Vidas: Let’s start Episode 117 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Listen to the audio version here. Today’s question was sent by Neil, and he writes:
“I don’t have a home organ so practising is on my Roland piano but I have access to an organ at my parish church.”
So Ausra, do you think that playing on a keyboard or electronic piano is beneficial?
Ausra: Yes, of course; you can do a lot on those.
Ausra: You can learn the text, and keep your shape; but of course, it’s better in Neil’s case to practice at church. And it’s good that he has access to his parish church organ. And actually, very few of us have an organ at home.
Vidas: So it’s good to have any type of keyboard at home. And even acclaimed virtuoso pianists sometimes don’t practice on an acoustic piano. They sometimes have electronic keyboards, like clavinovas, or Rolands, or others at home. Remember Ausra, we visited one house here in Vilnius, looking at some apartments; and there was a famous Lithuanian pianist--we saw his wife, with a baby--and of course, they had a piano, but not an acoustic piano, but an electronic piano!
Ausra: Yes, I remember that.
Vidas: So we talked about that, and apparently, her husband practices quite a bit.
Ausra: Yes yes. So there is always a solution. But if you live in the States, I would say people in the States are quite generous--churches are very generous, actually, with sharing the organ. So you could easily get access to basically many church organs to practice on.
Pipe organs, electronic organs...
Vidas: All kinds of organs. Of course, some churches don’t have pipe organs; and we prefer even a small pipe organ to a large electronic organ, I think.
Vidas: But that’s our taste, right? Other people might choose differently.
Vidas: Ausra, do you have some suggestions for people who are struggling to get access to a church organ?
Ausra: Well, yes; just try to find a church that will accept you.
Vidas: What will you need--the number 1 step--for this?
Ausra: Well, just to call, actually.
Ausra: To your local churches.
Vidas: Or...Is it better to call, or to visit on a Sunday?
Ausra: Well, I think it’s better to visit personally, then you show that you really care about it. But if you cannot do that, then call them.
Vidas: Sometimes you can befriend a local organist, right?
Vidas: And listen to them play, and maybe after a while, ask them permission to play yourself once in awhile.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Or maybe volunteer to play in the church service, maybe for communion or prelude or postlude--just one piece, so that the local organist could get a better feeling for your abilities, right?
Vidas: And then, if you are friends, you can ask for more regular access to this instrument.
Ausra: That’s right. Especially because in the States there are so many churches. So many organs!
Vidas: Do you think sometimes donation helps?
Vidas: You could donate some small amount…
Ausra: Yes, you could donate, or you could volunteer in some kind of work in the church...
Vidas: Mhm. Not necessarily organ music-related…
Ausra: Yes, yes, definitely. To be an usher or acolyte, or whatever you can come up with as an idea of what could be beneficial to the church.
Vidas: Basically, make yourself useful to the community, and earn their trust.
Vidas: And then, maybe they themselves will offer you practice and rehearsal opportunities.
Vidas: Wonderful. So, I think, guys, you can look up many churches in your area; maybe some miles around your house, because you can drive some distances. What to do if people live in rural areas, like villages, remote forests--in the middle of nowhere, basically?
Ausra: But still there should be a church in the main neighborhood. Maybe not as close, but still…
Vidas: Like in the middle of Australia, or far north in Canada.
Ausra: Well, that’s a hard question. What would you do in that case?
Vidas: Well, I would probably try to find some bear settlements. And maybe in the bear settlement, you could befriend some polar bears, if you are in Canada, and then make yourself useful to their community; and then maybe the bears will offer you an opportunity to play their instruments! Not necessarily pipe organs, though.
Ausra: Well, I would not want to get acquainted with a polar bear. Because I think this would be the last acquaintance you made!
Vidas: What about in Australia? What kind of animals live in Australia that you could make yourself useful to? You know those ostriches, right--emu?
Ausra: Yes, I have seen those on TV.
Vidas: Uh-huh. So they run very fast, and they can kick you…
Ausra: Well, you know, if you live in such a remote area, then probably the best thing would be to have an instrument at home. Not an organ, necessarily, but maybe a piano or electric piano…
Vidas: Or some sort of keyboard, right?
Ausra: Yes, some sort of keyboard.
Vidas: You can get a cheap, used one from Ebay shipped to you for $20 or so. Just for starters--maybe not for a lifetime, but just to get used to the keyboard layout, and start practicing, basically.
Ausra: Like in Lithuania, for example, they have upright pianos in a lot of homes; and some people don’t need them, and they want to get rid of them. But it’s hard to move them, because they are heavy; for example, imagine that you live on the tenth floor, and this piano cannot fit into an elevator, so you have to manually bring it downstairs by using the real stairs.
Ausra: So it’s very hard work. So some people just want to get rid of the piano, and they make such an announcement like, “I’m giving away a piano, but you have to come and pick it up, and move it out.” So that’s what you could try to do: to look for an announcement like this.
Vidas: And when you get a used piano, and if you don’t mind making alterations to your piano, you can modify this piano and attach an organ pedalboard to it. To the strings.
Ausra: Yes, I know, some people have done that quite successfully.
Vidas: Just like people who “midify” their keyboards, and add pedalboards with midi input, and play with the synthesized sounds with their feet, right? You could also do this with acoustic upright piano, while playing piano sounds with your feet!
Ausra: And remember reading about Albert Schweitzer, when he was a missionary in Africa…
Ausra: What kind of instrument did he have at home?
Vidas: I think a pedal piano.
Ausra: I think so, too.
Vidas: But it might have been not an upright piano, but a grand piano with pedals.
Ausra: Could be. I think it would have sounded very bizarre, in the middle of the jungle--Schweitzer playing Bach.
Vidas: But people around him would have sung, too. In their local indigenous tradition.
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: It sounds a little bit like Lithuanian folk music, right?
Ausra: Yes. Yes, some similarities, yes.
Vidas: Those chords and harmonies...Wonderful, guys. Please send us more of your questions; we hope to help you grow as an organist. 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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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.