Vidas: Thank you so much, Wolfram for joining this conversation with me! I'm so excited to be able to talk with you because one day ago I backed your project "Paper Organ". I saw this video last week on Facebook and I could not stop but watch and even share later on. I couldn't do anything for backing the project right then because it was pre-launch. But I subscribed to your email list and got notified. And at that moment also my friend James Flores, an organist from Australia also got notified because we engage very often every day. And he wrote me a message right away, "Did you see it? Do you have FOMO? (Fear Of Mising Out)". And I said, "Yes, I do." And I remember that a week ago I saw your video about this project and hope that this project will succeed because Paper Organ is an amazing concept. We all know about OrgelKids but it's heavier and larger and more expensive. So what you came up with with paper instrument or model of the instrument is I think ingenious. So thank you so much Wolfram and welcome to the show!
Listen to the conversation
The moment I'm writing this, Paper Organ project on Kickstarter has been backed almost 50% with 55 backers and 27 more days to go!
Here are some relevant links:
Paper Organ Project on Kickstarter:
Paper Organ website:
Kickstarter Pitch video: https://youtu.be/X9oi1LB6yBg
Unboxing the prototype box: https://youtu.be/obLzN-OgUy0
Playing on the organ: https://youtu.be/0Y5_ie0r2Bc
Playing a bit of Bach's Bourree: https://youtu.be/apxxI5rW1js (Wolfram had to blow a deep and a high pipe because it was outside the tone range :-) )
Another piece on the organ: https://youtu.be/0Q7GpZ9Ujw0
And Wolfram's daughter playing: https://youtu.be/1AuZrCjjoHQ
SOPP513: I feel bad when I get the next week's email and I haven't even finished the one from two weeks ago
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 513, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And in this episode we’d like to talk a little bit about our Total Organist students answers. Once a month we ask them a question, ‘how do you like Total Organist so far?’, And here is what James wrote on Basecamp:
James: I feel bad when I get the next week's email and I haven't even finished the one from two weeks ago haha!
Vidas: I wrote: I like Total Organist because it gives people an opportunity to quadruple their motivation to practice and consequently quadruple their results.
Jeremy: I love it. It is a place of encouragement in some parts (the daily updates on what we've been working on) and also pushes me to become better by taking weekly classes or watch videos etc.
Vidas: And Ruth wrote:
Ruth: This program provides terrific encouragement for me. I see how something should be played ideally. I can hope to do the same, one day. At least, that is my hope. I am grateful for the constant encouragement.
V: What do you say, Ausra?
A: Well, I think encouragement is very important, at least for many people.
V: You are sort of an individualist, Ausra, by heart.
A: Yes, I am.
V: Mmm-hmm. In your character you avoid masses of people, big congregations, gatherings, meetups.
A: Because I[’m] always working with people, so I have people around me every day. So after work I just want to spend my time alone, with myself. And I think being an organist is an excellent thing for me. Because I think that basically organist is all alone.
V: Mmm-hmm. If you were my student of Total Organist, just imagine, this hypothetical situation. I don’t suppose it would be nice for you, but still, as an exercise, for your character, for a person with your individuality, would you prefer to learn things on your own, completely, or would you choose to have some people around you who support you, some kind of mentor, or a few mentors, who are more advanced than you, who are sort of at the same path, supporting each other, just like we are doing in Basecamp?
A: I think what you are doing on Basecamp is a little bit similar to what we had when were back at school...
A: and we would have those organ studio meetings every week.
A: And we would get support from each other and from our professors and from other students. So I guess this is some sort of similar form of support and sharing ideas, and sharing our work.
V: You know there are so many, so many, now opportunities for people to take online courses, classes, even online academies, to learn any skill they want, right? And sometimes even for free, right? But the biggest challenge for people who are doing this is to stick with the schedule, stick with the routine and with the curriculum and actually finish what they started. If you go to school in a physical location, it’s one thing. But when you are sitting and studying at your computer or even on your phone or tablet, it’s different. Nobody really pushes you to do what you maybe are not eager to do right away, and you have to find inner motivation. So what we are doing, doing this group environment, even in the virtual setting on Basecamp with Total Organist Community, I think this is exactly what’s school does with support, with constant deadlines, right, and I think I can only hope that people can quadruple their results and motivation.
