Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 253 of Secrets of Organ Playing podcast. This question was sent by Heidi, and she writes:
Dear Vidas and Ausra,
I am enjoying very much browsing your Course Materials and making downloads. My situation involves the fact that my children are grown, and my grandchildren are grown, the youngest is 14 years. For so many years having children and grandchildren blessed me with much to look forward to on a daily basis and kept me very busy. I am less busy with them now, and so I think God put Vidas in my life to give me the courage to embrace what I love so much, having the confidence again that someone with a special gift for teaching, and one who is qualified on every level is there to guide me. Thank you doesn’t even come close to expressing my gratitude!
When downloading the materials, there is one aspect that I am having trouble with. How can I save/download your YouTube videos? Much of your training materials are presented on video, which is great, but I can’t figure out how to get the video onto my computer. Is there a special way I need to login to YouTube to download your training videos??
Will I learn as quickly as your other students??…perhaps not. But for me that is not the point. I will be doing what I feel I was called to do. Here is my all-time favorite quote. I have it printed and sitting on my Johannus Organ at home. I think of it every Sunday as I sit on the organ bench at church. Here it is:
“If you are called upon to play a church service, it is a greater honor than if you were to play a concert on the finest organ in the world --
thank God each time when you are privileged to sit before the organ console and assist in the worship of the Almighty.”
I humbly thank you for helping me become all I can be in service. Hope you both are having a great weekend!
Your friend, Heidi
PS In one of the videos with both of you, I think you are sitting in the living area of your home? Anyway, the room looks so cozy! I too have many treasured pieces from my parents born in Germany. Vidas, it touched me to see what I believe were a few of the wonderful paintings by your Father which are hanging on the wall? We keep those we love alive through these treasures, right? A very warm and love-filled home environment!
Wow, Ausra. I don’t know what to say. Heidi is our Total Organist student.
A: Well, it’s a lovely letter. So, I loved that citation by Albert Schweitzer. Because in general I love Albert Schweitzer.
V: Do you love the tempi of Albert Schweitzer?
A: I’m not talking so much about tempi--I know he played Bach quite slowly.
A: But in general, I think he was a great man. But not the greatest man who ever lived.
V: Remember we were probably first introduced to him in depth in Lincoln, right?
A: Well, I had read his book on Bach even before going to the United States.
V: Yes, me too; but I guess what I mean is, we took part in the multimedia presentation involving the life and works of Albert Schweitzer.
A: Yes, I remember that was a wonderful evening. We all played music by J. S. Bach, and had these wonderful citations from Albert Schweitzer’s works. So, do you remember what you played?
V: It might have been “Nun komm’”...Or did you play “Nun komm’”?
A: No, I played “An Wasserflüssen Babylon,” with ornamented LH.
V: I think I played 2 versions of “Nun komm’” from the 18 Great Chorales, the Leipzig collection--the one with the...not trio texture, but the one with the ornamented chorale in the soprano. That’s the first one. And then the second was, I think, where the cantus firmus is presented with the long notes in the bass, in the pedals--sort of a fugal texture in the hands, with organo pleno registration. I didn’t play the second version with the trio texture.
A: Yes, anyway it was a wonderful, very memorable evening; and going back to Heidi’s letter, I think it’s wonderful that now that she raised her kids and her grandkids, she can enjoy playing organ. I think it’s a wonderful hobby. And I’m glad she finds our material useful. And maybe you could answer her question about the technicality--how to download YouTube, and what to do with it.
V: You know, YouTube itself doesn’t allow downloading those videos to your computer, because it wants you to stay on the site and look at the ads and other related videos. That’s how they make profit, you know--when you click on those ads. That’s why you have to stream those videos, basically. But there is a roundabout, in doing this: you can simply Google keywords: “download youtube videos,” for example, or “download videos to your computer,” or “youtube to pc converter,” or “youtube to mp3,” if you want to just have the audio version. And I’m 100% sure you will find more than enough services to do that. I’ve used that also. You can do that on your phone, too, if you want to listen and watch on your phone, but not online, but directly on your device. There are versions for Android and iphone, too. Now I think we can talk a little bit about Albert Schweitzer’s quote, right? That the privilege to play in church services is greater than playing a concert on the finest organ in the world. First of all, remember that Schweitzer was a missionary in Africa.
A: True, true.
V: Not only a missionary, but together with Widor, he edited the complete works of Bach, right? Prepared an excellent edition which is still used by many organists today, although we have some other performance practice understandings today. But he also had, in Africa, a pedal piano, I think--in the jungle!
