Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 310, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by C.K. And C.K. writes:
C.K. Hi Vidas,
1. My dream is to become a competent, versatile and creative church organist.
V: And the obstacles toward this dream are,
C.K. 2. Modulation skill; improvisation technique; setting registration.
Regards, C K
V: Uh-huh. So, C.K., basically wants to play in church, very creatively and confidently. And in a varied fashion. But he struggles with modulating, improvising and registration.
A: So this goes to shows that he needs to deepen his music theory knowledge. And the last one, setting registration. I think it’s the problem of probably understanding the organ itself and maybe what fits what.
V: Yes. If you were to start answering this question, I think starting talking about the last one would be the easiest starting point, right?
A: Yes, I would think so.
V: Registration. Let’s imagine, Ausra, you are summoned to St. John’s church today because we’re recording it on Sunday, to play for a mass, right? In the Catholic mass, we have a number of hymns to sing sometimes. Although I usually play organ music improvised, but other people do sing hymns. If you were to play hymns, what would you think about when setting the registration?
A: Well, I would be thinking how many people are attending church; are they all singing hymns or am I singing solo. And I would make up registration accordingly.
V: Would you use all manuals in that organ, or just one?
A: What, for hymn accompanying?
V: Yeah. For one hymn for example.
A: Well, you could use one, but it would be nice to use two, or three especially if you don’t want to change the stops in the middle of the, during verse.
V: If the hymn has three stanzas, you could easily play on one, two and three.
A: Yes, and do them in different volume.
V: Or even if you have four stanzas, you could play one, two, three and one again.
A: That’s right.
V: Basically jumping from manual to manual is a good way to change colors, because when playing on the second manual, you could change the first manual also, a little bit. With one hand you could still play and with another you could draw one or two stops.
A: Yes. That’s when you are playing mechanical organ but if you have electric organ or something with piston system then it’s much easier.
A: You just push a button, that’s it.
V: I think for C.K. to understand registration of hymns and accompanying them in the liturgy, the starting point probably needs to be, to use principle chorus, right?
A: That’s right.
V: If the congregation is big you could play with mixtures. If it’s not big you could play actually 8’, 4’ and 2’ or just 8’ and 4’. 8’ and 4’ would be enough for a small congregation probably. Don’t you think?
A: That’s right.
V: What about 16’ in the manuals? That would be nice too.
A: Yes. You could add that too.
V: If you have mixtures, right?
V: Probably not before. Do you think that he would need to have pedals too?
A: Definitely, for accompany congregational singing too. Definitely need pedals.
V: Mmm-mmm. So Principles, 8’, 4’, 2’, Mixture, before Mixture you could have a fifth, 2 2/3, and 16’ principle, if it’s a big organ. Flute, if it’s a smaller instrument. And similar things in the pedals, I suppose; 16’, 8’, even 4’, right? And if you have Mixture in the pedals, you might add the Posaune in the bass, like a 16’ reed in the pedals.
A: Yes, it’s nice. I like Posaune.
A: It’s my favorite reed stop.
V: It’s so low and rumbling, and very scary to listen to.
A: But I like it more than the trumpet 8’.
V: It gives gravity.
A: True. But in order to play the Posaune in the pedal you need to make sure you will not do a mistake in the pedal line. Otherwise everybody will notice them.
V: You might have some things in common with Johann Adam Reincken. Because remember in Katharinen Kirche, in Hamburg, he advocated and added 32’ Posaune in the pedals.
V: For more gravity. Or was it the Principle, I don’t know, but,,,
A: Maybe not the Posaune.
V: But it was definitely 32’ stop. Because he wanted more gravitas as he wrote, as he said maybe. So that’s suggestions about registration. Would do you think should go first; modulation, or improvisation when you are developing your techniques?
A: I think modulation.
V: Modulation, right?
A: And even I will go a little bit back. Before modulation you have to be able to play cadence very well, cadences and sequences. Then after these two steps, then modulations come. Because modulation skill is a little bit more advanced skill than playing sequence or playing cadences.
V: Would C.K. and other people benefit from your Youtube channel?
A: Yes. You could try to play some of my sequences and cadences and some modulations too.
V: Mmm-hmm. That was really helpful that you did.
A: Because when you play sequences you get acquainted with various keys very well. Then it doesn’t matter for you if you are playing in C Major or in C# Major. I mean you feel equally well in each key. And after that you can start to modulate from one key to another key.
V: I have a question, Ausra.
V: How did you feel about making those videos? At the time? It was like a couple of years ago, probably.
A: Yes. Well? I felt, interesting.
V: Interesting or interested?
A: Because usually that’s what my students do for me. I sit and listen and count the mistakes and make suggestions for them. And briefly sequences, cadences and modulations for me. And at that time I felt like a student myself. I had to play and also to talk at the same time.
V: Do any of your students ever told you about, that they watched your videos?
A: No. I don’t think they are interested in harmony.
V: Uh-huh. But you could say them, ‘oh, guys, if you struggle with cadences and sequences and modulations, watch my Youtube channel’.
V: Some of them might, you know.
A: Some of them also might. Some of them might not.
A: So but, it was for me, I don’t know, a hundred time easier for myself to play it, than to listen they playing. Because it’s quite annoying when we are playing very slowly and making mistakes over and over again, and come unprepared.
V: I think our Secrets of Organ Playing students would play better. Because they have motivation, at least.
A: It’s very important.
A: To have motivation.
V: Do you have motivation to continue making those videos in the future?
A: Yes, but probably not this year. I have too many,,,
V: Too many classes to teach.
V: Plus you additionally, have harmony classes with National Association of Organists.
A: That’s right.
V: I bet they will find them useful too. Okay, so guys, keep listening to our conversations, keep looking forward to new installments, and maybe, when Ausra is less busy, she can also create something new for you in terms of harmony too. And in terms of improvisation for C.K., if he wants to play in church, I think the most helpful thing to do would be improvising hymn introductions first. Right Ausra?
V: In variety of ways. Could be simply re-harmonizing the hymn, or playing in two parts without the middle parts, tenor and alto. Could be a fuguette, taking the first phrase and treating it fugally, in three or four parts.
A: Could be toccata.
A: Yes. Playing like melody in the bass.
A: Hymn melody for example. Toccata based on a hymn tune.
V: But that’s for probably postlude, more.
V: It’s very useful to impress your congregation.
A: And do some fast figurations with hands. I think it would sound nice.
V: So guys, if you feel that your congregation doesn’t support you enough or doesn’t clap after, doesn’t applaud after your playing churches, church service, just play a toccata, hymn improvisation based on toccata figuration, and we can personally guarantee that you will get some applause after that.
A: Yes. Usually people like loud and fast.
V: Right. And please, write after you do, write your feedback, how it was, and how congregation reacted. It’s really interesting to discuss that, and maybe you will get a lesson or two from that in the future, for your future performances too.
V: Okay. Please keep sending us 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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