A: Do you think everybody needs deadlines and feeling that somebody is watching them all the time, and pushing them, encouraging them?
A: Really, really?
A: Don’t you think it puts too much pressure on some sort of personalities?
V: Not necessarily like we’re doing. Not necessarily like we’re doing with Total Organist, but if you’re doing things on your own, you have to pretend that you have deadlines, at least inner deadlines, for yourself.
A: But for example, I have very huge inner feeling of responsibility for something and if I know that I have to do something I will do it. I don’t need that outside voice pushing me to move forward.
V: I mean inside voice, this has to be inside.
A: Because I have very strong inside voice.
A: So, I don’t need your encouragement because I have already too big encouragement of my own.
V: Yeah. So that’s, but people like you are on the minority, I think. Otherwise we would already have reached…
A: You don’t know so much because people like me, they don’t contact you. We don’t express with your opinion.
V: But I mean if majority of population would be like you, we already would have reached Mars. Or even further.
A: Do you think so?
V: Because most of the time people, when they are alone, they don’t do 100% of work. They do a little less, or even more, they take shortcuts. Not you perhaps.
A: Not necessarily. If I’m alone I can do my job better because nobody distracts me.
A: I can work well now.
V: But you are on the minority, I think. Individualist, you know, would despise the masses and do things on their own.
A: I don’t despise masses. Simply I’m not interested in what we are doing. I’m more interested in myself.
V: Alright, guys. This is where our personalities differ, because I would suspect that among our students you have both sides, right? Some people who are more like extroverts and some people who are like introverts. I’m not judging anyone here, I’m just saying that there are two kinds of, at least two kinds of people, there are even more probably, sides of character. And what we’re doing with Total Organist, we try to encourage people advance faster than they would do on their own.
A: Yes, and I believe still and I haven’t changed my opinion, that organ is an instrument intended for introverts to play.
A: You might disagree.
V: No. No.
A: That’s why I’m sort of looking a little bit with this suspicion to…
A: an organist who exhibits themselves very often. For example, play a recital and change their dresses in the middle of it…
A: their outfit, and, or doing only virtuoso pieces and playing them in prestissimo tempo just to exhibit themselves, so I don’t like things like this. I don’t think it’s fair. And it don’t think that organists should be like this.
V: But how do you explain that masses, right, I’m talking about not one person, not two, not ten, but masses, love this kind of show?
A: Well, if you love shows like these, you don’t have to go to an organ recital. You might just turn on your T.V. It’s full of crappy shows. Dance with a star, sing like a star, be a star and all that kind of (inappropriate expletive not included).
V: Fifteen minutes of fame.
V: Everybody wants to be a princess and a prince these days. Nobody wants to be regular person anymore.
A: So in that way, you don’t have to sort of do not a nice thing with instrument, kind of instrument.
V: Yes. Simply put, you sometimes you have to sell out.
A: I think it’s too nice organ, too nice instrument, which has too long and beautiful history, that you would ruin it by doing some ugly show stuff.
V: Can you find a balance, to please yourself and to please your listeners?
A: Well I guess the main goal is to educate your listeners that you wouldn’t have to do show out of organ performance.
V: Or, nowadays, you can actually choose your listeners, to play not for everyone, but for people who believe in you, who appreciate what you do.
A: And for example, for me right now, I enjoy the most the performances of @partitura on Steem platform
A: Because he always plays so nicely and he just seems to be loving the same kind of music that I love so I listen to his recordings and I enjoy them.
V: Mmm-hmm. Have you changed your opinion of digital organs then?
A: Actually, yes, I did a little bit.
V: (Laughs, ha, ha, ha).
A: I still prefer a real thing, but while listening to a good recording on a good digital instrument, I don’t think I could notice the difference right away. If I would listen to them alive, then yes, but not on the recording.
V: Mmm-hmm. You’re right. Technology progresses faster than we can understand. A lots of things to think about, right, Ausra, from these answers that our wonderful students from Total Organist community have sent to us. And guys, keep please sending us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
This is my entry for Sonic Groove Live Week 7. I'm going to play my piece called "Bellows" from "Organ ABC":
Before I go to continue painting Pinky and Spiky cabin walls, I wanted to created the 2nd piece from my cycle "Organ ABC". It's called "Bellows". I thought it's a good title for the 2nd part because every organ needs bellows and this word starts from the letter B.