V: And practiced organ works by Bach!
A: I think he edited it, you know...the pedal...
V: Added it.
A: Yes, to the piano, that it would be a kind of, sort of organ. A modified organ.
V: Do you think he had an extra set of strings, or just the trackers to play those bass strings on a regular piano?
A: I think he might have had an addition of strings.
V: Like with 16’?
A: And I think it sounded very bizarre. And imagine like in the middle of Africa--people had never heard, at that time, such music. And can you imagine him playing, and what an impression he would make!
V: But I’m not sure if he was in that part of Africa where people sing in harmonies, in 3- or 4-part chords. That in itself is a very fine singing tradition. Sometimes in Lithuania we have those polyphonic folk songs, but this is something different--it’s completely, I think, in major keys, and not modal versions like they have in different countries of the world, in different folk traditions. And remember in Lincoln, we had seen this documentary where people really sing on those hills, where Albert Schweitzer probably worked. That was spectacular.
A: Yes, I remember that.
V: Spectacular view. But as you say, if Schweitzer played Bach in the jungle, so then we can imagine what other people (and animals!) thought about that, too.
A: Yes, very spectacular things happened. And about that citation, I think that’s what is so great about the organ--that it can also be played at worship. And I think it gives to the organ such a specific, spiritual feeling that probably no other instrument has. Don’t you think so?
V: Absolutely, because a lot of organ works are spiritual in nature...Not necessarily spiritual, but sacred--
A: True, true.
V: Based on chorale works, or Gregorian chant.
A: And I think even if the piece doesn’t have particular chorale or hymn tune, or you know, Gregorian chant tune, I think even a prelude and fugue by Bach can be very sacred in itself, don’t you think so?
V: You’re right, because the style of prelude and fugue by Bach is not different at all from the chorale prelude, or chorale fantasia.
A: True, true.
V: He uses the same technique. Fugal techniques. Ritornello techniques, like in prelude and concerti. And so, whatever Bach writes, I think it’s elevated in spirit, and might sound like a prayer or meditation for some people, too. So I understand completely what Schweitzer wrote about playing in church service. I just sometimes would regret, of course, that in today’s day and age, you would not be able to play classical, sacred repertoire of solo organ composers--the same Bach, like in many Catholic churches, because they prefer synthesizer and guitar, and sort of light, pop Christian rock music. I don’t know what Albert Schweitzer would have thought about that.
A: Yes. Maybe he’s lucky that he didn’t survive until now!
V: But if you have the privilege to play in church service, and be able to play classical masterpieces, or just simply solo organ music; if you’re improvising, too, then of course this is one of the ideal environments.
A: Or even just accompanying hymns, in full harmony, for example for Christmas. I think it’s also very spiritual and uplifting.
V: When the entire congregation can lift up the roof of the building!
A: Yes, true, that’s true. I remember once accompanying for a Christmas Eve service, and people were singing so loudly that although I was playing full organ, I could still not hear my playing, because people were singing just so loudly. And I think it was just an amazing feeling.
V: And of course, Heidi finishes her message with this allusion to the living area of our home, where we recorded those videos where we talk about some of the organ practice issues, pedal playing and memorization, too, I think. Yes, even now, when we are recording this particular podcast, we are sitting in those two chairs, and looking at our paintings on the wall, which are indeed by my dad--and that’s basically our studio, right Ausra?
A: That’s true, yes. And I love looking at those paintings. Each time they tell me a different story.
V: Do you think, Ausra, that people would enjoy seeing the photo of that environment, what we are looking at?
A: I don’t know.
V: We might ask. If you guys are interested, let us know. So, thank you so much, Heidi; thank you, other students who are sending us your questions and feedback. It’s really valuable to us, and basically allows us to continue to teach you and to help you grow. And please send us more of your questions. This was Vidas!
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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Here's what one of our students is saying:
I keep discovering new ideas. Eg. working for first time with improvisation course. It is very challenging. But practicing those short figures made me pick up Bach piece I had never looked at. I wanted to see if I could learn faster analyzing each chord. And boy does that work. I have learned two measures in ten minutes up to tempi. Because of figuring out chord structure etc. I am so excited not only about learning improvisation and from that learning how to listen to what I am playing. Instead of sitting here at organ telling myself how bad I am. Really working hard at it. You guys give me inspiration. After all these years I am finally enjoying practicing.
Also all materials are very well organized. I have now finally able to use more than legato articulation. Never could get before going on your sight. I still have to take it slow as you always preach! Thank you guys for putting new life into my organ playing.
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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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