SOPP520: How to get young kids to be more excited during organ demonstrations and willing to try things that maybe are difficult for them?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 520 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. A few weeks ago was quite a difficult trip to Vabalninkas for me to demonstrate pipe organ to bunch of 8th graders and 9th graders. And from that trip the most difficult thing was to get them to play this 19th century organ. They were very shy. Too shy, I should say… So, Ausra, this is my question. Right? How to get young kids to be more excited during such events and willing to try things that maybe are difficult for them, or overcome their fear of other teenagers, their friends.
A: You know, the question that I have raised in my head while reading your question was, “why are they so shy?” And I think that the answer might be smartphones.
V: You mean they are not accustomed to be active socially with normal people?
A: Yes, that’s what I’m thinking. I remember last night we were driving your car and were stuck in a traffic jam, and I noticed there was a bus station nearby, and I could observe those people for a few minutes. There were like maybe 12 people standing and waiting for a bus. All the young ones were holding their smartphones and surfing through them, not paying any attention to the outside world.
V: But this is Vilnius! This is the capitol! This is the center of Europe, maybe!
A: Well, do you think that kids, let’s say in a province, are much different than kids in Vilnius? I don’t think so! They also have this dependence on modern technologies.
V: It might make sense, so, maybe eliminate phones from their lives? Maybe that would be the solution?
A: Well, yes, but I think unfortunately it’s impossible to do. It was just a dream. But what I’m thinking, is that probably for the youth, all these demonstrations should, if we want to attract them, they should be probably more technologically based.
V: Oh, I see!
A: Yeah, and interactive. That’s probably what modern kids would understand better.
V: Interactive. You mean that kids should be a part of that lecture/performance/storytelling event right from the beginning, not at the end, right?
A: Yes, plus I think you should involve the modern technologies more into your demonstrations.
V: What kind of technologies, Ausra?
A: Well, at least PowerPoint.
V: Ah, visual material.
V: But it’s strange… they are already seeing what I am talking about in front of them. It’s not like I’m talking to the blind audience...
A: Well, I think because it’s not on the screen, it’s not affecting them.
V: But how do you explain the fact that in my other demonstrations, kids were more active, more engaged?
A: Well, what about age difference? Were they the same age?
V: I’ve done most of my demonstrations for kids—for very little kids—or for adults. For Kindergarten or primary school, elementary school kids. But for teenagers, I’ve done a few, not so much. But I’ve done recently from Vilnius International School. One teacher brought me English speaking kids. So they were very active and willing to play four-hands and even 6-hands at one time.
A: Well, let’s face it; it’s a big difference between Lithuanian province teenagers and kids from the International School. Basically, kids in the International School have a very different background. They have much bigger interests in life, and much bigger expectations in life, because I think the kids in our province are basically abused kids in many ways.
A: And I think that for many of them, the closest friend, the biggest friend is their mobile phone.
V: Very interesting.
A: That’s my guess. And when you are, for example, giving a performance and demonstration for kindergarten kids, they are still curious about things. They are still not so much affected by all the negative things and technological things, because usually parents strive to avoid their kids using too much technology at very early age.
V: So, for example, you, Ausra, if you had an opportunity to go to Vabalninkas before me a few weeks ago, and you knew this would happen ahead of time, very shy kids, perhaps, not so engaged… even then, the question is, “Is there any way that you could engage them with the means that you have at hand?” You will not be able to bring a PowerPoint there, right, probably?
A: Sure. But you know, I still don’t know why they didn’t want to try that organ so badly. Maybe their teacher just scared them before the event and told them just to be very quiet and polite.
V: Could be! Yeah, the teacher might be one of the reasons, too. We don’t know.
A: Were they noisy during your demonstration or were they very quiet?
V: No, quiet! Quiet. There were one or two instances when they maybe wanted to engage with themselves a little bit, but not that this would be a disturbance of the demonstration.
A: Another thing is that probably that in the teenager years, your social life is organized in some sort of gangs. Yes, it’s like in wolves!
V: A wolf pack.
