SOPP352: I have been given the keys for 2 of the churches in my parish and I’m quite grateful for that
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 352 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Anders and he writes:
“Hi Vidas and Ausra
I have written to you before and I was quite happy that you published my thoughts.
What I’d like to tell you is that I’m really happy to have entered the world of organ playing. It is indeed a world in its own. So sad sometimes when I realize that my work mates or friends really don’t understand what they miss. They just don’t know what I’m talking about, poor souls.
I have been given the keys for 2 of the churches in my parish and I’m quite grateful for that. One organ has pneumatic action and the other is mechanical. It is very interesting to change between them, they are very individual and have their own personalities. I’m not at all good at playing, only simple pieces, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying what I’m doing or trying to make progress.
1.) I’m very happy that I can sit alone in a church and play. It is a very special and somewhat mystical experience to see the afternoon sun shine through the beautiful coloured windows when I play some soft piece of music.
2.)The organs make a lot of mysterious sounds sometimes and I think somebody entered the Church.
3.) It’s much more demanding than I could imagine to play with the feet. My shoes seem to be way too big sometimes, though I have special shoes. Sometimes I mix up my hands, the feet and manuals totally….Then it’s a good thing no one listens.
4.) It’s much more difficult to play with a lot of stops pulled out. The voices of one manual may be completely drowned by the other and I’m lost…Registry is an art.
5.) If I have "mastered" a piece, then I may try to play loud and not before.
6.) I have escaped from my work many times (without my boss knowing) to be able to find time for the organ. That’s very bad for my future career. But I just couldn’t resist.
7.) When I become retired after a few years I don’t need any money like so many others dream about. I’ll just sit in the Church playing organ. That’s really good! And completely free.
8.) Your advice has been really helpful. Partly because of the specific information but mostly as an important inspiration. Especially about the necessity to have a "professional" attitude about practicing in the face of being tired or feeling that time is scarce.
9.) I can play for about 2,5 hours, then I get tired and have to make a pause of at least a few hours before continuing. It is contra-productive to press on too much. The music has to sink in for a while.
10.) As you say that practice make miracles happen, that is true. Even if the miracles are a bit slow in my case, practice and practice intelligently is the only way forward.
Anders Ståhl, Sweden.”
V: Well that’s a very comprehensive question.
A: Actually its not more like questions, like sharing Anders experience with us and we are very thankful for it because it’s a wonderful letter and we appreciate it very much.
V: When I read this actually it’s like a post, right, with ten points. It could actually be written with the title “Top 10 Things I’ve Learned In My Organ Playing Career” or something. “The List of 10 Things You Should Be Aware When Playing Organ” or something. These types of titles are very user friendly and readers are just eating it up. Would you suggest Ausra to put Anders’ post online, maybe on his own website or on any other platform?
A: Yes, if he has it then definitely yes. Why not do it? It’s wonderful how he shares his experience. I think that many organists will feel with him together while reading his letter because I think some of those moments we all experience.
A: And I strongly believe that we organists we are sort of very happy ones because we have this experience with the organ that others don’t and it’s truly magical.
V: Let’s take for example point by point. Number 1 for example. Are you happy when you sit alone in a church?
A: Of course it’s truly my time, my time and organ time.
V: When I do this every morning when I go to church and I see the janitors doing their work, cleaning the floors, or drinking some tea, or chatting, I am very happy that I can sit and play and I’m free to play whatever I want.
A: Yes and I think that the most magical time to spend at the organ is the night and I sometimes envy the night guards in some churches because if I would have such a position I would spend it on the organ, practicing.
V: What about number 2? That organs make a lot of mysterious sounds.
A: True and especially this is true if you are playing at night because at that time all the other surrounding sounds are dead so that’s when the organ really speaks to you.
V: And number 3 is it’s harder for him to play with the feet than he imagined before.
A: I think it’s often the case with many beginning organists.
V: But not all, I’ve seen people playing very easily with pedals too.
A: Well some have better coordination, some don’t. In general it’s a problem for many.
V: Number 4. He talks about registration, it’s difficult to play with loud voices.
A: I have to agree with this point. I feel the same way when I play at St. Johns Church. If you are playing only with a few stops then tracker action is much easier. But if you pull out many stops then yes, it’s much harder to push the key and to control everything.
V: In number 5 he talks about that he usually practices softly and only after he masters the piece then he plays loudly.
A: That’s a very wise way to do it because if you will practice loudly all the time you might damage your ear because it’s not good to practice always with loud registration. You might become deaf with years and that’s actually the case for some organists and some percussionists.
V: In number 6 he writes how he escapes from work to organ bench and it reminds me how kids escape from school, go to the movies but here he goes to play the organ.
A: It’s fascinating absolutely. I just love this point.
V: Number 7. After a few years he will have the freedom of playing the organ all day long because he will be retired.
A: And I find that actually many people who have tried organ before in their lifetime but then they didn’t have time to practice during most of their life they come back later to this habit, to this passion and they start to play more when they retire and I think that’s a very good way to keep yourself in good shape both physically and mentally.
V: And we both know people in our acquaintance area who are retired but don’t do much.
A: Yes, just watch TV and that’s about it.
V: And that makes us sad.
V: But what can you do? Number 8 he talks about how our advice is helpful for him not only because of specific information but as a general inspiration.
A: I think we all need that inspiration.
V: When somebody sends their words or whispers in your ears as a Podcast every day something, right? It definitely, inevitably sinks in day after day and whatever you are saying, it might be something that your saying about registration, pedaling, or fingering and the problem that another person is having is about something entirely different, about practicing, about performance anxiety, improvisation, but the fact that we are there for him or her makes those people realize that they can achieve so much more too. It’s like a little bit of a community feeling when somebody else is doing the same thing.
A: I think it’s very much a community feeling because we all have problems and I think it’s nice to share them and try to help and try to share them because even just telling about your problem is a big help. And for us too, this kind of work is sort of like an anonymous alcoholic.
V: Alcoholics Anonymous.
A: Yes. Where everybody gather and talk about the problem so we are sort of talking about organ problems and enjoying them together sharing our experience.
V: It starts like “Hello, I’m Vidas and I’m an organist.” And everybody says “Hello, Vidas.” (Laughs.)
V: In number 9 he talks about how he can practice for 2 and a half hours and then he has to rest. For me it is just 30 minutes and then I have to rest.
A: Well, obviously Anders is more advanced in practicing for many hours than you are.
V: I generally tend to stop before I’m tired. I’m kind of cautious.
A: I guess you are very soft on yourself.
V: Like my mother. That’s what my father used to call me.
A: Maybe he was right.
V: In number 10 he says that miracles really happen but in his case it’s more like slow miracles.
A: I think for all of us it’s slow miracles but at least they happen and that’s good.
V: Umm-hmm. The only way that miracles happen is you have to make them happen.
A: True so you need to put some effort in order to have that miracle.
V: OK. Thank you guys for sending these wonderful questions and definitely put your thoughts online, not only to us. It’s nice that people are sending these questions but they are not sending every day. Anders is not writing to us every day but maybe he’s thinking every day you see and those ideas might be very helpful to a lot or organists around the world too. Thank you guys, 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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