Bellows serve as lungs of the pipe organ so to illustrate this I first created long chords in my hand parts, then added the pedal part. Without good lungs, one cannot sing long notes, right? Then I cleaned up the score so it would be ready for performance. You can see the process in this video:
SOPP510: My main challenges are accuracy in all parts, especially pedals and keeping correct tempo throughout
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 510, of Secrets Of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jay, who is on the team to transcribe our podcast conversations so we really appreciate his work every week. And he writes:
Accuracy in all parts, especially pedals, keeping correct tempo throughout.
V: So basically this is his answer when I ask him what is his main challenges. What are some things that he is challenging, what is he frustrated with, right? Things that are keeping him from reaching his goals. Let’s talk about accuracy, Ausra, or accuracy in all parts.
A: Yes. I always envy organists who can play without any kind of mistakes.
V: Always envy, or not so much anymore?
A: Not so much anymore, but of course there are organists that played without any mistakes, even the smallest ones, that you can always record their concerts and put them on CD’s. But that’s a rare case. Often you might not hear mistake because you don’t know that piece very well or you are not focused enough while listening to the piece, and you might miss it. Because, for instance, there are sometimes these moments when you are playing yourself, and you think that something’s very wrong, but then you listen to recording and it seems okay.
V: I did this. Remember my first organ CD with Giedrius Gelgotas, the flutist. I played D Minor Toccata.
A: Yes, I remember that, but it wasn’t a case. You played it and you thought it...
V: It was okay…
A: was okay, and I thought so too. And then we listened to the recording. We heard the mistake…
V: In the first page.
V: And I didn’t repeat this page. Therefore, my sound engineer had a very difficult time in eliminating this mistake. But he did it, I think.
A: Yes, he did it. So, do you think accuracy is the most important goal, the final goal, of each organist or not?
V: Accuracy, probably, is important for beginners, very much, because they are just starting out and struggling to play without mistakes. And if they make too many mistakes, the quality of the perception of the piece, or the performance gets distorted in your listeners ears, in your listeners minds. Therefore, it’s good to aim to play with accuracy and it’s good to aim to master the piece with this kind of accuracy, right?
A: Yes. I think it’s very important to play as accurate as possible. But I don’t think it’s the only goal, or the most important goal. I guess the most important goal is of course to play as accurate as possible but I think that even more important is to keep steady tempo throughout the piece, even if you made a mistake. And that’s what happens with the beginners, especially, we make a mistake, we got all stressed out and we stop keeping tempo. Or we stop...
A: in the middle of performance and might [want] to repeat it again and they make mistake at the same spot again, and, I have heard such performance.
V: Or they freeze and don’t know what to do.
V: Yeah. This kind of situation is the worse I think, for listeners.
A: True, because if you occasionally make a mistake—who doesn’t—we are no computers or robots. But if you will give a steady tempo then nobody will notice. Or maybe just a few professionals, but not the general audience.
V: Do you think people mess up more pedal parts or manual parts?
A: Well, I never thought about it. Never counted…
A: if I have heard more mistakes in the pedals or made myself, in the manual part. But I guess pedal part is still a challenge for many organists.
A: For beginners. But I guess if we would just relax and let it go, I think we would do [a] better job. I think it’s all mostly mental.
V: Yeah. And it also, I was going to say, depends on peoples ability to multitask, right? Because when you play the organ, you have to be able to do many things at once—play with your right hand, play with the left hand, play with the right feet, foot, and play with the left foot, at the same time. Sometimes really together, all those four parts. Sometimes in alternation. And this requires coordination of your various body parts. And beginners and people with less experience on the organ bench or less experience with different kind of instruments, usually get distracted while doing this kind of assignment of playing different parts together. And if they mess up someplace, in someplace, they can’t pickup from the same place seamlessly. They have to stop and start again. But I think that that’s very natural. And after a while, experience, if you don’t stop yourself from practicing over the years, practicing and playing in public, playing on different instruments, if you keep advancing, I think your experience will teach you all things that you need to know. And it will not be very challenging to pick up the music without stopping and keep going, just keep going, right?
