Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 471 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And this question was sent by Jeremy. He wrote on our Basecamp communication channel for Total Organist Community:
Going to be a busy week, so I hope to get to the organ a little more than I think I will. We are having new floors put into our upstairs, so I will be hanging around the house. Piano practice will probably not happen, and my dogs will be going a little nuts with the construction happening. If possible, I will practice on the G minor Little Prelude and Fugue for Postlude on Sunday, and Demessieux's Attende Domine for Prelude. After that, I will be working on my normal repertoire.
And I wrote to him:
I have a feeling your congregation will enjoy hearing Demessieux. Do you write some program notes in the church bulletin?
And Jeremy answered:
No. Only a portion of the congregation listens to the preludes and postlude, so that lets me plan things like the Demessieux or even Messaien.
And then, Dianne jumped into the conversation as well:
A portion is something! When I subbed for my daughter, I played the last half of a 3 minute postlude to an empty sanctuary, save one little old lady, who stood up and applauded when I was done! My daughter says this is normal for her as well, and she is an excellent organist. And they mostly talk through the preludes, or enter the sanctuary at the last moment.
To this, I responded:
This is all quite sad to hear. Really what happens is that service starts with a prelude and ends with a postlude. So lots of education needs to be done. Including clergy. Maybe write short program notes about the music to be played that week in the church bulletin.
What do you think about our correspondence, Ausra?
A: Well, that’s very nice that people on Basecamp can communicate between themselves. I think it is very helpful. We can share problems, we can support each other. But the thing that struck me was that old lady who listened to that postlude and applauded afterwards. And it makes me feel that, you know, it doesn’t matter how many people listen to you. You always have to do your best. Because sometimes one old lady might be more important than entire crowd.
A: You never know when you will reach somebody’s heart with your music.
V: And this old lady might be a very famous organist, for example, traveling the country.
A: Well, it doesn’t matter if she is famous or she is not. The most important thing for me is that you reach her, you touch her with your music. And that’s, you know, I think that’s what music is about.
V: Touching people’s hearts?
A: True. Don’t you think so?
V: Of course. Then, I would think that educating people, educating congregation would help here a lot. Do you remember our church, Grace Lutheran Church, when we worked in Lincoln, Nebraska – they had a tradition that musical director, Sara Schott, would write a short note about today’s music selections. And I’m not sure if people read it or not, but it was there, and anybody who was interested could actually get educated this way.
A: I don’t remember that, actually. Probably I haven’t read the notes.
V: Well, you were busy playing.
V: And, what’s your impression about preludes and postludes in our church, at Grace Lutheran Church at that time? Did people listen?
A: Well, some of them listen, but some of them do not. I think it’s common for many congregations around the world.
V: Mm hm.
A: Somebody cares, and somebody not. You know, I remember thinking in Catholic Church, I sometimes observe people during the mass, that as soon as we receive communion, we leave the building, church building.
A: Yes, we, some of them really doesn’t wait for final blessing and the end of the mass. What could you, how could you force them to stay and to listen to your prelude, I mean, for your postlude, if we leave right after receiving communion?
V: Maybe you could play the postlude during communion! Ha ha!
A: That wouldn’t be good. You would be kicked out of church!
V: Yeah, that’s a tricky situation. When people don’t care, what can you do?
A: But you know, when we are talking about this problem, I remember this comic strip on the, I believe it was on Dr. Quentin Faulkner's door…
A: Where you know, old lady…
A: Brenda, yes – she was standing next to the organ bench with a long…
A: Gun. It’s like hunting gun, I believe.
V: Gun shot.
A: Yes, shotgun! And it said, “Brenda silenced the crowd for her prelude.” (laughs) And I have experienced episodes like this, when I’ve wanted to shut people down for my prelude or my postlude. Especially when I would learn something really sophisticated.
V: Yeah. Ausra stands up from, on the organ bench and yells, “You should have listened to my prelude!”
A: But the most important thing, I think, and one of the hardest things while serving the church is to play as well as you can, no matter what happens downstairs. And just focus on your music, no matter what.
V: Mm hm. It would be interesting to hear other listeners’ opinion and feedback in their churches. Do people appreciate music, or is it just a background noise?
A: I think it’s different in each case. I think you can find people always that appreciate music and people who don’t care about it.
V: Mm hm. That’s right. The good thing today is that you can find fans for your music, listeners for your music, much easier with technology than earlier. Playing in church is no longer a, you know, one opportunity for the organist to play in public or engage with the organ nowadays.
A: You mean not the only opportunity, yes?
V: Not the only, yes. Put it online, put your video online, and watch it spread.
A: Yes, like Vidas does!
V: And sometimes Ausra!
V: Excellent. 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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