. For me.
Ausra: It is, but--I don’t know if I have ever played that opening nicely. It would just give me some sort of spasms. I don’t know why!
Vidas: Maybe the pedaling sometimes is complicated--if you try to play legato, and you play heel-toe, heel-toe, this way, then it is complicated; but if you use the alternate toe, pedaling is no problem.
Ausra: Well, I don’t really know. I practiced this piece while I was studying with Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra at EMU, and definitely I only used my toes, because, Pamela is such a great specialist of early music. But it still was not so easy, probably because the tempo was too fast.
Vidas: Mhmm. So wish me luck in repeating this piece!
Ausra: Yes, good luck.
Vidas: And for other people who are repeating any other pieces in your repertoire, from a decade ago, or maybe more years ago, try to spend some quality time with this piece--maybe thirty minutes a day for a month, and you will soon enough discover that your skills will come back in this piece, too.
Vidas: Thanks guys, and send us more of your questions, because we love helping you grow as an organist. And don’t forget to subscribe to our blog, and reply to our messages. When you come back--when you reply to us, we will be glad to help you out. So the blog is at www.organduo.lt, and you simply enter your name and email address (and you can specify the delivery, when you would like to get those messages delivered: every day, or once a week, you can choose).
Okay! Thanks guys, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.