A: Yes. It’s very important. And another thought that came to my mind while reading Jay’s question about keeping the correct tempo throughout the piece, that if it’s difficult for you to keep that tempo throughout the piece…
A: that maybe you picked up the wrong tempo.
V: Or the wrong piece.
A: Well, that’s [a] possibility too, but let’s not go into to selecting repertoire.
A: but maybe, it’s not the right tempo for you. Maybe it’s the right tempo for that piece, but maybe you still have to work on some difficult spots, and to strengthen your abilities, technical abilities to play it.
V: Quite often, the most challenging episode comes, not at the beginning, but towards the middle or towards even the end of the piece.
A: Well, it’s often the cadences that we are talking about…
A: in Bach’s music.
V: So even if this cadence is the first cadence that you meet in Bach’s music, it’s not in the first measure.
V: It’s after a few measures. And if you start at the concert tempo and it goes smoothly, like for three, four, six measures, and then you encounter a cadence and then you slip, right? You first have to think about this cadence and be able to play it at the comfortable tempo fluently. And then, pick this tempo for the beginning of the piece.
A: Yes. And sometimes I found out for myself, that if I pick up a new piece that I don’t know, then everything is just fine. But if I decide to learn some well known organ piece that I have heard many, many time, I sit down on the organ bench, and I want to play it in the right tempo, as I hear it in my mind.
A: And then it’s really [a] problem. Because you cannot pickup right away very difficult song, organ piece, and play it in a concert tempo.
V: No, not yet.
A: So I find it’s challenging sometimes, to slow me down.
V: Well, you have to, you want to have immediate results, right?
A: Yes, but it’s impossible I think, for anybody. If somebody tells the other way, maybe we just exaggerating their skills.
V: Even Bach was known to stop for several times while say, creating a piece on the harpsichord, while visiting his friend. This was documented in one of his letters. And then after that he exclaimed that it’s not possible to sight-read everything.
V: Mmm-hmm. So guys, don’t worry. Even Bach was a human being, even if it’s hard to believe. Thank guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep. Many thoughts were swirling in my head. One of them was about creating a cycle called Organ ABC with 26 short and easy to play pieces, each having a title from a different letter of the Latin alphabet. The idea is that a student with relatively limited organ playing skills could learn one piece per week with dedicated practice. And if such organ student would learn all 26 pieces in 26 weeks, then he or she will have advanced to the higher technical skill level, of course because the cycle will gradually become more difficult as it progresses with increasing number of accidentals.
So this morning after breakfast I created my Pinky and Spiky drawing and then when @laputis had gone to school, I took my laptop to the second floor where I keep my MIDI keyboard. I connected the device and opened Sibelius software. On this keyboard I improvised this short piece, first the hand part, then the pedal part. It will be the 1st part of the Organ ABC cycle and I call it "Aeoline". Aeoline is often described as the softest organ stop. It's from the string family of the organ stops. The piece starts and ends in C Major key but in the middle travels through F# Minor (3 sharps) and Ab Major (4 flats).
Then I cleaned up the score from unnecessary rests, ties and simplified the notation. Now it's ready to play. I sent the score and the video to @drugelis with the hope she can learn and record it on time for this week's Secrets of Organ Playing Contest. Maybe when I go to the church I will record it and have a video played on a real pipe organ instead of Sibelius generated sounds. Then maybe @drugelis can also transcribe the fingering into the score so that other students could also play it.
The 2nd part of the cycle will be called "Bellows". The 3rd - "Contrabourdon". That's right, @contrabourdon! The 4th - "Dulzian". I don't know how far I will go with the alphabet because I have a nasty habit of not finishing what I started but it seemed like a good idea in the middle of the night!
SOPP498: If I could I would practice organ 10 hours a day, but I can't because it would ruin my hands
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 498 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And, this question was sent by Linda, and she writes:
“If I could I would practice organ 10 hours a day, but I can't because it would ruin my hands. I had hand surgery in 2015 from over-practicing. I passed Part I of the AGO colleague exam in May. I am set to take Part II in November. I'm sixty years old, and in the remaining years God gives me on this earth, I hope to also achieve the higher AGO exams, plus learn as much organ literature as I can. I heard a youtube recording of Klaas Jan Mulder's "Fantasie-Toccata on 'Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan", which blew me away. Dutch organ literature is definitely an area I want to explore, as well as the standard organ literature I haven't learned yet. Love your website. There's a lot of material there. Blessings on you, and thank you again.”
