Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 320 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Hanna, and she writes:
This is what I studied and practiced last month, just recently adding the 2 Minuets and this new one. I don't speak German so can't pronounce it.
10-Day Pedal Exercise
Ich Ruf zu Dir
Praise to the Lord
If you Could Hie to Kolob- piano/organ duet I am working on to play in sacrament meeting at Church.
Our Prayer to Thee - Hymn out of the hymnal for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Minuet in G Major
#132 God is in His Holy Temple
Organ Technique- listen (I have listed to one 30-min presentation). I am only 5'1" and can't block the church organ up. So it is difficult to skim the pedals like I want to. But I'm trying for better range of motion in my ankles so my heel can reach as I stretch the achilles tendon more. It is a thrill to sense even minor improvement, so your teaching must be working. Thank you. -Hanna
V: 5’1”. It’s sometimes tricky for people of that height to sit on the organ bench and reach the pedals in the way they want, freely and without limitation. Right, Ausra?
A: Well, I don’t know what 5’1” is, because it’s in another system, because we use meters and centimeters, so…. it’s hard for me to understand. I have to convert it.
V: Okay, let’s look up 5’1”….to centimeters… oh… 154 cm.
A: Well, I’m only 7 cm higher, so…
V: But 7, so it’s a noticeable distance, I guess. Right? It depends on the length of the legs, too, not only of the entire body...
V: ...when you sit on the organ bench.
A: I guess I have quite long legs compared to my height.
V: Is it true that the longer you play the organ, the longer your legs become?
A: I don’t think so, but that’s, I guess, the more experience you get, the easier it gets to play.
V: It would be nice, right, to adjust the length of your legs. If the bench is not movable, maybe your legs could be expandable, like a telescope.
A: Yes. Or you get the pedal extensions that Wayne Leupold suggests for kids!
V: But then, you only use a couple of pedals at a time. One for the left foot, one for the right foot. And, for some people it’s enough, probably, tonic and dominant—dominant and tonic.
A: Well, but some people feel that they are too short, some feel that they are too high. So, you never know what works better. Everybody has to adjust.
V: You know, I think the beauty of playing the organ is that you never know what kind of instruments you will find in a certain situation: what kind of bench, what kind of keyboards, too. And, this adjustment process is part of the fun.
A: Yes, it adds adrenaline to your life.
V: If you like adrenaline, that is.
V: Do you like adrenaline, Ausra?
A: Sometimes, yes.
V: Like right now. Would you be willing to jump off the bridge with a parachute?
A: Oh, no thank you. I would never want to do it.
V: I see. Neither would I, actually. It’s easy to sit here in our living room and talk about these things, but when the time comes to jump off the bridge or jump out of the airplane with a parachute is really above my pay grade, I think.
A: Me, too.
V: Nice. What else could you suggest to Hanna? She’s working on two minuets, right?
A: Yes, and “Ich Ruf’ zu Dir,” I guess it’s from the Orgelbuchlein, yes?
A: It’s a good chorale to start.
V: Yes, minuets will prepare, probably, for the hand passages, and then when the pedal part comes in, in “Ich Ruf zu Dir,” it’s not that difficult.
A: Yes, that’s right, because the tempo is slower.
V: Right now, actually, in Unda Maris studio, we have two people playing those two minuets, one in G major and one in G minor. So, a lady is around the beginner level, so she is struggling, but she is making progress, I think, on a weekly basis, but not a very noticeable progress. But an older gentleman, he is in his late 50s, I think, approaching 60s, I think, he is a medical doctor. He mastered his minuet in a few weeks, and now he’s working on BWV 731, “Liebster Jesu, Wir sind Hier.” This was last Monday. I heard him play the right hand, it was rather ornamented, you know that line, and it seemed to me he could manage it. But the left hand was tricky, because two voices need to be played in one hand, and he was not used to that, so I said to him—his name was “Deividas,” I said “Deividas, I will send you another piece in preparation for, “Liebster Jesu Wir sind Hier,” that will be “Ich Ruf zu Dir” from Orgelbuchlein. And, once I sent him that piece, he was really happy, because he listened to the video, probably, or played it through. It’s easier to start with three-voice texture than with four-voice part.
V: So, I guess Hanna chose the pieces from her level, I think. Right?
A: Yes, I think it’s good not to jump right away to hard pieces.
V: Even if she practices, let’s say, Doxology, or a few other hymns, then you see those four part hymns, they’re not very melodically developed—they’re more chordal texture, and with much practice, I think, people can learn it.
A: Yes, I love that Doxology hymn. don’t you?
V: Yes, it only has four lines! Nice and short. Excellent. And then, she needs to adjust to the pedals and sitting on the organ bench. Flexibility of an ankle, of course, plays a good part in here, and maybe organ shoes… would you suggest to Hanna to acquire shoes with higher heels?
A: Sure! It’s always a good idea.
A: It works like a extension of your foot.
V: Like a pedal extension.
V: But, you don’t extend the pedals, but you extend your leg, exactly.
A: But, you know, last week, my student from the organ school, after me showing her how the organ shoes look, and asking her to find something similar, she came with the heel which was… I don’t know how many inches, but…
V: 5 inches?
A: Well, I would say at least 5 inches… it was extremely high heel, and so thin, and you know, it just made me mad. I just told her, “I think this time you need to take your shoes off and just play with your socks. What else could I tell her?
V: Or, you could let her try for herself, and receive the result, and she would say “Oh, I need to take my shoes off today.”
A: I’m afraid she would have broken that heel, and that she would have to walk home barefoot.
V: Oh, it was street shoes?
V: Oh, that’s not nice. So, anyway, if Hanna or anybody else needs to extend their legs, maybe they could go to the...what’s the person who fixes shoes….
A: Don’t know, “shoemaker.”
V: Shoemaker! Ok, Schumacher. Ok, Shoemaker, and maybe give him your playing shoes, right? But asking him to extend the heel...add another layer to the heel, or two more if you need a really long one. But this will be specifically designed for your feet, and I think it would be better.
V: Nice. Better than to add pedal extensions on two keys, I guess. Maybe, we should recommend this version to Wayne Leupold, too, so his kids would make their heels longer and could play all the keys on the pedals.
A: I don’t think it would work.
V: Alright, guys, please keep sending us more of the 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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