Have you ever played an organ recital? Perhaps a few? Can you remember your feeling after and during the first one?
I can't recall my first organ recital but I've heard it might be a terrifying experience. You don't know what to expect. Because of the inner pain you feel and the shame that things didn't go as you wanted often makes people swear they will not play in public ever again.
But if you persist through this initial bump, you play No. 2, and No. 5 and so on. It appears that dangers are not real. They are only in your mind. Once you hit No. 10, it will be your first breakthrough.
I can observe the same with my improvisation recitals. I think my recent Improvisation on the Story of the Nativity might have been No. 10 full length improvisation-only recital for me (maybe more, but I sort of lost count some time ago).
With each 10 we make a small discovery. This time for me it was about dialogues and imitations between the parts which make the playing much more vivid.
I can still remember the terror of No. 1 (or was it really No. 1?) at the end of October, 2013 in Mosedis in northern Lithuania where I improvised an organ mass with 11 movements on the village church Romantic style organ with two manuals (only one of them was more or less functioning).
Even before the recital, when I decided that I should improvise, I submitted the program to the organizers and I remember thinking to myself:
What am I doing? It's so foolish. It's so risky. Why can't I play a regular organ recital with pieces I have mastered long time ago? Why can't I be like everyone else?
Of course nobody felt my terror, everyone in the audience was so happy afterwards but only I knew how terrified I was of my inner dragons.
It turns out that the unconscious decision to improvise was in fact a wise one because of the unpredictable state of the organ at the time. Had I chosen a nice contrasting program with classical and audience-friendly organ pieces, I would have been in even more trouble and greater terror when I found out that the reed of the second manual was on all the time (there wasn't any time for rehearsal, if you are wondering).
I'm sure 2015 will give us plenty of opportunities to be thrilled and to thrill others around us.
If you are thinking about whether to play or not to play a recital next year and you think you don't have time to prepare adequately and be ready for it, think no more. Of course, I don't mean here only organ playing. It could be anything that matters to you.
We will always have not enough time and we will never be really ready. It's the same feeling you get when you jump into a dark pool at night.
Is it deep? Is it cold? Are the sharks there waiting for you?
Is it required of you? Do you have to do it? No, nobody will give you a medal for that because nobody will care.
What's the alternative? Watch more TV, play it safe, or "like" one more picture of somebodies cat?
Another alternative is this:
Here's to our inner dragons.
They are our compass.
[HT to John]
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Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.