SOPP548: My goal as an organ player is to be able to play organ for worship services regularly
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 548 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jake. He writes:
My goal as an organ player is to be able to play organ for worship services regularly.
The three things that are holding me back the most are:
1-lack of consistent practice.
2-lack of knowledge of what to practice. I need help building a practice schedule based on an organ method book. I’m using the red book by Roger Davis. But I do also own the little organ book by Peters
3-lack of access to a working organ.”
V: Let’s say, Ausra, you only had those two books by Roger Davis, and by Flor Peeters. Would that be enough?
A: Well, I don’t know Little Organ Book by Peeters, actually, but I know that by Roger Davis, we own it as well. So I cannot talk about Peeters’ book because I don’t know it, but I can talk about Roger Davis’ book. It has good repertoire, but actually, I wouldn’t suggest you use the Baroque pieces from this book, because definitely, they are not edited in a historically accurate manner.
A: So basically, if you really need a good textbook for your practice and both sides of like Romantic and Modern and Early techniques, you need to get the Ritchie/Stauffer book because it’s very comprehensive, and it has a nice selection of pieces, and it’s a really good book. It gives a good idea how things need to be played.
V: It’s like a treatise, basically. Nowadays, people don’t write treatises, but before, let’s say, the 20th century, there were a number of organ performance practice treatises written, let’s say, for playing flute by Joachim Quantz, for playing violin by Leopold Mozart, for playing Clavier by, let’s say, C. P. E. Bach. Those are very thick volumes and are very comprehensive. They encompass a variety of topics—basically everything you need to know as a particular performer, and even creator. They talk about creative issues as well—improvisational issues for performance, practice, styles… So, the same is with the Ritchie/Stauffer book. It’s very complex and comprehensive. I think if you get this volume, you will stick with it for several years at least, until you finish, plus you will regularly come back to it, like a compendium, like an encyclopedia in a sense. George Stauffer and George Ritchie have different personalities. Stauffer did the musicological research, and George Ritchie did the organ exercise parts—performance, practice, research, and they both cooperated really well.
A: Yes, I think it’s a really successful book, so I strongly recommend it for anybody that wants to learn to play organ well. Another thing about consistence of practice, well, you cannot succeed if you will not practice consistently. And if you want to play a service regularly, then do it! And this will push you into consistent practice, if you will have worship to play every week, every Sunday. And maybe if you will start to play at the church regularly, you will get to practice on that instrument regularly, and this will solve your problem number 3, the lack of access to a working organ!
V: Yes, but you have to still have basic skill in order to be invited to play for services.
A: Yeah, that’s true.
V: Before you have this skill, maybe you could volunteer. You could volunteer from time to time, like once a month, let’s say, not once a week, it’s too much, but maybe once a month you prepare a few hymns, maybe a prelude and postlude, and that would be your goal for one month. And, little by little, you get acquainted with the congregation this way, you get known in the congregation, you build reputation within that circle, people start to trust you, and sometimes they even ask you to play more regularly. Right? And by the time that happens, you will have acquired a decent skill for service playing, I think.
A: That’s right.
V: That’s what our student and friend John Higgins from Australia has done. At first, he volunteered just basically… he started from scratch! He didn’t study in the music school or the conservatory, he started studying with us on line, and then became our Total Organist student, was very curious, asked many questions, we created many training programs based on his ideas and struggles, and little by little, not only did he start playing in services, but he started playing recitals,
V: And in recent years, he even came to Vilnius to play a recital on the largest pipe organ in Lithuania!
A: He published his DVD as well!
V: Yeah! This is an example of what you can achieve if you set your mind to it. If you have a, let’s say, a growth mentality, and not a limited mentality. A limited mentality is like you say, “I lack those three things,” or “many things,” “seven things,” “eight things.” And, “I’m frustrated.” And growth mentality says, “Yes, I have those struggles and challenges, but with consistent practice, I can overcome anything.”
A: True. Consistency is a very useful tool.
V: But, well, let’s be honest, it’s not easy to do it, and because it’s not easy, a lot of people quit half time or haven’t progressed at all. They quit before they even start seeing the results. Right? Because if you start seeing results, you get hooked. It’s easier to continue. It’s easier to continue when you start playing for the church service and people start to compliment your playing in a nice manner, even though you feel you’re not really worth it. But sometimes people see the good side in your playing as well, and even a relative beginner can play very simple things relatively well from time to time. Not always, because many time you will panic or slip or freeze. But from time to time good things will happen, and the congregation will notice! So, it’s important for Jake to have this growth mentality and, I think, to say that anything is possible. And actually, to have a higher goal. Not only to play for church services, but something a little out of reach. I would say it’s very good, because if you reach for the stars and only get to the moon, it’s not so bad.
A: Yeah, true.
V: What can you add, Ausra, to my long spiel?
A: I think you are right! I couldn’t agree more!
V: Thank you 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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