A: A wolf pack, yes. They have one leader and everybody follows the rules, and everybody plays their role in this sort of gathering. So maybe that’s the same with those kids.
V: I needed to identify the alpha male?
A: Yes, maybe the leader just said, “This is all bullshit, don’t do it!” And nobody could do it because maybe they didn’t want that others would laugh at them all alone. That’s my best guess, but maybe I am wrong. I don’t know.
V: But why did two people from one group and one person from another group play the organ, then?
A: Well, there are all these people who do not fit into those groups. They are basically outsiders—losers, probably others would call them.
V: Hmm… Strange. Okay, that makes sense of course. In one group, one boy was encouraged to play by the music teacher, and then she said, “You are very gifted, show off yourself.” And then, he played. But in the first group, two friends played four hands, and not badly at all. They explored the sounds and made some rhythmical arrangements of a popular song they knew. It was interesting.
A: So, this case also shows that they sort of lack better musical education! Because those two kids who played the duet, and another kid whose teacher encouraged him to play had some musical training. Extra musical training, compared to the other ones. And maybe they just felt too shy to play anything, because they knew that they couldn’t do it.
V: Yeah, lots of things to think about.
A: And well, you know, if you are not well educated musically, then you don’t have interest in that thing because you cannot enjoy it. Because, let’s face it. To enjoy music, you still have to have some sort of musical pitch, and at least some kind of musical training. Because the things that you cannot understand and comprehend, they usually don’t attract yourself.
V: Or, it has to be very interesting and engaging technologically for that kind of age group.
A: Yes. Yes, I think so. Some sort of thing like… I don’t know… the keyboard that plays itself… nowadays, there are things like this.
V: I have some hope about the paper organ when it arrives next year in February, and maybe if this project gets funded and Wolfram Kampffmeyer produces this instrument, it’s like a modular kit organ you can assemble your several pipes with a balloon and the balloon blows air, it’s really fun from the video that he produced. So maybe this kind of small, basically game instrument, would be fun to show them in addition to the real thing.
A: Yes, that might help.
V: To get them more engaged. You know?
V: They would play with their hand on the paper organ, and maybe on the real thing afterwards.
V: And break my paper organ!
A: That might happen, because a paper organ is so fragile.
V: Right. Excellent, guys. Alright, we’ll see in the future how it goes next time. Thanks for your questions… well, that was my question.
A: Thank you for this question.
V: Excellent. And please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. Do you like helping me grow, Ausra?
A: Yes. Very much.
V: And remember; when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 517 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Lee, and Lee commented on the YouTube video of mine where I talk about articulate legato touch in early organ music. I demonstrate how it sounds vs. normal legato. Normal legato is when notes are connected, and articulate legato are where there is some detachment between the notes. Right? So he asks:
“"How would "articulate legato" be notated in a score vs. normal legato? Thanks."
A: Well, this question makes me smile a little bit, because articulate legato is supposed to be played for… it’s intended for Baroque music, for early music. So, if you are playing, let’s say, a piece by J. S. Bach, or Dieter Buxtehude, or other early masters, you simply know that everything that is written, and it’s written in a normal score without any articulation marks should be played in articulate legato.
V: Right. But…
A: But…. You only play legato whose parts are specifically written in.
V: Ah, I see…
A: Plus, you need to find a good edition. It means, if you will pick up, for example, an edition made by Marcel Dupré, you can simply just throw it away, because it’s all marked in legato and other articulation marks, but these are not original. These are added later by Marcel Dupré.
V: Yeah, and Marcel Dupré legato fingering and pedaling are dated. They are basically not used in historically informed early performance practice style. We don’t, of course, have CD recordings from the Baroque times.
A: From the 17th and 18th century!
V: Yeah. But remember, Ausra, we do have, for example, several pieces recorded on a mechanical clock from the 18th century—Handel’s Concerto, for example—with multiple virtuosic embellishment.
A: Yes. That’s right. Plus, you know, the greatest evidence that we have are surviving instruments. Simply, if you would play legato on the Baroque instrument, it wouldn’t work.