V: So, Ausra, would you practice for 10 hours a day if you could?
A: Well, I don’t think it’s necessary to practice for 10 hours a day. But I would be happy if I could practice 4 hours every day.
V: What would you play?
V: Starting from what?
A: From everything. All the Trio Sonatas by J. S. Bach—because so far, I have played four of them, so I still have two sonatas to learn—and other excellent stuff. Maybe Franck’s “Chorale in E Major,” which I haven’t played, yet.
V: The first one?
A: Yes, the first one. So, and other stuff, too.
V: We will be playing our organ duet recital in a couple of days, or in a few days, maybe on Saturday, and after that, probably it will be time to start playing solo, too.
A: Yes, if school doesn’t kill me.
V: Yeah, that’s a big consideration. I think I’m going to be a little bit busy even after this recital with various organ demonstrations and educational events, I think. But, I will continue sight reading. This is really good for my own skills.
A: But what do you think? Is it always necessary to practice for 10 hours?
V: I have never practiced for 10 hours. Well, maybe once. Maybe once, when I was really short on time, and the concert was maybe in two days.
A: You know, the most I have practiced was actually four hours, but it was four hours of excellent practice. But even though four hours is not like 10 hours, I could not practice the same amount of hours the next day, because, simply, your head needs to lead your practice, not your hands.
V: It’s the same with physical exercise. If you do over-train one day, you will not be able to do the same type type of exercise the next day. You will have to rest one day.
A: True. So, I guess, even if you practice a lot on one day, you need to take it easy on the second one; on the next one. Because, I think when you are learning the organ repertoire, you also need to do some mental work with the music that you are playing.
A: Yes, and it’s not only… you don’t do it only by sitting on the instrument and practicing. You need to think about the music, too.
V: What do you do when you think about it?
A: Well, I often think of different excerpts from the piece and think about the form, about the meaning of the piece, and it helps, too.
V: I used to do that more when I had time. Now, I just don’t have this privilege anymore—sitting without the instrument—because there is so much on my plate already. But, when the occasion arises, for example, I’m traveling, sitting in the hotel, the concert is tomorrow, and I still need to work on something, obviously that would be a great way to practice mentally.
A: Plus, I’ve realized that sometimes you keep practicing and practicing and practicing, and instead of improving things, you sort of start messing things up. And sometimes, giving a break of one or two days actually makes your program sound better.
V: Or come back to the same program after practicing something else for a week, or two weeks, or a month. Right? You switch things up a little bit. It’s like physical exercise. One day you want to work on your upper body muscles, maybe, the next day, maybe on your lower body, maybe the third day on your core abdominal muscles, and then maybe the next day, you might rest. After 3 days, you take a rest., and then, start over again. There are all kinds of methods of mixing up physical exercise, so I think with organ practice, this could be applied in some way, too, this type of a variety.
A: True! And, as Linda mentioned that she already had surgery, and that she loves to practice a lot, I guess this trouble with her hands shows that you need to practice less, actually, and to practice fewer hours, actually, but maybe to do it more efficiently.
V: And maybe warm up.
A: Yes, that’s a good idea, too.
V: And maybe practice easier pieces?
A: That’s a possibility, too.
V: We don’t know exactly what her level is, but certainly overextending yourself doesn’t help.
A: But it’s very nice that she has the goal of what she wants to achieve. That’s very important. I guess when you have a goal, then it’s easier for you to practice.
V: Yes, you feel motivated externally, and then you just have to follow through. Thanks guys, this was Vidas!
A: And Ausra!
V: Please send more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember: When you practice,
A: Miracles happen
Before I got ready to do a podcast conversation with the composer from the UK, Paul Ayres, I practiced his Prelude and Fugue from the Suite for Eric and then quickly printed out the score of my today's piece "Aeoline" which will be the opening part of the cycle "Organ ABC". I then held the camera in one hand and played with another hand part by part - right hand, left hand and the pedals so that @drugelis could later transcribe the fingering and pedaling for me.
And now I have to grab some lunch and run to have an interview at the Lithuanian Radio Classical Music Program. They want me to talk about my organ playing experiences.
