Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 194, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Terry and writes:
I just retired as a physician (December) but I would like to be a substitute organist in a couple of years. I have advanced intermediate or so piano skills and love Bach. I have been self teaching myself organ for the past three months and I am blessed to have an Allen organ in my basement (purchased from local church no longer using) and your tips on organ practice are great. I just joined your group. I can practice 2-3 or more hours most days so my only barrier is daily commitment. So far so good. I am already practicing the Widor Toccata, and of course the pedals are the biggest challenge, but it is SO much fun. I am looking for a teacher (scarce in Petoskey, Mi) but you are (thankfully) it for now. Blessings, Terry
V: So, um, Terry is playing Widor Toccata, and also he hopes to be a substitute organist in a couple of years, right? So...
A: And that’s a great goal.
V: Yes, it is. I think, you know, it’s a great solution when you are retired to take part time job as an organist in charge, because playing organ, you know, sort of your makes your aging slower because of coordination and all that music sight-reading and I think it’s a great solution.
V: Plus you need a hobby right? Whether you are in early days or middle age, or if you are a retired person, you need an activity which you could enjoy and do regardless of any goals, regardless of actual results. You would enjoy the process itself. Don’t you think, Ausra?
A: Yes, it’s true. But it’s also very nice you know, to have a goal.
V: Like he wants to become a substitute organist, right?
V: So that’s, that’s a result; he wants to have that result in a couple of years. So basically in order to do that he has to, maybe, you know, get familiar with quite, quite a few of organ pieces, playable for church.
A: Yes, that’s true. Widor’s toccata is great, but you know, because organists that, you know, play services, we have to know a little bit about liturgy and to select repertoire appropriate for liturgy. So of course to know the hymns very well, because if you know the congregation better he will be a substitute organist to sing and definitely I think he definitely will sing. So he will have to accompany hymns as well as to do his solo pieces. And because he said that the pedals is biggest challenge, and I assume it will be for everybody since you know he has a good piano background.
A: So I would suggest for him maybe you know to focus more on pedal technique.
V: Right. Play pedal scales and arpeggios maybe?
A: Yes. And of course the other thing would be you know, coordination. How you coordinate you know, between your feet and your hand.
V: I see. So when you say coordination, meaning playing separate melodies for right hand, left hand or right hand and pedals, left hand and pedals, right?
A: Yes. Yes.
V: Uh huh. Why is it so important in church?
A: Well, because you know, in church, especially if you are accompanying congregational singing you must play with pedals.
V: And your left hand has to play something different than the pedals.
V: Mmm, mmm.
V: Usually tenor line.
A: Yes and usually for those people who are right-handed, left hand and pedals give most of the trouble. If you are left-handed then just the opposite, right hand and pedals. Meaning that sometimes when you are beginning at the organ, beginning organist is hard for you to coordinate what your left hand and feet are doing. For example you know, if your pedal line goes up, you want to play up with your left hand; you want to double everything that you are playing with your left hand with your pedal too.
V: I see. Do you remember those days when you were an organist at the Holy Cross church?
A: Yes, I remember that.
V: That was in early days of your career, right?
V: Were you comfortable in playing pedals hymns with pedals?
A: No, it was hard for me. But I...
V: Did you sight read them or practice at home?
A: Well I practice them at home, of course.
V: I see. So...
A: Not at home because I didn’t have the organ at that time.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: But I practice at the music academy of music or in our church.
V: Mmm, hmm. Each hymn like a separate organ piece?
A: Yes. That’s true and remember those times we had also sing ourselves, to lead congregational singing.
V: Right. In most of the Catholic churches in Lithuania, and I suspect in Poland too, they have a tradition that organist himself or herself has to sing.
A: I know and you know, organist even goes downstairs and sings the psalm, or sings the psalm from the organ bench with the microphone. So it’s sort of, most organist in Lithuania are sort of organists slash,,,
A: Cantors. Yes. So it’s really challenging. Sometimes it’s even more important that you know, organist could sing well.
V: And the same person has to sometimes direct the choir too.
V: With, with one hand or one foot, or...
A: (Laughs) not with one foot probably, but you know, with one hand or with your head.
V: Right. Do you think that a lot of organists can direct with their ears, moving ear muscles?
A: (Laughs). I don’t think so.
V: That would be a nice skill to have, though.
A: Yes. You could try to develop it.
V: I imagine, I could imagine what would be, the basic,,,
A: And you would put it on the Youtube, I bet you would get rich overnight.
V: Oh, sensation. Excellent. Maybe I will devote, my, my summer for this project.
V: Would you like me to teach you?
A: No, (laughs) thank you!
A: I’m not the rabbit and I have such a long ears. I cannot move them.
V: Maybe we could consult a neighbors rabbit, how he does, right?
A: Yes. That’s a great idea.
V: Okay guys. I hope you, you are getting fun in this, this discussion. We’re now going to go to our neighbors and interview our guest rabbit, how he directs choir with his ears. And maybe we could tell you later how it went. Okay?
A: Sure, yes.
V: Alright, but you don’t forget to practice, because when you practice…
A: 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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