SOPP304: During the postlude at this mornings service, about half way through the fugue of BWV 555 bad things just started happening
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 304, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jeremy. In response to my weekly questions in our Total Organist Basecamp communication channel. When I ask ‘What’s the most frustrating thing for you this week, that you’ve been struggling with’? And Jeremy wrote:
Focusing. During the postlude at this mornings service, about half way through the fugue of BWV 555 bad things just started happening. I tried to bring myself back into the moment, but it took about ten measures to get back into the zone. I am trying some of the techniques you mention in your "focusing at the organ" lessons, so the fugue didn't completely fall apart. Just a few hairy moments on a piece I felt completely fine with yesterday. I will say, ten years ago I would have stopped the piece and tried to restart it somewhere, so that's a win.
V: Do you know, Ausra, BWV 555 E minor Prelude and Fugue from Eight Little Preludes and Fugues collection?
A: Yes, I know it.
V: I think Justas from Unda Maris studio, played it last year, or not? No. He played A minor. But E minor Regina played a number of years ago.
A: Yes, I know that piece.
V: Mmm-hmmm. And fugue is more complex than the preludes are obviously.
A: Yes, that’s true with all eight pieces in this collection.
V: Mmm-mmm. When was the last time Ausra, for you, when you lost something in the middle of the piece, and you had to figure out the way to get back into the song?
A: Well, I actually can’t recall that moment, right now.
V: Yeah. We would better forget it. (Laughs). Therefore we block it from our memory.
A: But I know now that I showed the F Major Preludes for my students and I killed the organ.
V: Oh! Tell us, please, more!
A: This happened this week, actually, Wednesday, and today we are talking on Saturday. So I was playing for her the F Major Preludes from the same collection—these Preludes and Fugues by J.S. Bach or Bach’s circle. And actually organ just, sound just disappeared. And there was this horrible smell—burning, burning smell.
V: So I just shut down the organ and called Vidas.
V: And where was Vidas?
A: Vidas was practicing at the big organ in the church.
A: So, organ engine was dead.
V: It’s good to have two organs in the church; one big for me and one small for Ausra.
V: (Laughs). Now we only have one left.
A: Yes. Now we have to share, and play four hands.
V: So, what was the reason later, I could continue the story, because I was also worried. I climbed the balcony of that little chapel organ. We switched off all the fuses and smelled the burning of wires and called the security and authorities of the university. And they, it was actually almost the end of the work day, and they said, ‘Okay. Wait until the morning crew comes in, tomorrow, to check’.
A: And we were really scared because we thought that the fire might get started.
A: And part of the most important part of the church might burn out, so.
V: Yeah, but in Lithuania sometimes in those state funded or public positions like at the university, people work, not like they work in private...
A: Companies, yes.
V: ...companies. They work until the end of the day and they leave.
A: And nobody really cares about anything.
V: Uh-huh. So it was almost the end of their working day and they said wait until the morning. So then I, I then looked into the motor room and the smell was more intense there. The blower was sort of warm, not very hot but warm, which is obviously okay because it has been working for an hour or more. And then what else? I looked for open fires signs, like smoke or something. There wasn’t any, actually. So I thought maybe it stopped. Maybe it was just like a short, short circuit. And then I would, Ausra waited, ah. Ausra went to the big organ to practice.
A: Because I had another lesson to teach so I had to go somewhere else.
V: And I then spent entire afternoon and part of the evening, checking that smoke in the church while Ausra was still...
V: ...teaching. And even while we were almost leaving the church, I went to the security guard, to the chapel one more time so that they could smell it, and maybe check it in the middle of the night again, if the smoke is,,,
A: And actually I had an earlier hard last night to sleep because right in the morning I was checking all the newspapers to see if it’s on the news, and maybe the church has burned out, so.
A: But everything was calm.
V: And in the morning I dropped Ausra to school and then walked to the church. It’s about, what, twenty minutes walk, walking down the hill. And I was going with a fast pace, and when the church was approaching, I was sort of looking for smoke or fire brigade. But luckily, it was a quiet night there.
V: The first thing I did as, I didn’t climb to the organ balcony to the church with the big organ but I looked right away at the chapel where that organ which we killed yesterday was.
A: Which I killed, or J.S. Bach’s F Major Prelude killed.
V: Right! I didn’t think about that F Major. Maybe that’s a very dangerous piece to play.
A: It is. And so now, because Jeremy is playing that E minor from the same collection, I remembered this.
V: Maybe Jeremy should be careful about playing this piece in public again, right? Or check the wiring of electricity, or the motor more frequently because of this piece. (Laughs). Right?
A: Well but anyway, we have to congratulate Jeremy because he survived throughout this piece, and he didn’t stop. That’s a good sign. So I think he’s really on the right track.
V: Next time, I think when he is out of the zone, the process of getting of getting back into the zone will be shorter, I think for him.
A: True. True.
V: Because he knows how to deal with that situation already.
V: Right? Because he says, ten years ago, he would have stopped the piece and tried to restart it somewhere. And now, it took only about ten measures. So next time maybe it will be nine measures.
A: Sometimes when I practice organ pieces, I’m sort of praying that all the mistakes that might happen would happen during my practice time. Then I would know what to do. But somehow, if mistakes happen during actual performance, they are always in the other spots.
A: So, you never know what might happen.
V: And I think about, you killed one organ, and I killed also one organ.
A: In Liepaja.
V: In Liepaja, yeah. The largest mechanical organ in the world.
A: Well, but you didn’t kill it. It was just some electric stuff.
V: Yeah. The electric company forgot to add one phase, so it was not enough power. So now it’s okay. Umm, yes. So keep practicing guys. And I think the most important lesson here, with focusing, it just to play more in public.
A: True. The more you do it, the easier it will get.
V: Right. And realize that mistakes will not kill you.
A: As he killed this organ.
V: Right. (Laughs). Thanks 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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