V: And we just have to look at other instruments which share the same articulation. Strings, winds…
A: Yes, and you know, we have also many treatises from that time survived about playing various instruments, not necessarily the organ, but let me just mention, probably, the few famous ones such as C. P. E. Bach’s “The True Art of Playing Klavier,” then the big book of Joachim Quantz on playing a flute, then Leopold Mozart on playing violin, and basically, if you would read all these books, you would find the sections talking about articulation, and you will see that baroque music was all about articulation.
V: And similar to keyboard, string music, like violin music, also had a similar articulation done with bowing.
A: Yes, and the bow itself was shorter than it is in a modern violin or other stringed instrument, so obviously, you had to articulate much more.
V: Exactly. And you know, when you change the direction of the bow, there is a slight break between those two notes, and that’s what creates this ideal articulation!
A: Yes, but for many beginners, when they start to articulate baroque music, they simply start to play it too detached. It sounds just like staccato, and it makes me laugh, because it really sounds like a comedy.
A: Artificial. It’s not like it needs to sound.
V: The principle is that you sort of play with one finger but as legato as possible.
A: So basically, to master this ordinary touch, it takes time. It takes time, and it takes effort, and it takes to listen carefully to what you are doing. You cannot do it in one night, or in one year, I would say, too, unless you are really sufficient in your practice.
V: What about the wind instrument, tonguing? Is it also similar, too?
A: Yes, it’s very similar.
V: ...to what we do?
A: Practically, they had to tongue each single note in most of the cases.
V: Unless it’s written “legato.”
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: or staccato. Then it would be shorter.
A: And wind instruments and organ have so much in common, because they both have pipes. So, I guess this also suggests to us that the correct way to play Baroque music is to articulate it.
V: So guys, if you want to find out more about articulation of early music, check out those three treatises. We will link them in our description of our conversation—the one with the treatise by C. P. E. Bach about playing keyboard instruments, basically Klavier, as he says, and the next is by Joachim Quantz about playing the flute, and the last one is by Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father) on playing violin.
V: And those three treatises, will give you a great, great introduction, not only to this idea of ordinary touch, or as we call it today, articulate legato, but also to all kinds of performance practice issues including fingering, ornamentation, for example, diminutions—all those details that make your Baroque piece sound like it might have been performed back in the day.
A: Yes, and the biggest counter argument that I heard about why we need to do it nowadays, they most simply are the modern instrument and so on and so forth, but even if you play articulate legato on a modern instrument, it still sounds better in this kind of music, at least for my ear.
V: Obviously, yes! It’s more difficult to articulate on a modern instrument, because the keys are wider and longer, and the feeling of the keyboard is different. Right? But if you apply this ordinary touch right away, you don’t have to relearn it if you ever have a chance to practice on an historical instrument, or a copy of the historical instrument.
A: True, and that’s what I think it is that separates just an ordinary musician from an excellent musician, is that you learn in time. Because, for example, the older generation, for example our professors, Quentin Faulkner and George Ritchie, they had to relearn it, because as young people, they were taught to play legato, and to do only some articulation in Baroque music. But later on, all this big discovery basically based on German organists such as Harold Vogel or Ludger Lohmann became famous throughout the organist world, and some of the older generation didn’t want to accept it. I have met some of them personally, and they would be complaining, “Oh, there are these youth that nowadays play all Bach non-legato, and they call it ordinary touch, and they say that this is the way that Bach played...”
V: And this youth was over 50 years old!
A: Yes, but that guy who told me that, I think at that time he was more than 80 years old already. He was a pupil of a famous German organist, Karl Straube.
A: And Straube was the same in Germany at the time as Marcel Dupré in France, so really a leading figure. And of course, he taught this guy that I knew to play legato, and he trusted him because he was such a renowned organist who worked widely in his days. But life is changing, and new discoveries are made. So our professors, Ritchie and Faulkner simply relearned everything.
V: Yeah, and as long as you keep learning, you postpone the aging process, which is really good news.
A: And anyway, when you hear one performance and another one and you compare them, then you know right away which is the right one, because your intuition tells you that. And after trying that ordinary touch, you will never go back to playing Bach legato.
