Today's question was posted by Sandra, our Total Organist student. She's wandering if you always have to play an entire verse when you introduce the hymn to the congregation.
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Vidas: Hello, guys. This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And we're starting episode 11 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today's question was sent by Sandra. And she asks about playing the introduction of the hymns. So, she writes, "Do you always play a whole verse for the introduction of hymns?"
Interesting question, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Oh, yes, it is an interesting question.
Vidas: How would you do this yourself, personally?
Ausra: Well, actually, I probably have never had to play an entire hymn as an introduction because I believe that introduction must be something short and what I often did was that I often played last line of the hymn or sometimes even just a phrase. And just to play a long introduction I would suggest, if you know, if you have a composition based on that hymn tune, then you could play it all and then it would be a longer introduction, maybe for some special occasion. But for a regular service, I think you have to think what is the purpose of your introduction is, and basically its real purpose is just to give congregation the tune so it can start on the right pitch. And for that reason, intro can be only like four bars long. Maybe even two bars long. Maybe two is too short, but one line of the hymn should be plenty.
What do you think about it, Vidas?
Vidas: You know, what I would do, I would probably play eight measures of introduction because eight measures is usually one complete musical idea. And probably, four measures is also okay if the hymn is very, very familiar. You could play the first four measures or the last four measures, right. But you could also make it into a complete musical idea by creating a period. The smallest musical form.
Vidas: Basically, you take four measure phrase, let's say the opening of the hymn-
Vidas: And then maybe create a similar phrase, but with different ending, with different cadence, ending maybe on the dominant key, because right? We need to propel the motion forward, and if we end on the tonic, it's not something to continue, it's like an ending. But we want like a question, right? So, dominant would be a good way to end. What do you think about this?
Ausra: Well, but I'm sure that the congregation will start on the right tune if you end your intro on a dominant, I wouldn't be so sure.
Vidas: Why doesn't Sandra try both versions, right? Ending on the tonic and ending on the dominant and see which one is more appropriate and more understandable to people.
Ausra: From my experience, the last line of the hymn is the most appropriate for an intro.
Vidas: The last, right?
Ausra: Yes. Ends on the tonic.
Vidas: Oh, we could do a sort of in-between version. Take a first line of the hymn and the last line of the hymn.
Ausra: Yes, that works too. I have done such many times too.
Vidas: That's understandable.
Ausra: So, you can do both ways. But of course, you don't leave the whole hymn as an introduction. It might sound boring.
Vidas: So, what about if the tune is very unfamiliar, new, completely new?
Ausra: Well, then yes, then you can do it, you know, for a teaching purpose for the congregation to get more familiar with the tune, yes then it would be a great idea. But no, most of the hymns, they just sang them for generations over and over again, and they are well known. So, don’t play those familiar hymns throughout as an introduction.
Ausra: Because some of them are already very long, and have a few versions and if you add one more at the very beginning it will just last forever.
Vidas: Right. And save entire verse of the hymn for special occasions, right? Maybe for a solemn occasions-
Vidas: Festivities. Just like Orgelbüchlein, right? Chorale preludes were created maybe like introductions for the hymns in mind, in addition to teaching students to play the organ with pedal obbligato and also composition, right? How to compose and improvise the chorale harmonizations and preludes like this, but yes, they, for our times, are probably too long in most cases, right?
Vidas: But, on special occasions, Easter, Christmas, they might work, I think.
Ausra: And of course for new hymns you've never heard before.
Vidas: Good. So, I think people can get those ideas and try them in practice, don't you think? Next Sunday.
Vidas: And I think people could send more questions to us, right?
Vidas: And which way would you prefer? Email or comment as a post?
Ausra: I would prefer probably an email.
Vidas: Email, right? But if they want to just comment on the post that would be fine too, right?
Ausra: Yes, that's OK. Both ways are fine, actually.
Vidas: Yeah, we will find them. And you could also add a hashtag, right? #AskVidasAndAusra and we will definitely know that you are intending this question for our podcast.
Wonderful. So, Ausra, do you think people could benefit from subscribing to our daily newsletter and updates of this blog at organduo.lt?
Ausra: Yes, I'm sure they can find various ideas for their organ playing or how to improve it.
Vidas: That's actually the best way to stay in touch with us, right?
Vidas: Because they will get the daily dose of organ playing inspiration and advice and they can really reply to an email and ask questions. And that would be the easiest way. Right?
Vidas: Wonderful, guys. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, "When you practice-"
Ausra: "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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