Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 569 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Laurie, who transcribes our podcasts into text. And she is also a member of Total Organist community. She writes,
Hi Vidas, I have set a goal for myself to give a solo concert at my church in May. So I have started to practice some new, challenging repertoire, including the Bach Gigue Fugue (I downloaded your fingering and pedaling!) and Mulet's "Thou art the Rock." (or Tu es Petrus)
Sometimes, it doesn't seem like I'm making much progress practicing, and it takes so much longer to learn something in my 50s than it did in my 20s or even 30s. But....
My sight reading (and general playing) of our choir anthems is easier and better. And even my typing for your podcasts is going faster and smoother for me, since I started to practice slowly and carefully. So, yes --- when you practice, miracles happen.
Thanks for all you do for organists around the world, even those of us who don’t often post in Basecamp or enter contests. Love to Ausra, as well. You are lucky to have her. More than once, I have wanted to object to something you say in your podcast, and then she says exactly what I was thinking. Perhaps I need to get her some coffee or decaf. Blessings to you both.
V: Ausra, what do you say?
A: What a nice letter for her to write. Thank you, Laurie - I am appreciating your thoughts. Well, I guess, being a woman, we can understand each other probably better.
V: Do you think I don’t understand women?
A: Probably not so much as women can understand women. Women organists.
V: Mm. I see. So maybe you could start a podcast of your own for women only.
A: Well, and what would I talk about? With myself? Since you are not a woman.
V: Sure, but…
A: Maybe I could interview organist women.
V: Yeah, that would be a good specialization, I think. It’s a nice niche, because majority of organists in the world are men.
A: Do you think so?
V: Yes. And women are underserved. I think it’s evident from my Facebook fans, or friends, actually, who are only, I think 80 percent men. And most of them are organists, of course. But maybe that could be biased towards me, you know. When I invite some friends, or they try to friend me, men more frequently befriend men, right?
A: Probably, yes.
V: And women probably become friends with women more.
A: But actually, I have more men friends on Facebook. Organists.
V: Organists, yeah.
A: Comparing to female.
V: So this approximation might be accurate, actually. And yes, so when women need specific help, the specific issues that women face are different than men’s issues, then they don’t necessarily get the right amount of help they need, you know? They might get generic advice from me, or something, but not what their, basically their issues are. As you say, you understand women better.
A: Yes. And what about age? Do you think it’s important to practice more when you get older, and is it harder for your to learn something at your age than say, comparing to 20 years back?
V: Definitely harder. If I tried to learn the same amount of repertoire that I was pushing for in my student years, let’s say, or in my 30s, during my DMA program studies. But luckily, I improvise a lot. And this also counts as practice for me. And I don’t really pay attention too much if I am learning a lot on a specific day or not. My main goal is to sit down on the organ bench, not to skip a day without practice, although there are some days which I kind of regret, of not sitting down. That happens. But less and less, obviously. What about for you?
A: Well, strangely enough, for me it’s a little bit other way around. Because what I remember my student years, I really spent a lot of time every day on the organ bench. And now I don’t have that privilege. So, because I’m still performing, I have to be really careful and focus a lot what I’m doing. Because, honestly, not every day I get a chance to sit down on the organ bench. But now I learn music much faster than I did when I was young.
V: Why is it so?
A: I think because I am teaching music theory disciplines.
V: Yeah, harmony helps, of course, and theory obviously helps you understand how the piece is put together, when you sightread music, you, you probably know right away what is happening right away in the piece. What kind of modulations are happening, what kind of polyphonic techniques are being used. And this way, you can think like a composer who created that piece, maybe centuries ago. So I always advise people to deepen their knowledge and skills in music theory and harmony, even though those exercises might seem dry and unmusical sometimes. Like to play a sequence or a modulation. But to tell you the truth, I think if somebody can play a modulation, it’s just one step away from real improvisation of 19th century style, let’s say verset. If you can play a modulation, and it usually takes somewhere between 8 measures, around 8 measures, it’s one musical idea, what we call a period, and if you create two more modulations, you get a simple ternary form. Or even one additional modulation, like binary form, with recapitulation at the end.
A: I remember myself 20 years back, when I would have to learn a piece, with, let’s see, four or five accidentals, it was a challenge for me at that time. Because the more sharps or flats the piece would have, or if the keys would change frequently, it would bother me. Now it’s, not really. For example, even in your compositions, you go from one key to another so abruptly, and so often. But it doesn’t bother me.
V: Because you have been playing it for awhile now.
A: Well, and I remember when I had to learn the texts, it came much easier.
V: But I remember the moment when you first played, what was the piece we played together, maybe the Fantasia on the Themes by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, for organ duet version arrangement, and you were complaining about those keys a lot to me, because it was kind of new territory to you. But that was a few years ago.
A: Well, I wasn’t complaining about keys, but I was complaining that you wanted me to play the right side of you, of the piece, and I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to play the left side. Because it’s your piece, and honestly, the first part is much harder. And we didn’t have much time for it, so I said that as the composer you have to be an honor to play the harder part. I think that’s fair.
V: Excellent. When you are the composer, you will get to play the first part.
A: That’s why I’m not composing!
V: Is it?
A: Just to avoid hard stuff.
V: I see. But honestly, I would gladly play with you something that you composed. Even the first part.
A: Okay. Maybe I’ll write something, just slow accompaniment, and whole notes for me, and then virtuoso 32nds for you.
V: Yeah. Just write something to shut me up.
V: All right, back to Laurie’s question a little bit. She really is on the right track I think. With the fingering of Bach’s Gigue Fugue. I haven’t done Mulet’s Thou Art The Rock, or as it’s called, Tu Es Petra, but it would be nice to do this. I have to double-check if the score is in the public domain or not.
A: Yes, I think if somebody decides to play a solo recital, let’s say after a few years of not playing it, I think the wise thing would be to play mostly old pieces and old repertoire.
V: And only occasionally add something new.
A: So I think it’s nice that Laurie plays some old stuff, and then she includes these two new pieces. Because if you would select all new pieces, let’s say after maybe a break of 5 or 10 years, it might be too much.
V: Mm hm. Yeah, you have to start not where you picked up, where you left, but actually a little bit on the easier side. Give yourself a few months to get to the level where you’ve been all those years.
A: Because when you’re planning your recital, if all pieces will be challenge for you, then you will just collapse at the end of recital, or you will not be able to make it. Because while playing a recital, you need to have difficult pieces and more easier pieces that you could relax, at least a little bit.
V: Right. I love the way she says that she appreciates our work on Basecamp and for people who enter contests. I hope Laurie will come back to our contests. She wrote something that she needs to figure out how to make a video, because her son used to do this for her, but he is now, I think moved to another town. But that’s not very difficult. The phones have now possibility to record and upload to YouTube.
A: Yes, and since she is working on the repertoire for her upcoming recital, she might use the same pieces for the competition.
V: Easily. Yes, that would be great. She could shoot two birds with one shot easily. We would really appreciate her coming back. Because the number of our contestants is growing, actually. Last week, we had, what -
V: Eight, yes, eight. So now our goal is nine. (laughs) Great. Thank you guys for listening and applying our tips in your practice. 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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