V: 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!
Would you like to learn Alexandre Guilmant's Offertoire sur Deux Noel, Op. 19 No. 2?
I hope you'll enjoy playing this piece yourself from my PDF score.
Thanks to Jeremy Owens for his meticulous transcription from the slow motion video.
What will you get?
PDF score with complete fingering written in which will save you many hours of work. Intermediate level. 6 pages.
Let me know how your practice goes.
This score is free for Total Organist students.
Check it out here
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 533, of Secrets Of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by May. She’s our Total Organist student. And he writes:
I read from your post that you classify BWV 565 as advanced level. Actually, which part of this piece do you think is the most challenging? I personally find the fast passage towards the end (especially that part to be played by hands only with alternate hands. I find it very difficult to play each note evenly and clearly. Is this the most difficult part of this piece in your mind? What do you suggest I can do to improve my playing of such fast passages?
Vidas: Do you like playing Hanon exercises, Bach Inventions and Sinfonias?
May: Thanks Vidas! I wish I played more technical exercises before. The fact is, my piano teachers never instructed me to do so in the past (when I was a teenager). My piano at home is now awfully out of tune. I seldom play it ever since I started learning organ.
To be honest I would rather spend time on compositions that require pedals. I always choose compositions that require more hands-feet coordination and less manual techniques. This doesn't mean I do not want to improve my manual skills. I just don't want to spend too much time on manual only pieces like Bach's inventions and sinfonias.
I have little knowledge of Hanon exercises. How many of exercises does it have and how many shall I work on? I assume I'll have to practice them on the piano...
Vidas: How about Bach's Orgelbuchlein? How many chorales have you mastered from this collection?
May: Hi Vidas,
With the Orgelbuchlein, here's the list of pieces I have played in the Church and that I am fairly comfortable with.
BWV 609, 610, 621, 623, 625, 627(verses 1,2,3), 631, 636
Below is the list that I believe I have mastered.
BWV 599, 602, 605, 606, 613, 626, 630, 639.
I am quite comfortable with BWV 659 and 645.
V: By the way, 659 is Nun komm from Eighteen Great Chorales, the first one, and 645 is "Wachet auf" from Schubler collection.
May: I have been playing them in Church during the advent season in the past few years.
Any advice from you will be greatly appreciated.
Vidas: And I finished my writing to her like this:
Thanks May! There are 45 chorale preludes in this collection. It's worth mastering them all. Also the Schubler chorales. Do one per week. In fact, you can record one piece every week for our Secrets of Organ Playing Contest. This would quadruple your results.
V: What do you think, Ausra?
A: Well, I think that you never give up a chance to advertise your competition on the…
V: But it’s our competition.
A: Well, it’s more your competition than mine. But anyway when May mentions that she struggles with D minor Toccata by J.S. Bach, I thought that she really needs to exercise on the piano and to do the manual part because those spots that she indicated shows the lack of muscle strength, strength from on her fingers.
A: Because I think that D minor Toccata in general is the piece suited actually for piano performers, because it doesn’t require a lot of pedal technique, but it takes good finger work.
V: What about the fugue?
A: Well the fugue is already more complex piece.
V: Mmm-mmm. Toward the end of the fugue there is this passage or couple of passages with a little more pedal involved. But yes, it’s sometimes difficult to play in a fast tempo reliably those passages in the hands which have echo between the hands, alternating hands. You jump from manual to manual. This is difficult for me too. So, yes, playing exercises like Hanon, wouldn’t hurt for her. But if she wants to play something with pedals, I definitely recommend Bach’s Orgelbuchlein and Schubler Chorales—all of them.
A: Well, you know, I love Schubler Chorales, but to be honest, some of the Orgelbuchlein Chorales are boring for me, for example. Of course I’ve played them all but…
V: What do you mean, boring?
A: Well, they are, most of them are not exactly like concert level pieces. They are well suited for liturgical purposes.
A: And for in general studying the style of Bach, and baroque figures too. But it’s not the most exciting collection Bach composed.
