Starting a Challenge with James Flores
My friend James Flores and I are challenging each other to learn new repertory before November 14. So today I'm starting to work on Crown Imperial by William Walton while literally sight reading it because I haven't played it before.
Visit James Flores channel on YouTube:
I'm using Sint Laurenskerk Marcussen the main organ sample set from Rotterdam by Sonus Paradisi and Hauptwerk VPO software.
Paulius Grigonis on Finding Time for Practice, Setting Yourself a Challenge and Discovering As Many Organs As You Can
Welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast #104!
Today's guest is my friend and colleague Paulius Grigonis. Currently he is the main organist of St. Joseph church here in Vilnius, member of the Board of National Association of Organists in Lithuania and member of the European Chapter of American Guild of Organists.
He started his musical journey in 1989 at Kaunas boys choir school "Varpelis" where he studied until 1997. In 2004 he graduated from Vilnius University with the Master of Law degree.
In 2006 he began studying the organ with me privately and in 2007 became the organist at the Holy Cross church in Vilnius.
In the summer of 2007 together with me and Ausra, Paulius founded National Association of Organists in Lithuania and was appointed vice-president of this organization. In 2008 he won the 3rd prize at the 2nd Jonas Žukas Organist Competition.
In 2007-2010 Paulius led educational organ demonstrations "Meet the King of Instruments" in many Lithuanian churches, participated in masterclasses by Prof. Lorenzo Ghielmi (2013, Vilnius), Prof. Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin (2014, Paris), Prof. Maris Sirmais (2015, Kaunas), and Juan Carlos Asensio (2016, Marijampolė) for organists and church musicians.
Since 2014 Paulius leads the musical life at St. Joseph church in Vilnius and directs two vocal ensembles of the parish. Since 2017 he is the member of the Board of National Association of Organists in Lithuania and treasurer as well as the member of the European Chapter of American Guild of Organists and is preparing for his Service Playing Certificate test.
In about 3 days, Paulius will play a recital at Vilnius Cathedral and in this conversation he shares his insights about his practice procedures and obstacles he has to overcome in order to become a better organist - finding time for practice, setting himself a challenge and discovering as many organs as he can.
Enjoy and share your comments below.
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Listen to the conversation
What are your trials?
Doug Baker from Adelaide, South Australia: I must thank you again for sending so much instruction for organ playing. I wish so much that I could have had your lessons 60 years ago. It is very gracious of you to send so much information to an elderly organist. I am the delighted owner of the latest ROLAND C-380 Classic organ. Thankfully I am very fit at 85 and manage to fit in a couple of hours playing every day as well as my photography and computer interests.
Doug writes that his dream is to continue improving his sight reading and playing. As he is an elderly organist he hasn't got years ahead of him like some of my younger students to apply himself to study of organ. He finds that the days pass so quickly and there's so much he wants to do. The main obstacle for him in his practice is managing time.
When you get to the age of Doug, I guess many things in life seem very different from what you feel and see in your youth. It's true that at that age, the sense that you can dream of mastering organ playing in 20 years is not realistic. It's also true that with this age, you don't have to worry about always rushing to do things that you don't need.
You can enjoy every moment of your practice and don't feel the pressure some of my younger organists have while preparing works that they don't like but somebody else has asked them to. At 85, you simple are your own boss and can play whatever you love.
That's the easy part. The hard part is that regardless of our age, we still have our own trials. Without them we don't learn anything. Without them we don't progress to the next level.
My trial recently was to create the parts for 4 instruments (flute, oboe, violin, and euphonium) for my SATB hymn "Ave maris stella" (in Lithuanian) which will sound at St. Andrew's parish in Philadelphia in the US on the occasion of its special anniversary service.
Therefore last Sunday I not only sat down and created these parts but also recorded a live video with my narration and description of the entire creative process so that some of my readers, if they wanted, could test their skills with any hymn they like the most. I only hesitated to make the choral and organ parts more varied and simply left them doubling one another. Perhaps another time.
It's true, that we fail at some of our trials and that's OK. The only thing that matters is that we keep moving.
La Battaglia by Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634). He was an Italian composer, music theorist, and organist of the late Renaissance-early Baroque period.
When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder
Beyond the comfort zone
Will writes that his dream in organ playing is to play the organ music of Bach well. When he was a teen-ager, his organ teacher introduced him to the Orgelbuchlein, and he fell in love with it. He would like to go back to that, and expand his playing into the preludes, fugues, and other chorales. The most important challenge which holds him back from achieving this dream is finding time to practice.
I’m sure that Will, along with my other readers who want to learn to play the music of Bach at some point will find at least some time for practice. As far as I know, for most people at least 15 minutes a day is something they can deal with (perhaps even more on the weekends). More serious obstacle is to decide what to do with that time. Therefore, a challenge which we all will face will be that very soon we will come to such a time in practice when we leave our familiar territory.
Crossing the threshold to the unknown and risky state is something that is unavoidable for every curious organist because if you want to achieve anything worth achieving (learn a new piece of Bach, master articulation for his style, or compile a repertoire of various Bach’s preludes, fugues, and chorale preludes to play in church service or recital) you will have to pass beyond your comfort zone. Beyond what you have learned before and how you learned before. If your goal was within your comfort zone, you would have achieved it by now (and that wouldn’t be a very lofty goal).
It will feel strange to find yourself in a situation at the instrument when you notice that if you learn these 4 new measures the correct way or analyze a piece in depth or play with articulate legato touch, your mind will tell you that this is something you are not sure will work. Something which you are not sure you can endure much longer.
One part of your mind will tell you to stop while the other – to pursue your goal. If you continue to listen to your “adventurous” mind, quite soon you can look back to discover that really you are entering into unfamiliar waters.
You won’t know what to expect. You won’t know what’s around the corner. You won’t know at which two-part combination you will be stuck. You won’t know, if that pedaling in extreme edges of the pedalboard you wrote in will work in a fast tempo. You won’t know how you will feel during live run-through at church service or recital.
But your curious mind will want to find that out.
Because your curious mind is what keeps you on the edge. Because your curious mind can’t wait to see where it all leads. Because your curious mind has helped you to achieve something remarkable in the past. Because your current comfort zone can be expanded and it will still feel and be save.
Not by a leap or a jump but by one little step at a time.
Will you dare to take that step?
Part I: Vivace from the Trio Sonata No. 2 in C minor, BWV 526 by J.S. Bach
Oh, Blest the House
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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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