Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 494 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Sally. And she’s our Total Organist student. And she wrote:
I made it to the piano after work today. Spent 1.5 hours working on choir music for the fall, both accompaniment and choir parts. Open score for choir parts is always a challenge. I hope to make it to the organ tomorrow for prelude and postlude work.
V: So I guess we could focus a little bit in our conversation, Ausra, on studying open scores.
A: Yes, it’s really fun. And it’s often a challenge for pianists, especially. I remember when I was back at school [National School of Arts] and one of my accompanists could not read from an open score. So actually my teacher forced me to write down everything into a regular staff.
V: Interesting. This is a shortcut.
A: It is. But it would take hours for me to do it. To write in all the music.
V: Is it helpful or not?
A: Well, for what - for me?
V: Uh huh.
A: Maybe yes, because I could learn each voice, because we would have to memorize all the voices of, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, and to be able to sing them from memory. So in that way, I think it helped me. But I’m sure it did not help that accompanist to improve and to polish her skills, because I think it’s, you know, a useful skill to be able to read from an open score. And I think it’s probably a necessary skill if you’re dealing with choirs, either as conductor or accompanist or as an organist.
V: I guess the first months really suck and you’re feeling dead terribly, when you get to play from an open score right away, from four-voice notation.
A: But look, we are an organist, and it’s easier for us than for others, because we already are using three lines at a time, most of the time, yes? Because we have right hand, left hand, and we have pedals. So three independent lines. Now here, you just have additional.
V: Mm hm.
A: So that’s it.
V: But I still remember myself struggling with it at the beginning of my studies at the Art Gymnasium, back in Klaipeda so I guess a more systematic approach would be easier for a student, and less stressful. What if a person took not four-part notation, but let’s say one-part notation, and only played one line - right hand, left hand - and then let’s say after a week or a month, they would do two parts: soprano/alto; soprano/tenor; soprano/bass; alto/tenor; alto/bass; tenor/bass.
A: I think that’s a very slow approach. I don’t think many of us, we have time to do it.
V: And then three-part notation, soprano/alto/tenor; soprano/alto/bass, alto/tenor/bass. And finally, four-part notation, soprano/alto/tenor and bass. I see, you cannot see Ausra now, but she is covering her ears. (laughs)
A: You confuse me with all these combinations. I would just sit on the organ bench and I would practice from open score.
V: And that’s it.
V: And you would be fine -- it’s okay for you to feel really slow at the beginning, to progress really slow?
A: You know, I would compare playing from an open score, a little bit with you know, learning how to read from other clefs.
V: Mm hm, sure.
A: Let’s say C clefs. And you know, my students try to cheat on me very often, with this skill. Instead of learning how it’s written, they try to write down, in the treble clef, let’s say…
A: Alto clef, you know, transposed into the treble clef.
A: And when I see it, I’m telling them, it took you so long to write down all these things. You’d better spend this time by learning that exercise from an alto clef. It would give you a bigger benefit. Because next time, when you would learn a new exercise, it would be already much easier.
V: It’s like an investment.
V: Yes? You invest a little bit of time, and it will pay off the next time.
A: That’s right. So I guess what I would suggest if you have to play from an open score, do it more often. And I believe it will get easier with each piece that you will learn.
V: Mm hm. I guess having open score reading course in our Total Organist community, would be beneficial for students, too.
A: True. Plus, you know, there are pieces that are written in five lines, like you know, Bach’s Magnificat, for example, for choir. It has, you know, five lines, and it’s polyphonic music, so it’s really tough. So maybe you need to sightread it, and then go back to your regular four-staff notation, and you will see that it becomes much easier.
V: And there are double choir motets for eight voices.
V: And for twelve voices, too!
A: Okay! Let’s don’t go over. You always like to exaggerate things.
V: All right. So maybe, look forward to such a course, Open Score Reading Course, from us. I have an idea, while talking to you, Ausra, that it would be nice to select a collection of music, and go through it methodically, how you would teach others in reading those open score notations, and by the end of that course, people would feel much more comfortable.
A: Yes, because it’s really a useful skill.
V: So let us know if such a course would be useful to you. All right. Thank you, guys. This was Vidas,
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, 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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