V: But in her situation it would work, wouldn’t it?
A: Yes, of course. And she has learned already quite a lot of them.
V: But she only had mastered one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight. Eight out of forty-five.
A: Do you think it’s crucial to master all of them?
V: I think it wouldn’t hurt, yes.
A: But I always go back to that question and ask myself ‘why Bach hasn’t finished composing this collection’.
V: And, your answer is, what?
A: That maybe he got bored with himself.
V: Like you are bored with…
A: In that collection. Is that possibility?
V: He clearly didn’t think it as a priority at the time. He got distracted by more important projects, probably.
V: But these pieces which were created, right, only a third I think from the planned collection. There should have been much more, many more. Those which are created would serve pedagogical level very well because in every piece pedal is completely obbligato.
A: Yes, that’s right. And there are some really, really tricky pieces, like Hilf' Gott, dass mir's gelinge, BWV 624 for example.
A: He used various polyphonic techniques and it’s quite challenging. Actually I would find some of those chorales actually even more challenging than that spot of D minor Toccata that she describes.
V: And if she masters all of them once a week, in let’s say, in a year or even less probably, she can come back to D minor Toccata and check how she is doing with that difficult passage. My guess is, it will not be as difficult any more.
A: Yeah. Could be.
V: Thank you guys, for listening, for applying our tips in your practice. Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
Our piano hasn't been tuned since... forever. It was @laputis' piano before we met, of course. She graduated from the art gymnasium playing on it. She practiced on it during her studies at the academy of music. Over these decades the pitch of the piano went down exactly half step. It started interfering with her memory of normal pianos at her work. We wanted to get it tuned for a long time but we procrastinated a lot. But recently @laputis decided she will start creating an ear training and harmony course for our online students and so it seemed like a perfect time to tune our piano.
So yesterday I brought Darius Narmontas, a colleague piano technician from @laputis' school to tune it. Since the instrument hasn't been tuned for a long time, he said he might need to come over next week to finalize the tuning.
The first thing he did after checking the initial tuning was to vacuum the dust under the keys. It was interesting to see how the inside of the keyboard looks like when you remove the keys. There was a lot of dust, as you can imagine. We have never cleaned it so I brought a little vacuum cleaner from upstairs and with the help of a small brush he removed all the dust.
Our piano technician is very methodical, has tons of experience tuning hundreds of pianos at school and all over the town so he was very quick and strategic about everything. I observed how he arranged the keys in packs on top of one another before vacuuming and then put them back in reverse order.
Then came the tuning phase. He had this tuning instrument which he used to turn the strings one by one. But as you know, pianos have double and triple strings so he muted the additional ones while he worked on the others.
He tuned in perfect fifths by ear. I imagined he would use an electronic tuner but he is that good that he is quick enough to not need it. After around 90 minutes he was done and I took him back to school. In all the amazement (or maybe because I didn't want to share), I forgot to offer him a cup of tea and some Christmas sweets... I apologized for this in the car but of course, he is such a nice man that he said he still feels energized from the coffee at school (@laputis wasn't happy about this).
He promised to come over next week to finalize the tuning and to adjust the mechanics a little bit. But in general he said the state of our piano is quite good and it holds tuning very well. He was glad we are keeping the instrument hydrated by keeping a jar with water inside.
I asked how often does he recommend tuning it and he said, factory recommendations are every 6 months but in his opinion once a year is enough, around this time of year, when there is heating and the seasons have changed recently.
Before writing this post, I just played a suite in G major by Cesar Franck from L'Organist on our piano and it sounded very nice. @laputis even gave me a little applause. Of course, I had to ask for it...
Thank you everyone for participating! You all made us very happy with your entries. We have randomly selected the following winners.
Have you ever wanted to start to practice on the organ but found yourself sidetracked after a few days? Apparently your inner motivation wasn't enough.
I know how you feel. I also was stuck many times. What helped me was to find some external motivation as well.
In order for you to advance your organ playing skills and help you motivate to practice, my wife Ausra - @laputis and I invite you to join in a contest to submit your organ music and win some Steem.
