SOPP288: My biggest challenges over the last six months have been pedal playing (which I basically have not done, except for harmonic pedal-point use) and registration
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 288, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Neil. He writes:
Wow—it is so kind of you and Ausra to reply! I'm honored. My biggest challenges over the last six months have been pedal playing (which I basically have not done, except for harmonic pedal-point use) and registration. My wife and I keep looking for suitable organ shoes, but my feet are wide and I don't know what to buy. So far I play in my left sock for pedal-points. Or I'll play Bach's "Jesu, Joy..." with a G pedal point, and then reach down for a low C and D for the cadence back to G (may J.S. not strike me down with a lightning bolt!). But my church only seats about 200, so the pedals don't seem to be necessary.
As far as registration, I have a 2 manual Allen electronic organ, and I'm getting pretty good at finding the colors that I want, but I am not able to change colors between verses of hymns, which I would like very much to do. I think you can use the piston-buttons for that, perhaps, but I haven't figured them out yet.
You see, I don't have much time at all to practice on the church's organ. I work many different jobs to support my wife and children, mainly as a librarian, and I wish I had a small practice pedal with organ to play at home. I love your phrase "the miracle of practicing"—it's so true!
By the way, my grandfather, who's mother was Lithuanian, lived to 103 years old. He loved America, but he used to say "America is a business country, but Poland and Lithuania were religious countries". He was a very devout and forgiving man, and when a Polish priest told him, after the war, that his brother Peter, back in Poland, was shot on the firing squad by the Nazis for being a spy, he just said "You have to forgive them". Makes me weep just to tell that story. Grandpa's name was Hendryk Kapowicz. Great guy.
V: Ausra, what are your thoughts about the ending of this question about his grandfather who was Lithuanian, who has Lithuanian heritage?
A: Well, that’s really amazing and that the end of his story makes me cry, want to cry.
V: Right, because the history is so alive in our country. We still can remember through the ancestors those terrible days.
A: And also in Poland too. And our two countries are very closely related historically. So, and Kapowicz, that could be Polish last name, but if you would add ending Kapovicius, it would be Lithuanian, just like yours—Pinkevicius.
V: Right. I guess we could start discussing Neil’s situation about pedal playing, right? He’s hesitant to start playing the pedals except for pedal points. Maybe because of lack of shoes?
A: Well but, you know since Neil is a man, I don’t think it’s that hard for a man to adjust shoes for the organ. For women usually it’s harder.
A: But, if you take any classical mans shoes, you could almost play organ with them.
V: Or dance shoes.
V: Classical dance shoes. So, of course we buy our shoes from OrganMaster shoes, but you could buy them from basically almost any other shoe store that has similar variety of shoes.
A: And OrganMaster shoes, they have a variety of wideness of shoes. Not only sizes but you can buy little wide shoes.
V: Narrow and wide, you can choose whatever fits your feet.
A: That’s right.
V: Right. It’s interesting that he plays Bach’s "Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring" with three notes in the pedal: G, C & D.
A: Do you think Bach is happy about that?
V: Certainly not very angry because Neil is still alive, and Bach is dead.
A: (Laughs). That’s right.
V: I don’t think he can punish Neil very much for that.
A: Yes. Now, let’s talk a little bit about changing registration between verse of hymns. Do you think it’s very hard if you have pistons?
V: Not necessarily very hard, you just have to practice a little bit, maybe five to ten times, changing the desired piston after each verse, and do it sort of rhythmically, right? Basically counting. You hold the last chord, and you mentally figure out where that next button is, and still keep counting. If you need to slow down because it was the end of the verse, and in the same rhythm, when you release, you press the next button, and you’re ready to go to the next verse.
A: And Neil said that he has trouble setting the pistons.
A: Is it hard to do? To set those combinations?
V: On Allen electronic organ, and I guess on most modern electronic organs, and basically even pipe organs, if they have solid state system, it’s kind of just one system to get used to, right? On the lower left side of the first keyboard there is this Set button, and then in the middle of that keyboard there are many combination pistons, right? One, two, three, four, five or more, right? So all you have to do, is to do what, Ausra?
A: To press Set, then to press the right piston number.
V: While holding that,,,
A: While holding that Set button too.
V: Mmm-hmm. But you first have to select the desired stops.
A: Of course. You select the desired stops, and then you are sure that this is a combination that you needed, you just press Set, and then the right piston number.
V: Uh-huh. In the far right hand side of the lower keyboard, there is a Cancel button. If you press the Cancel button, what happens?
A: All the stops will disappear.
A: They will get off. And if you will press the next combination, the next piston, well, you get the next combination. And in that case you will not have to press Cancel button.
V: You mean like sequencer?
A: Not necessarily. Let’s say your organ has six stops, six pistons buttons, yes? Six combinations. It means that if you will press a second button, yes, that’s all button combination set of the first button will disappear, and it will change to the second combination.
V: When you’re playing too.
V: But when you’re setting the second combination, do you need to cancel before that or not?
A: Yes, of course. Unless you want just to add some stops to the first combination.
A: Or do something new, yes.
V: Uh-huh. So general idea is if the next combination is rather similar to the previous one, you don’t need to cancel the first one. And if it’s contrasting, rather different, then you cancel and select the stops from scratch. That’s how it’s done on most modern solid state system organs.
V: Mmm-hmm. Good. Then Neil writes that he doesn’t have much time to practice on the church’s organ because he has to support his wife and children working as a librarian, right? Do you think, Ausra, if there any moments in librarian’s work, where he could incorporate, at least mental practice, while looking at the score? When the readers are not asking for new books, right?
A: Sure, that possible I think, but I don’t know if many people would want to mix their job with something else.
A: That might not be good. For example, when I teach at school I cannot think about anything else. What about you?
V: Uh-huh. I don’t think it would be a big problem for me, because I would bring some, at least one score into work. And if nobody is looking, right, if nobody is looking for me, I am sort of just sitting. And what do I do when I sit? Either I scroll my phone, or search for information online, right, which is also not related to the actual job. What can I do next? I could write, right, a blog post, I could draw a comic strip, whatever, right? Because I’m must waiting. So maybe Neil could incorporate those breaks that he sits. I don’t know if he sits but if he does maybe that would be something to consider. Just mental practice, on the table, while looking at the score.
A: Yes, that’s one of the possibilities.
A: But you know, life is so busy for everybody. That’s usually the practice is the first thing to suffer, because of course you have to do so many other things first.
V: And then of course, as a librarian, maybe his job is not only sitting at the desk, waiting for books, but maybe he has to take those books manually. Maybe he as to walk around.
A: Plus many librarians, we have to do catalogs all the time, and refresh them, and all other things too.
V: Right. So just, I guess maybe, he has to find some other time after work, maybe early in the morning or late at night, when everybody is asleep.
V: Wonderful. So we hope this was useful to you. Please continue sending us those wonderful, thoughtful questions. And we love helping you grow, right Ausra?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: Answering your questions is one of our favorite activities in the day, right?
V: So, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: 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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