#AskVidasAndAusra 2: Solving problems when accompanying the choir on the organ from the distance
This morning Ausra and I went to the woods for our 10000 step practice and we recorded episode 2 of #AskVidasAnd Ausra.
Today's question was sent by Rory who is our Total Organist student. Here's what he wrote:
"Dear Vidas and Ausra,
First of all, by the way, thank you for all you do and special congratulations on reaching 100 podcasts!
My question: in our parish we are in the early stages of planning a musical event featuring choir and organ and also some organ solos. It is a small church with a low gallery (total seating about 300).The choir, about 25 people, normally sing from just in front of the organ, which stands at the back of the gallery. This is good acoustically. We do not have a conductor - the organ leads the choir directly. It works well, but for this concert type of event we find a problem. Both the choir and the organist would be invisible to the downstairs audience the whole time, so we have been experimenting with locating the choir on the altar steps, but at that distance it is difficult for the choir to hear the organ clearly enough above their own voices, unless the organ plays very loudly - which becomes out of balance for the audience. I wonder if you have any comment from all your experience? Have you ever used a camera to project a view of choir and/or organist, using a screen in front of the audience perhaps? Any thoughts welcome!
Many thanks! Rory"
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Vidas: Hello guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And we are starting our episode number 2 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. We're taking our 10,000 step practice in the woods here, and you can hear the birds singing around us. It's a really wonderful Sunday morning. Mosquitoes are everywhere, but this morning I'm smarter. Now I'm wearing long pants and they have no chance of biting me. Ausra, how are you this morning?
Ausra: I'm okay.
Vidas: Are you ready to answer people's questions today?
Vidas: Did you have fun yesterday?
Ausra: Yes, I did.
Vidas: Good. We had quite a few comments based on our first episode, and it was really fun and people started to responding, and sending many other questions during the day with the #AskVidasAndAusra. If you are trying to reach us and send more questions, feel free to do that in the comments of this post, or any other post of this blog. Make sure you write a hashtag, #AskVidasAndAusra, because otherwise your question might get lost.
Now, the question for today was sent by Rory, and he asks, and he has this situation. He's preparing for the event in his church. Around 300 people will be seated in this church, and usually they sing with a choir and with the organ. Organ is in the balcony, and choir is positioned in front, but they have no conductor there, so they have this issue of keeping the pulse together and singing together, but I think they can do this.
His main concern is that people will not see the organist, because it's behind them, and the choir will be hidden, too. So Rory asks if it's a good idea to perhaps broadcast both the organ and the choir on the screen in front of the audience, in front of the congregation. We'll talk about that.
First of all, Ausra, what do you think? Is it a good idea to record the organ and broadcast it on the screen?
I think, for me, it would be very simple idea and quite doable, right? But you have to have cables for that, equipment. I presume Rory has the technology to do that in the church. For that they need, of course, a video camera.
Ausra: I think I misunderstood this question, because the question I think was that, usually during like services, choir stands next to the organ and actually organ leads their singing. In this particular musical event, I believe that the choir will be downstairs, not next to the organ.
Ausra: I think. I don't know.
Vidas: Let's continue. I think, yeah, the balance also will be the problem if the choir is downstairs. The organist will have a hard time of keeping the rhythm, the pulse together with the choir, which he will be positioned so far away, I think. They will have to rehearse quite a bit during that week leading prior to the event. Do you think, Ausra, that it will be possible for them to sing at such a distance?
Ausra: Well, it's very complicated, actually. They definitely have to rehearse a lot. Like media technology would probably be a big help, and maybe the only solution they can do it. If it would be like a professional choir, I would suggest to use Alternatim practice, no while singing - to play like one verse on the organ, and then one verse do with a choir, but if choir is some professional, that's probably a hard thing to do because to sing a cappella is always very hard. Technology might be the only help.
Vidas: By technology, what do you mean?
Ausra: To project it on the screen and then the organist could see the choir and the choir could see the organist.
Vidas: And the people could see everything, right?
Vidas: Right away. Yeah, that's what actually Rory also suggests. He has to investigate if they have technical means to do that. I presume they have to have a long cable to extend from the video camera, which would be positioned next to the organist on the balcony. This cable should go down the balcony and to the front of the church or the middle of the church, where the projector will be positioned. That's a long cable they have to calculate, but I think it's doable.
Ausra: Yes, it is. In general, this is one of the hardest things how to stay together for organ and for choir when stand up apart in our churches. The larger the church is the harder it is to get the right balance.
Vidas: That's why they have choir organs, right?
Ausra: Yes. Another solution would be maybe just to rent an electronic organ, which I personally don't like so much and to put it downstairs next to the choir.
Vidas: If they can't sing a cappella well without accompaniment. Good solution. Yeah. Rory has to investigate all those options and choose the one that seems least complicated for the present situation, right?
Vidas: Okay. Let's move on. Now, we're taking this walk further. Mosquitoes are not biting today. I'm now wearing my long pants and they have no chance of biting me. I'm smarter this morning, but still we have to move faster because they're all around us. Ausra, did you have a good practice yesterday of Piece d’Orgue?
Ausra: Yes, I did have a good practice. Actually yesterday I practiced a lot. Probably I will skip my practice today.
Vidas: How are you feeling today regarding practice? Your body hurts, or not?
Ausra: No, it doesn't hurt, but I feel exhausted.
Vidas: Would you rather skip the practice today altogether, or would you say create some of the duets that we are going to prepare for our upcoming-
Ausra: We have to do it, because the time is pressing us.
Vidas: Yeah, we have a few new duets by, written by Ad Wammes, the Dutch composer and our friend and Carlotta Ferrari from Italy recently dedicated a piece for us for four hands, which we will try to incorporate in our upcoming recital in August. We have to sight read this and see if it's fits the program.
Vidas: Wonderful. I didn't practice yesterday because I was at the funeral of the dad of my colleague. We have a number of organist friends there. Afterwards, we went to the recital of Hayo Boerema from the Netherlands, which was part of the Vilnius Festival. We heard so beautiful improvisation and wonderful other pieces. In fact, I interviewed Hayo for Secrets of Organ Playing podcast a few days ago when he just arrived in Vilnius.
So guys, stay tuned for this podcast number 101, which will be wonderful interview for you to get to know Hayo and his thoughts about improvisation. Anything else you want to add and to wish, Ausra, today for our listeners and students?
Ausra: Just to wish you to have a nice Sunday.
Vidas: And should they practice today something or take a day off?
Ausra: Many of them will play in church, so I assume so.
Vidas: That counts as practice, right?
Ausra: Yes, that counts as practice, yes.
Vidas: Excellent. So guys, thank you so much for listening to this. Please, send out your questions to us by sending the comments to this post and make sure you include #AskVidasAndAusra. This is very important because otherwise your question might get lost. This will be a wonderful.
Rory, of course, is a student of ours at Total Organist. Right now, we have a limited time offer, where you can try Total Organist for free for 30 days and see if you like it and decide to keep it, if you enjoy it. If not, if it's not for you, you will not be charged for the entire month. It's really, extremely great way to get to know the value of this membership program. You will find hundreds of programs and trainings and thousands of videos and exercises, which will relate to any area of organ playing, and actually, help you reach your dreams much faster than you would do this on your own. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And we wish you a wonderful Sunday. See you online very, very soon.
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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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