Are you an experienced organist? You can participate easily. Are you a beginner? No problem. This contest is open to every organ music loving Steemian.
Here are the rules
Welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast 529!
Today's guest is French organist Christophe Mantoux who is Professor of organ at the PSPBB and the Conservatoire régional of Paris and titular organist of Saint-Séverin Church in Paris, Prof. Mantoux studied organ and improvisation with Gaston Litaize and harmony and counterpoint at the National Superior Conservatoire of Paris. In 1984 he won the first prize in Interpretation of the Chartres International Organ Competition, an accomplishment that propelled him into an international career as a concert artist and has led him to more than 25 countries in Europe as well as the USA, Canada, South America, China, South Korea, and Japan. Titular organist of Chartres cathedral between 1986 and 1992, professor of organ at the Strasbourg Conservatory from 1992 to 2011, member of the French National Commission of Historical Monuments (organ section), Ch. Mantoux is regularly invited for masterclasses in International Academy of Haarlem, Groningen, Lübeck, Berlin, Yale University, University of Notre-Dame, and others. He is also invited as a jury member for international competitions in Freiberg, Nuremberg, Groningen, Erfurt/Weimar, Chartres, Miami, Tokyo, etc. He was invited to teach for the Fall semester 2018 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Listen to the conversation
Prof. Mantoux is represented by Penny Lorenz Artist Management
Watch the videos of Prof. Mantoux performances
I intended to start my workday at church by improvising on the organ but the new Rode Wireless Go mic distracted me. I spent entire first half of the day trying to set it up and doing some tests with it. I found out my USB-C cable wouldn't hold in place. I need to replace the charger slot. Maybe the replacement will arrive on Monday. @contrabourdon helped me figure out correct gain level. I finally succeeded and played two Gregorian chant improvisations on "Medium" gain.
Then I sight-read BWV 660 and BWV 661 while putting the phone camera above my hands on the organ light.
I was amazed by the sound Rode mic helped produce. I put the receiver on the edge of the balcony, further away from the keyboards so that no action noise would be heard. It's 10 times better the sound than my Huawei Mate 10 Pro phone mic could record before.
Here's a link to Amazon page of Rode Wireless Go. Also, if you use a phone to record, you will need SC7 cable. I also purchased USB-C to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter because my phone doesn't have a headphone jack. If you do decide to buy something on Amazon from these links, I will get a small commission.
I checked my email and saw a message titled "Oink Oink" from @laputis who sent me a link to some video. In this video a Greek reporter was being chased by a pig. I thought the pig wanted to be friends but video said she tried to have a bite at reporters pants.
It was now the time for me to go downstairs and practice some organ. In about 3 weeks @laputis and I will play "Christmas with Bach" recital and the two solo pieces I will be playing will be 2 versions of "Nun komm" - BWV 660 and BWV 661. I played it through a couple of times stopping at every beat. I later calculated I will need 10 days to master these chorale preludes, if I will manage to stop at consecutively larger fragments each day. Today should be stops every half measure.
Then I remembered to check if Markek wrote some of his ideas on Facebook about the recent Ciurlionis organ competition. Having not found anything, I wrote a proposal to play organ duet recital to Riga's St John's church and to Ireneusz Wyrwa with the proposal to be on the jury of his organ duet competition in 2020.
In the evening @laputis and I went to practice our Bach cantata organ duet arrangements. The hardest for me still is the opening chorus from "Wachet auf" cantata and the tenor aria from the 2nd cantata from Christmas Oratorio. I still can't remember its title. Maybe it's because tenor clef seems to be very user unfriendly to me.
When @laputis played her solo chorales "Nun komm" and "Wachet auf", I read "American elf, 1999'. I wish I hadn't done this while sitting on the sofa behind our pipe organ because I simply love when @laputis practices. Next time I hear her play, I promise to pay attention and cheer her up.
When we were done practicing, @laputis asked me, "How many steps do you have?" I said, "7400 and you?" "12600. Fitbit gave me more when we played. It's obvious whose part is more difficult."
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