#AskVidasAndAusra 52 - Would you recommend Ritchie/Stauffer organ technique book for a beginner?
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 52 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by David, and he writes, “Hello Vidas and Ausra. In the podcast with Paulius Grigonis, the book by George Ritchie was discussed. Would you recommend this book for a beginner? If you do, how about I use this book as part of my daily practice? My daily practice now consists entirely of learning a single piece. Thank you for your help.” So, Ausra, do you like this method book that George Ritchie and George Stauffer wrote a number of years ago (it’s called, “Organ Technique: Modern and Early”)?
Ausra: Yes, actually, I think this is a great book and a great help for a beginner student.
Vidas: When did you first discover this book?
Ausra: Well, when I started my doctoral program, actually.
Vidas: You were not a beginner!
Ausra: Yes, I was not a beginner, but George Ritchie had that sort of thing--and I don’t know if Quentin Faulkner had it too--but at the beginning you had to do like, all the exercises of that book!
Vidas: Not too many, with Quentin.
Ausra: But yes, and I did not do all of them with George Ritchie, but he made sure that I had already managed those techniques described in that book. And it took for us, probably, like a couple weeks to go through all that book, and then I just could play my repertoire.
Vidas: You mentioned that you were not a beginner organ student anymore, but you were a beginner teacher, perhaps?
Ausra: Sure, and that’s a great book for beginner teachers as well, because as the title says of that book, it has both modern and early techniques; and that’s kind of a rare thing in organ pedagogy.
Vidas: Plus, this method book has sections devoted to organ registration--
Vidas: And construction...
Ausra: And history of organs of each country, a little bit--
Vidas: Hymn playing...
Vidas: And even avant garde organ techniques.
Ausra: Yes. So it’s actually very useful, and in this case, you could actually combine, as David said, he practiced like, he learns one piece a day, yes? That’s right, of repertoire. So he could do more combinations, to play a little bit of exercises and playing repertoire, learning one single piece. And this book also consists of having a number of different repertoire, modern and early. Very nicely done, with fingering, pedaling, with a description of the piece--so it’s a great resource.
Vidas: It’s probably the best organ technique book that we know of on the market today.
Ausra: Yes, I would say so. At least this book is what I can suggest to everybody, and I feel comfortable about it, trying it myself; and knowing, actually, you know, George Ritchie, who was one of the co-authors of this book.
Vidas: It would not be enough to practice from this book entirely, right?
Ausra: Sure, sure.
Vidas: You have to supplement with something. Well, for example, if you are interested in a particular historical period or country, you could use books from Wayne Leupold editions--it has many books in this series of historical schools of organ composition, and you can pick and choose whichever you like the most.
Ausra: Yes, they are very nice books, except they are very costly, I would say.
Vidas: That’s the case with most of his books, yes.
Ausra: But yes, if you want to have scholarly editions, that costs you extra. But they are good. Maybe you don’t have to get them all, but if you are interested in a particular style and period, that’s a good way, good source.
Vidas: Definitely. Or, as David writes, he chooses to practice organ pieces--just from organ repertory; he maybe finds the scores or YouTube videos online, likes the music, and then either finds the score for free online, or purchases from publishers. That’s possible, and I think it’s one of the best ways to do this, because you supplement the method book (let’s say George Ritchie), and then you look at your needs. Maybe you are preparing for a recital, or church service, right? And you will finish organ book technique by Ritchie-Stauffer pretty soon, if you’re very serious and practicing regularly. But then you need to look what’s next-- maybe more hymns, maybe more pieces like this.
Ausra: And of course, this book might help you to discover your favorite author, composer, or a country, because it has various types of musical examples.
Vidas: David also remembers Paulius Grigonis, our friend and colleague--he started entirely from Ritchie-Stauffer organ book, and he never regretted it, right? He went online, he bought the book and studied--I think he even bought a couple of copies of this book to have, one clean copy and one working practice copy--and it really benefited him a lot, because he now has solid organ technique.
Ausra: Yes, and you can hear it when he’s playing.
Vidas: Even though he’s an amateur organist, really, and never finished formal organ training in conservatory, or university; never got a degree, but you can do many things in private or online today.
Ausra: Sure, I wish everybody in Lithuania who actually has a degree from the academy of music would play as good as Paulius does!
Vidas: That’s true. So, we wish that Paulius would not stop practicing and continue to get better. And for David, yes, we do recommend wholeheartedly the Ritchie-Stauffer organ method book. And for everyone else who’s listening, please send us more of your questions. We will be very glad to help you out and help you grow as an organist, and the best way to do this is through our blog at www.organduo.lt. If you subscribe (if you haven’t done so already), then you simply reply to any of our blog posts that you receive.
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Okay 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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