SOPP511: I retired after 35 years as a Primary School Teacher and have gone back to study Organ Performance and Musicology in university
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 511 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Fintan. And he writes:
Hi Vidas, I’m practising hard. I retired after 35 years as a Primary School Teacher and have gone back to study Organ Performance and Musicology in university. It’s hard work but I find it very useful to have fingering notated in advance when learning new repertoire. I’ve just purchased a copy of your Toccata in F, BWV 540 with fingering and look forward to learning it. Regards, Fintan
A: Well, you know, let’s congratulate Fintan that after teaching at school for 35 years, he finds strength to play the organ, to practice the organ and study organ performance and musicology at university. I think it’s amazing. Well, I’m not teaching for so many years yet, but even now, I feel so exhausted after each day at school. So it really surprises me in a good way that a person can find so much energy left after so many years of a teaching job.
V: When you were little, Ausra, what was your dream? For example, what would you like, what was your dream to become in the future? What did you want to do?
A: I wanted to be a singer.
V: Singer, right?
V: Uh huh. So imagine, if you, when you retire after, I don’t know, 20 years or less, as the teacher, harmony and theory teacher, and ear-training teacher, maybe you would like to pursue this hobby again and…
A: You know, I think that this little bit of voice that I still have left, I think will leave my body after teaching for let’s say, 20 more years.
V: Because you are using your voice every day.
A: I know, and it leaves me right now, sometimes, in the middle of my classroom. I’m talking, and suddenly I don’t have a voice anymore. So I think I have to abandon the idea of singer’s career.
V: It’s gone?
A: Yes. I think I will be very lucky if after retirement, I can sit on the organ bench and to play a little prelude and fugue from Bach’s circle.
V: I know what you mean! But does singing still fascinate you?
A: Yes, but not that kind of singing that I wanted to pursue when I was a little kid. Because then, when I was a little kid, I was fascinated by opera singers with these huge voices. But now I’m not fascinated by that anymore. Of course, I appreciate good singers. I can understand who is who, and be able to know who is singing well and who is not singing very well. But now, I’m fascinated with early music singers that don’t project so much of the power of the voice, but can control it and sing polyphonic music, for example.
V: In a good style.
V: Uh huh. I see. But if putting things aside that are stopping you, right, your voice limitations, your everyday using of your voice, right, and you understand that this is not possible for you, right?
V: If is WAS possible, right, if you didn’t damage your voice, when you retire, did you, would you still have this passion for singing?
A: Of course, but like for most elderly ladies, you cannot keep your muscles very well intact, so the breathing becomes a problem, and holding your breath, and this is for singers a crucial point. So, well, I rather would not do it. Because I don’t think it would sound very nice. But of course, if I would be fascinated by everything that my physical abilities would still let me do it, then of course I guess I would do it.
V: Yeah. We, as kids, have many dreams and hobbies, and we stop sometimes them, because life gets in the way, formal education gets in the way, right? And when we grow up, we no longer have this ability to practice our hobbies. But then, somehow our hobbies from childhood catch up with us, later in life, right?
V: Look at us now. We’re doing things that we didn’t do for many years now. Maybe the same is with Fintan. Maybe he started to play organ after he retired, right, and after he had more time to do it, and less stress as a Primary School teacher, right?
A: True. It’s like our friend Marcia Koster who raised ten kids of her own. And she went back to school when she was 60, and got her Master’s degree in organ performance. So, because, that was her dream, but she didn’t have time in her life to do it until she was 60 years old. So I guess it’s very natural. It didn’t seem very natural for us, because Vidas and I, we were raised in the Soviet Union, where people had strict rules about things. And it was really uncommon that after retirement you would begin to study something. Everybody would think that you are crazy.
V: They would think you are an idiot.
V: Because if you are still learning...
A: You have some mental issues. Because why, of course you graduate from school, you graduate from university or not, but then you got a job which was assigned to you even in those days.
V: You didn’t have to choose.
A: Yes. So everything was sort of known in advance. You would know that after graduation you will receive a position. Maybe not in the capital, but somewhere in the province. And that’s it. And life will just go by.
V: Mm hm.
A: And it was really very unusual to do something like to go back to school after retirement. I don’t think as a child that I would have heard any of such stories. But now it’s sort of becoming a rule, and it’s becoming just a regular thing.
