SOPP652: With all the performances and recitals I’ve been doing, it’s hard to set aside time to learn new things.
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 652 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by James, and he writes that he is struggling with:
“Sitting down and learning a new repertoire. With all the performances and recitals I’ve been doing, it’s hard to set aside time to learn new things.”
Vidas: So, James is our friend on YouTube, and he plays very frequently, both recitals and new videos, records new videos. Do you know what I’m talking about, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, of course I know. He’s very prolific.
Vidas: Yes, and we’ve been chatting with him, and he wrote this question especially when he was playing a lot of live recitals both in his church and on YouTube as collaborations and solos. At that time, he was struggling to learn something new, because all the pieces on his programs, or most of the pieces on his programs were repeat things. Right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I guess so.
Vidas: So, do you think a lot of prolific concert organists struggle with this?
Ausra: Probably yes, but I think you still have to find time to do it; maybe to perform publicly less and instead of that to learn something new. It depends what is more important for you, but you know, after a while if you will play only the old repertoire, probably you will not improve as much as you would if you would learn also a new repertoire.
Vidas: For me it was the opposite, actually. I would learn a lot of new things, but struggled to put all of them in a recital. I remember at the moment when he wrote this question, I was thinking it’s quite the opposite for me, because I wasn’t playing many recitals at the moment, but recording a lot.
Ausra: So basically, the truth lies somewhere in between these two extremes.
Vidas: Well, probably you are right, and it’s interesting. What is your take on this? Do you struggle more with gathering programs for recitals or learning new things?
Ausra: Basically I’m struggling most at finding time to sit at the organ bench and play something, especially now when the spring came.
Vidas: What’s so special about the Spring?
Ausra: Because I have extra work to do at school, as always, but I hope that when the June will start I will still have work, but I will have more time to practice and to learn something or to finish some pieces that I have started learning.
Vidas: Such as?
Ausra: Such as C Minor Bach’s Prelude and Fugue, which I have actually played more than twenty years ago, so it’s like a new piece for me.
Vidas: BWV 546.
Ausra: Yes. And then to learn six pieces of Jeanne Demessieux.
Vidas: Oh, Six “Chorale Preludes” from the cycle of 12.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: And who will play the rest of this?
Ausra: Of course, you will! But you know, I’ll give you advice, for you and for James, both of you! Because if you know you don’t have enough time for whatever reason like to learn new repertoire or to perform more, I would suggest you to chat less with each other! I think you would have plenty of time!
Vidas: You’re referring to our friendly chats in the morning?
Ausra: Yes, of course!
Vidas: But you see why it is important? He is my colleague, you know? Not only friend but colleague in the way that we both are doing similar things, and…
Ausra: Internet organists, you mean?
Vidas: Yes, virtual organists. And we could add to the bunch crypto-organists as well, because he is also very active in the crypto currency world. So, if I’m just sitting down and playing alone and preparing for my repertoire and recitals, it’s kind of lonely. You know? There are not so many people to talk to, because regular organists are different from us.
Ausra: Okay, Okay, you don’t have to defend yourself against me, I’m supporting you anyway. Actually I really like when you talk and chat with James.
Vidas: Why? I know why! Because then I leave you alone, right?
Ausra: No! It’s just good for me to know that you have a good friend.
Ausra: That way you talk less with me about crypto and all those other things.
Vidas: That’s what I meant! Well...
Ausra: I wish Australia were closer to Lithuania.
Vidas: I wish they would open their borders, first! There is no possibility to ever go to Australia if they keep their borders closed.
Ausra: Well, you know, with the pandemic developing like that, I don’t think it will be very soon when they will open their borders, what now is happening in India, for example.
Vidas: I hope all our subscribers and listeners are keeping themselves and their families safe!
Ausra: Yes, I hope so, too.
Vidas: Staying indoors and practicing. That’s why having an instrument at home is so important right now.
Ausra: Yes, this pandemic showed yes, it’s crucial.
Vidas: Imagine we didn’t have Hauptwerk, for example. Yes, we have a pipe organ, little two manual, two rank practice organ at home, but of course if we wanted to record on this, and I was recording previously, of course, but then everything sounds so similar with those two flutes…
Ausra: Yes, but at least you could simply practice, learn new repertoire to keep in good shape!
Ausra: I think it’s still much more than many people can afford to have at their homes.
Vidas: Oh, that’s totally true, because all of our organist friends from Lithuania, or most of them, they need to go to church to practice, and churches were closed for a long time. I guess now you could go to a church, but you still have to travel to church, and that’s a risk, too.
Vidas: I know only a few organists from Lithuania who have organs at home. Very few! I think it’s more popular abroad.
Ausra: Yes, for example in The United States.
Vidas: So, going back to James’s question about learning new things, also my advice is to keep a good balance. Maybe schedule your recitals with programs that you’re currently learning. Right? For example, you could learn a new piece every day, or a part of a piece every day, and this piece could be recorded, let’s say, every day or whenever you feel comfortable, but then your repertoire grows and in a few weeks, you will be ready to play a small recital.
Ausra: Well, you know, that recording every day I don’t think is such a great idea, because it doesn’t help you to learn major pieces, because what can you learn in one day. But I think that what I would suggest is that you always would be working on at least one major piece of organ composer.
Vidas: In addition to…
Ausra: Yes! And I think in the long run you will still learn it some day. Maybe not in a week or two or three, but maybe in a month or two.
Vidas: Right. This week I was struggling actually with “Trio Sonata No. 1” by Bach, and of course this is a major piece, and I would never dream to learn all three movements in one day and record it, but it’s part of my upcoming recital program with you! Right? Where you will be playing C Minor by Bach and Demessieux, and I will be playing this “Trio Sonata” and the rest of the Demessieux Preludes. So, I was struggling because even the first movement is a long one, and quite complex, virtuosic, three part writing, polyphonic style. And even though I made a video of mastering this piece in eight steps, obviously I was not able to master this piece in one sitting. I needed, I think, three days to record it. The first day, I did a video, and the second day I attempted to record it, but was not entirely successful, and the third day I was finally successful with the first movement. So it took only three tries—three sessions—long sessions for me. So every three days I would record, probably, a “Trio Sonata” movement. That’s good, right?
Ausra: Yes, very good. Too good, actually.
Vidas: But that’s, I don’t know if that’s sustainable, but there are only eighteen movements total, six Sonatas. So… but it’s a good project, but very very strenuous, like a marathon. So you have to find something that works for yourself, obviously. Right Ausra?
Vidas: With your life obligations, life and work balance… and if organ playing is not your main job, it’s a hobby! Right? Or for example if you are a full time church organist but learning new repertoire is not really required! You know, you could get by with a simple Prelude or Postlude or improvisation even, with very little preparation, and a bunch of hymns which you could actually sight-read, so then if you do this for a long time, you will not learn anything new.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: So, keep in perspective your long-term goals then. Thank you guys, we hope this was useful. This was Vidas,
Ausra: And Ausra!
Vidas: Please send us your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
Ausra: 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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