Vidas: Let’s start Episode 114 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Listen to the audio version here. And today’s question was sent by Kae. And she writes:
Hi again! How do you deal with the organ loft getting cold in winter? It doesn't even get that cold here in Seattle (compared to Vilnius!), but now that winter is on the way, I'm thinking of keeping blankets here! Do you ever find that it's too cold to practice for very long?
First of all, Kae is helping us with transcribing our audio teachings.
Ausra: Yes, she’s a great help. Thank you, Kae!
Vidas: Without her, doing the work of transcription ourselves would be very difficult and long work. She’s very fast at typing and transcribing; thank you so much, Kae. And now going back to the question. I remember, Ausra, that you once worked in a very cold church, right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right; Holy Cross Church in Vilnius, yes.
Vidas: What did you do there?
Ausra: Well, there was not so much to do, because the priest did not let me put some electric device, you know, a heater, to keep me not as cold--to keep me warmer; so I just had to dress up very warmly. But it wouldn’t help so much, after sitting and playing for a longer time. So that’s a real struggle. But one thing that could help: bring with you warm tea, or hot tea, or some hot drink…
Vidas: That’s a great suggestion. I kind of neglected this and thought about only clothes and blankets; but you know, warm beverages are great.
Ausra: Yes, and you know, special gloves are very good, too, where you cut off the finger part of the gloves--
Ausra: Fingertips, yes. And to play with them. That’s also a possibility.
Vidas: You could do this yourself, or you could buy these specially prepared gloves without fingertips.
Ausra: Yes, and another thing I found useful during wintertime while practicing at church--you don’t wear organ shoes at that time.
Ausra: Because you can get your toes frozen, actually. Because the organ shoe is so tight, and your toes cannot move well enough in those shoes; so you can freeze them very easily. And that’s what I experienced myself many years ago, in Anyksciai in the northern part of Lithuania at the large English Romantic organ when I was playing an organ recital in January, I think.
Vidas: And you had your organ shoes?
Vidas: And thin socks?
Ausra: Well, the socks were okay; but of course you cannot add like, woolen socks in the organ shoes. Unless you would get, maybe 2 sizes bigger shoes!
Vidas: So, your shoes should be quite wide, then.
Vidas: To be able to fit thick socks.
Ausra: But you know, women’s organ shoes are usually very narrow.
Ausra: So it’s better not to use them.
Vidas: Mhm. Just learn, and adjust, and be prepared to play with your regular shoes. Not necessarily street shoes, because in wintertime…
Ausra: Or just use woolen socks. That’s a possibility, too.
Vidas: Woolen socks, exactly! Yeah.
Ausra: That’s the best possibility.
Vidas: In winter.
Ausra: In winter, yes.
Vidas: If you use some kind of other shoes, please wipe your feet on a special carpet so that your pedals will not be, you know…
Vidas: Yes, your pedals will get muddy otherwise.
Ausra: Especially in wintertime, when we have so much salt and sand on the streets in Lithuania.
Vidas: Mhm. But today, I guess, you can also bring some electric heaters, fans...
Ausra: Yes, I think that’s also the best solution, too.
Vidas: Where to put them?
Ausra: And remember, when I was playing Clavierübung Part III (that was my last doctoral recital at Lincoln), I played in the Cornerstone Chapel, which has also no heat--or at least, it’s very...not enough heat, because I think there it was like 10°C in the room. Plus 10.
Vidas: Plus 10, in the room?
Ausra: Yes (not minus 10!), in the room. So it was quite, quite cold. So I had a heater, and it was standing next to me, actually, in the organ loft. So it helped me a lot.
Vidas: Now we don’t have this problem so much in our church, because the university keeps the heating during the winter.
Ausra: But still it gets pretty cool--not now, not in November, for example, but I think in December, January, February, it will be cold.
Vidas: If you play there for hours…
Vidas: Without moving, then it gets cold. You have to, I think, take frequent breaks, in general, right? Stretch and walk, basically, and drink some tea from a thermos.
Ausra: Yes. But yes, I would not suggest for you to practice for long hours, if it’s really cold in the room. It’s not good for you.
Vidas: So maybe a majority of your practice could be done at home, on the table or on a piano if you have one.
Ausra: And the most frustrating thing is when you have to play a recital during wintertime, and you sit down on the organ bench, and you have to start playing--and you just feel that you cannot move your fingers! I’ve had this feeling so many times, and I just hate it.
Vidas: The last time I felt very cold was a few years ago, when I first played an hour-long improvisation recital on the occasion of inaugurating the newly-restored Romantic organ in Mosedis. And this is in a northern part of Lithuania, next to the Latvian border. And it wasn’t winter, but it was cold. So what I had, I had those--
Ausra: It was late fall, I believe.
Vidas: Late fall. Like today (we’re recording in November). So I had those gloves without fingertips, and they helped me a lot, actually. I had to practice a little bit ahead of time, on different organs, to get used to the feeling of playing with gloves; but finally, it helped so much that I wasn’t really cold, playing. But the trick is to get a pair of gloves that are a little bit tight. They have to fit very very tight, maybe one size smaller than normal, or two sizes smaller. They would stretch, of course; they should be very thin gloves, and they should stretch like a pair of socks, basically--that feeling should be on your palm. But it helps a lot. Wonderful, guys. Experiment in the winter; please keep yourself warm, and drink a lot of hot beverages.
Ausra: But don’t drink alcohol.
Ausra: Actually, some Lithuanian organists do that…
Vidas: Yes, yes.
Ausra: Yes, as we travel through Lithuania, sometimes we could find many alcohol bottles, empty, inside of the organ. So don’t do that.
Vidas: Yes. Because it’s a tricky feeling, right? Yes, you will feel warmer, but just for a brief time.
Ausra: Yes, and then it will be even colder, I would say.
Vidas: Mhm. And please keep sending us your questions; we love helping you grow. This was Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
PS African Savannah (Organ Improvisation). This improvisation reminds me of the vast plains in Africa, full of wild life. One word describes it all - freedom.
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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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