V: Yeah, it’s more common for seniors to start learning hobbies and learning new things. And we have so many students over 60 years old, right, Ausra?
V: All around the world.
A: And now there’s this so-called Third Age University.
V: For seniors.
A: For seniors. And all those classrooms are just crowded with seniors. Of course, there are some areas that are more interesting for people.
V: Like medicine?
A: Yes, like all kinds of medical issues. But also, like history.
A: And every subject.
V: So seniors cannot really be put in a position with low expectations, right? Oh, you are over 60, you are no longer useful to society, and you just have to watch TV all day long and wait for the day to end.
A: And you know, I remember when I was a child, and you know, let’s say, people would retire very early in the Soviet days. Women would retire at age 55. Men, I think, at the age of maybe 60.
V: Mm hm.
A: And now we all retire at age of 65 in Lithuania. And I guess by the time that we will have to retire, we will postpone that age even. We will make it even longer. But, you know, a lady at the years of 60 would just wear a scarf on her head.
V: Mm hm.
A: And would really look very, very old. Now there is nothing like this anymore.
V: Nobody wears scarves.
A: I know. Maybe some stylish, fancy ones. But just to keep in fashion.
V: In fashion, yes.
A: But otherwise, as I remember 30 years back, when comparing our elderly people with people from west, western countries, they would be like night and day, how their seniors look like and how our seniors look like. But now our seniors look like the western seniors.
V: Maybe with less smiles.
A: Well yes.
A: But still, if you wouldn’t look at the smile only about appearance. You wouldn’t recognize who’s who.
V: True. So I can only congratulate Fintan and others who decided to pick up their dream of learning organ playing at age of 50, 60 years old, sometimes 70 years old.
A: I guess he is not a beginner, he just went back to, I guess because of the piece that he purchased.
V: Yes, Toccata and Fugue in
A: F Major.
V: In F Major, BWV 540, is a very advanced piece.
A: So, that’s what I’m guessing that, you know, he played the organ, but because of the teaching, he had to stop practicing, to quit practicing. But now he has more time, so he went back to his dream.
V: Yes. And we all should pursue our dreams, or just simply do things that we are meant to do, right? Because if we don’t do it, we will feel miserable. Don’t you think, Ausra?
A: Yes, I guess we would regret it at the end of our life.
V: Yes. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
SOPP507: I think in the service, soloing out the melody of a hymn, is a good technique to assist the congregation right from the organ
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 507. This question was sent by Dan. And he writes:
Hi Vidas and Ausra, Hard to believe that you guys are almost up to 500 episodes already. Seems just like yesterday that you started the podcast. I’ve been a listener right from day one. To comment on this episode, another thing that an organist could do during service, if playing a hymn that’s less familiar, is to solo out the melody on a second manual, with a prominent reed stop, a couple of principals, or a suitable combination on that second manual, so that the melody could be heard. I’ve observed over the years that this is a technique that I’ve heard organist use, to assist congregations with new material. Our organist that we had when I’d first started going to the church I’m going to, back in 2000, if there was an unfamiliar hymn, before the service, he’d take maybe 10 minutes and go over it. Then during service, for the first verse, he’d solo out the melody, on the festival trumpet on the choir division of the organ there. I think in the service, soloing out the melody of a hymn, is a good technique to assist the congregation right from the organ.
A: Well, it is a good technique, and I think it might work in many cases, but in Lithuania, for example, we have many, many churches where an organ has only one manual, one single manual, so that technique simply wouldn’t work. And in that case, I would suggest if you want to really make a melody very prominent, you need to play it in octaves on that single manual.
V: No other chords?
A: No other chords, yes. No supporting harmony. Mainly to play the hymn melody in the pedal, and then to do it in octaves with your hands.
V: So for example, if the starting note of the hymn is, let’s say, treble C, your left hand would play tenor C, and pedal would play bass C, the lowest note.
A: That’s right.
V: In three octaves, basically.
V: Mm hm.
A: Because, this is like a dream, when Dan talks about Festive Trumpet. How many organs in Lithuania have a Festive Trumpet that is in shape good enough to be able to play it?
V: Yeah. First of all, reeds need to be tuned regularly.
A: True, true. But of course, you know, we are living in a different world. And each time when Vidas and I go abroad to give recitals, the most amazing thing for me is how well organs abroad are taken care of. Because, whenever you go to France or to Scandinavian countries, organs are in the best shape, although some of them stand in unheated churches, and still everything is right in tune.
