By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
Do you remember the feeling when your dad let you sit on his lap and turn the wheel of his car? It was awesome, wasn't it? Your head literally started to spin.
Organ playing can be like that, too. Especially on a large instrument.
During this week's rehearsal of our Unda Maris studio one student was playing a piece in a classical style by Pietro Yon, an Italian-born composer and organist from the 1st half of the 20th century who made his career in the US.
The entire piece has melody and accompaniment texture with some elements of fanfare music in the right hand. It is to be played by one type of loud registration throughout. But the last passages require additional stops to create Fortissimo effect.
Vidas and I normaly would help our students change registration during our practices and this time was not an exception. Vidas draw out Bombarde 16' on the Great at the end during the grand rest which created a magnificent closing of the piece.
However, when the student played this episode one more time, we let him draw this Bombarde by himself.
Afterwards we asked him how it felt.
He said, "it felt like taming a wild horse".
That's exactly right. If you rely on combination system and pistons or perhaps on assistants to change the stops for you, try to do it yourself once in a while.
It's not easy at first, you have to practice repeatedly to coordinate your hand movements while playing the organ and changing the stops.
But it certainly gives you a sense of respect for your instrument.
It's not like you're just turning the wheel while sitting on your dad's lap in the car and he does the driving. Rather it's like you drive the car yourself.
With a clutch and accelerator pedals and stick shift.
Like taming a wild horse, it's dangerous. It's raw energy. Anything can happen. You look the beast in the eye. You sense her power. She only lets you pet her. But with one blink of an eye she could smash your head with her hooves.
It's the same with wielding pipe organ, I think.
How often do you try new things in organ playing? Something really unfamiliar, seemingly risky, maybe scary:
Playing hymn tune in the left hand on a solo reed stop, alto and soprano plays the right hand, and the pedals take the bass;
Transposing a part of the piece half-step or whole-step up or down;
Singing one part while playing the others in a piece;
Improvising in a pentatonic mode (sharp keys only, for example);
Changing the stops by hand while playing;
Taking one measure of a challenging pedal part and moving up and down the pedalboard in this pattern like in an exercise;
Playing C major scale with the left hand and E major scale with the right hand simultaneously over 4 octaves up and down;
Playing with your eyes closed;
Try one or more of the above techniques today. It's less risky than you think it is. Afterwards you might even wonder why haven't you done this before. And of course, you will get other ideas along the way.
Don't forget to share your experience here in the comments.
Ausra's Harmony Exercise:
Transposing Sequence in D Major: ii42-vii7-I
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Our Hauptwerk Setup: