Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 168 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. This question was sent by Gunilla, and she writes:
My name is Gunilla Hedkvist and I started taking organ lessons in 2003. The year before I had been more or less ”forced” to play in church services in a small church when they lost their regular organist. They needed someone who could at least just play the melodies of the hymns. And that was my level when I started. I then learnt how to accompany the hymns with chords also. Three years later I started to learn hymns playing SATB. Very difficult for me and time consuming to learn.
By now I have played all eight little preludes and fugues by Bach and some other choral preludes, three of the Suite Gothique pieces by Boellmann and some César Franck (L’Organiste) and Jean Alain among others.
1. My dream in organ playing is to have a repertoire where I can play the liturgy and hymns with ease and also make my own improvised hymn introductions. I also want to know a good selection of music to use as postludes.
2. I struggle with sight reading more than one voice at a time. (But now using your suggestion to sight read for 15 minutes a day).
Because I started playing late in life it is more difficult to learn and remember, and learning a piece takes a lot of time. I am a slow learner.
I need to get better at using efficient practice methods.
When my organ teacher gave me Krebs ”Von Gott will ich nicht lassen” as homework I found your youtube recording and listened to it several times and that helped me to practice slowly.
So that was the story of Gunilla, right, Ausra?
V: Probably a lot of organists from around the world would share some of the things from her experience.
V: Having a church, and having modest skills of sightreading (just the soprano part), and then having the dream of being able to play the repertoire and the hymns at sight in church, and even improvise the hymn introductions, right? But she’s still struggling to sightread more than one voice at a time. But...do you think, Ausra, that she’s on the right track?
A: I think so, yes. And actually, when I read about Krebs’ “Von Gott will ich nicht lassen,” I thought that it’s a good idea, Krebs’ Clavierübung, because it has so many chorale tunes, and it’s sort of like a prelude when it’s a chorale--yes, an ornamented chorale. And then, there is like, you know, the…
V: Chorale harmonization.
A: Chorale harmonization. Of course he does not give it in full, but you can write it down, depending on the numbers.
V: Or sightread it with continuo notation.
A: Yes. So I thought that Krebs actually would work in liturgy, too. You could play the big opening piece as a prelude; then, you know, that ornamented chorale version as an offering; then you know, to play the end with organo pleno for your postlude.
V: Absolutely. And you do that, too, sometimes, if you have to play in church.
A: Yes. I do it.
V: You have several favorite pieces by Krebs...
V: And apply them according to the situation!
A: That’s right. It’s very handy, because it’s not so hard, and does not have lots of pedal.
V: You could add pedal at the end, for the last harmonization, but it’s not required.
A: Yes, yes, yes. Of course.
V: Yes. And remember that this is the first part of Clavierübung by Krebs. He wrote two more Clavierübung parts, which have dance suites, and something else, I forget--I think also some kind of suite. So make sure you Google Krebs on Petrucci Music Library, and you will find free scores there. And you can play a lot of interesting repertoire just based on Krebs.
V: They are keyboard pieces, of course, without pedals; but good for your fingerwork. And beautiful to listen to. So, if we talk a little bit about, let’s say, the repertoire, right--she dreams about having a repertoire where she could play the liturgy and hymns with ease--like prelude, postlude, offertory, and even communion, probably. As you say, Krebs works well. What else could work?
A: Well, I would think about Frescobaldi’s Fiori Musicali.
A: “Musical Flowers.” I think this collection would work well, too, for liturgy, and it’s not too hard. And the other composer that I thought while reading the list of composers that Gunilla had played, was actually Pachelbel. Don’t you think that Pachelbel would work, too?
V: Absolutely. Because we both played a lot of Pachelbel back in the day, when we played in liturgy.
A: Yes. I remember having that Dover edition--the complete organ works of Pachelbel--and it helped me a lot, when selecting preludes and postludes and offering.
V: I remember you used to sightread pieces from Pachelbel, for Christian Scientist liturgy.
A: Yes, yes. That’s what I did.And also that’s what I did with Frescobaldi.
V: Did you do that with Cesar Franck’s L’Organiste?
A: Yes, I did that as well. That’s a nice collection for a church organist.
V: And should we advise Gunilla to improvise as well?
A: Yes, that’s a good way too, to be able to expand your ability, and to improvise. Then, you know, sometimes you don’t have time to find any music, or to repeat any music; so just improvise!
V: Especially if you are not a very advanced sightreader.
V: So sometimes it’s easier to sightread a melody of a hymn tune, and just add a polyphonic second voice from your head, and vice versa.
A: Yes, and while talking about repertoire, also try some Italian composers. They created quite a lot of easy organ music--composers, like for example, Domenico Zipoli. Like his Pastorale, that’s a very easy piece, but a nice one. And I also know his Elevatione, and Offering, they are nice and easy, too.
A: And they have very little pedal.
V: And chorale Partitas by Böhm or Pachelbel would work for that.
A: Yes, yes, yes. And because they are segmented, like chorale bass variations, you can play as many as you wish, or as many as you need. If you don’t need much, you can only play one; but if you need more music, then play a few of them.
V: I somehow don’t think that French music would work for her, well. From French classical, I mean.
A: Probably not.
V: Too difficult.
A: Yes. Too many ornaments, probably, and,...
V: Maybe later.
V: When she gets more skill in this, and can advance to the next level, along with improvisation. So, do you think that she could benefit from playing harmony exercises, in addition?
A: I think it’s beneficial to any musician.
V: Maybe not dry harmony exercises, but let’s say, harmonizing hymns.
A: Sure, why not.
V: Not looking at the hymnal, but adding your own harmonization. Or alternative harmonization for the last stanza, let’s say. Good, I see you agree with me. So...anything else that you could add for Gunilla, today?
A: Just to encourage her to keep going, and to keep practicing.
V: And report us back your progress, right? In 3 months, in 6 months, in one year from now.
A: Yes, and you know, don’t blame yourself for being a slow learner. You are doing just fine! It’s excellent that you started to learn to play at this early age. I think it’s wonderful. I think many people would just envy you, and would sort of feel amazed by your courage. And by your progress.
V: Do you think that Gunilla is competing with other organists, or no?
A: I think that the most important thing is to compete with yourself.
V: What do you mean?
A: Because if you compete with others, I think it’s unfair. Because you could compete only with somebody who was in the same situation throughout life as you were.
V: That’s you. Only.
A: Yes. Otherwise, it’s sort of unfair game. And I don’t think it’s a good thing.
V: Sometimes people, when they look at videos on the internet, they get the wrong impression, right? Instead of being inspired by that video, they feel discouraged.
A: Intimidated, sort of, yes.
V: Intimidated, yeah. Okay, and try to be better a little bit today than yesterday, and a little bit worse than tomorrow. Right, Ausra?
V: Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.