V: Well, it’s very simple actually. Organist takes care of regular maintenance that you need to work on, for example, tuning the reed or a flute or two if it’s out of tune a little bit. But less often. Reeds are more often, right? Most often, organist has to have an assistant helping him or her. So just one person has to press the keys on the organ console. The organist has to go into the pipes and tune those reeds. Sometimes reeds are not far away. They can reach, he can reach it from the organ bench or from the ground floor, too. But, if organist takes care of regular reeds maintenance, then he or she has to have a good training in this. It’s not for everyone, right?
A: True. And in Lithuania, we lack that sort of training. Most of organists just have no idea what is inside of the instrument, and have no idea how to maintain it.
V: And no interest in it.
V: Basically no interest in finding out even how the organ functions.
A: And this is jsut too bad because we have so many beautiful churches. Especially in Vilnius, most of them are built in the Baroque style, and we have wonderful acoustics. But organs aren’t in good shape, many of them.
V: And for example, organists write their registration without any regard of what stops they’re using, right? They would write down numbers.
A: That’s right.
V: But they don’t know what those numbers mean. When they go to another organ, they have to start their registration process all over again. Because number 5 or number 18 doesn’t tell them anything.
A: That’s right.
V: So that’s one thing. They’re not interested into technicalities of the instrument. And another thing is that a church has to have a contract with an organ building firm.
A: Well, you need to have an organ building firm. Do you remember when we tried to get hold of some organ firm that would take care of our organ at St. John’s so that we wouldn’t have to do it regularly?
V: Nobody wanted it.
A: Nobody wanted it, nobody took that position. So we do everything ourselves.
V: Mm hm.
A: Basically, it’s because we don’t have many organ building shops in Lithuania anymore.
V: Only about two, I would say, are left.
A: Yes. It’s not enough.
V: There is some sign that one or two younger people are more interested in this, and in the future might open their practice.
A: Well, but you know, how will you make a living? It’s very hard. They would not receive many new contracts, and only take care of old instruments. Who will pay you for doing that work? Usually, you know, church doesn’t want to pay for it.
V: If you travel around the country just doing maintenance, let’s say on weekdays, right? Five days a week, you can travel to five organs.
A: True. And I think that what makes this all issue, is that so many people don’t understand about organ at all. And even well-educated people don’t. Because I remember maybe ten or more years back, we had this question risen in Vilnius, because of St. John’s church organ. I think the rector asked, “So, we built an instrument, we paid so much money, and now it needs tuning, it needs maintenance?” He couldn’t believe it. So, it’s just such a narrow-mindedness, I would call it.
V: Yeah. Organists have to do more education. Educating activities, showing for the general audiences how their organ works, how much is needed to maintain it, right? And even organ builders who are left here still active in the country need to open their shops for the society. For the general audience, once in a while. And invite and give tours to show how the pipes are constructed, how they work on new organs or restorations of old instruments. That would be very interesting.
A: Yes, it would be.
V: Excellent. So we started this conversation with a question from Dan, right?
A: And finished it very differently. But anyway, it’s so nice that Dan has listened to our podcasts since the first episode, and that he now wonders about us doing 500 already.
V: Yes, this is number 507. So we already passed number 500. By the time you will hear this, guys, we might be recording 520 perhaps.
A: Yes, that’s a possibility. But anyway, I think Dan’s idea about soloing out the melody is very appropriate. And if you have larger organ and have possibility to do it, then please do it, because it really works. Of course, the hymn has to be in sort of festival character. It shouldn’t be, you wouldn’t use solo trumpet for, let’s say hymn that is in a soft character
V: Yes, because…
A: ...or a sorrowful character, because reeds provide festive mood, festive atmosphere.
V: Yeah. If you need to solo out a melody on a gentle hymn, then maybe use some kind of principal combination.
V: Or maybe flute combination with flutes 8, 4, maybe Tierce or a 5th, or like a cornet.
A: Yes. I thought about cornet if you don’t have a trumpet, for example, you can use cornet instead of it. It will sound probably more gentile than trumpet, but would still work really well.
V: You mean gentle.
A: Yes, gentle.
V: Good. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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