SOPP555: What do you think about those organists that either use stocking feet or bare feet while playing?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 555 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Kirk, and he writes:
“I know church organists push using organ shoes but I have been using just socks on the pedalboard I find it is easier to find the notes when practicing. What do you think about those organists that either use stocking feet or bare feet while playing? I find some of them around here, they are very good organists, some of them told me they just got sick of the shoes.”
V: Ausra, do you know some organists who play with socks?
A: Yes, I know some.
V: And are they good organists?
A: Yes, they are, but actually, you need to be able to play both ways, because I just simply can’t imagine if you are performing at the recital hall, fancy recital hall, and you would go to the organ and be barefoot on the stage where people could see you. It would be a hilarious look.
V: That’s a thought. If you are hidden in a practice room or at home or on a church balcony, nobody can see you, and…
A: Then that’s okay, and it’s fine.
V: It’s fine, I guess, in situations when you can get away without heels. Right?
A: Well, yes, but some people can play with heels also without using the shoes, but it’s harder for your ankle, I guess.
V: Last Wednesday, when we had the Unda Maris organ studio rehearsal, I wonder who played without shoes… Some of the students, anyway, and it was the first time that she discovered that it’s not really comfortable, because she needs to bend her ankle too much when using heels. When using toes only, it’s kind of okay. And it could be a quite sensitive and pleasant experience, but if you play a piece which is composed later than 18th century, you definitely need heels, and in this case, playing with organ shoes, proper organ shoes, makes sense.
A: Yes, because it hardly makes sense, for example, to play, let’s say, Symphony by Louis Vierne or Suite by Duruflé without organ shoes! It would be very uncomfortable.
V: What about Dupré’s Chorales, sort of shorter pieces, maybe educational exercises like that?
A: Well, but still, you need heels, so…
V: Yeah, Dupré definitely describes heels in his edition of 79 Chorales.
A: But sometimes it’s really handy to be able to play without shoes. When you’re traveling, for example, and trying different new organs, and you simply don’t have your organ shoes with you.
V: I wish we had a sort of replacement for real organ shoes when we travel. You could put on only a leather heel on your socks like slippers, sort of, but tight slippers, and then attach a heel to it, maybe some kind of hook or something which could slide in or something, and it would really not take a lot of space.
A: Great idea! You work on it, and we will copyright it and we will be come rich, because all the organists will buy your new invention!
V: No, I think since we’re talking about this in public, I think somebody will already do this faster.
A: Well, and I know what Kirk means that he feels the pedal keyboard better when he plays in socks. That’s true in some sense, but what I found for my self is that actually my feet have more weight when I’m playing with organ shoes, and that the pressing moment of the pedal board is more exact and more accurate when I’m with my organ shoes.
V: Oh, that’s another thought I haven’t considered before. Exactly! Your shoe’s weight gives some weight to the feet, and you don’t need to use so much muscle.
A: That’s right, and that’s very important for me.
V: Right. Maybe for some people it kind of doesn’t matter. Right? But for some it does.
A: And especially I feel it when I’m playing on a mechanical, on a tracker organ, and when I have to reach really low pedal notes, and really high pedal notes on the edges. Then I’m more comfortable when playing with organ shoes.
V: Okay, so I hope this was useful to Kirk and anybody. Keep in mind that dancers’ shoes also work for organists, not only specially designed organist shoes, but dancers’ shoes, which are very similar to organists shoes as well. So, you can look around if you don’t have organist shoe store in your area, you can often find dancers’ shoes, because ballet and dancing is more common in the world than organ playing.
A: Yes, and maybe that’s a good thing.
V: I know in Lithuania, in Vilnius, for example, there is no shop for organists’ shoes and organ supplies, but there is a shop for dancers’ supplies. Okay, 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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