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 670 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This episode is very special, because this year we celebrate 10 years of “Secrets of Organ Playing” activities, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, and we are very excited!
Vidas: So, in this episode, we thought we would basically review some of the highlights, maybe 10 highlights of those 10 years we’ve been active with “Secrets of Organ Playing.
Ausra: Because it’s always fun to share our experience with you.
Vidas: Yes, but first of all we would like to thank all of our subscribers, fans, and supporters for sticking with us for 10 years. It’s been a terrific journey, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, and we appreciate your support and your help.
Vidas: And your questions for the podcast and your attention for our videos and your feedback. We really, really appreciate all of that. And of course, 10 years is just the beginning, right? We plan to have another even more exciting decade for you. So stay tuned! So it all started in Christmas 2011 when I first started posting articles on our organduo.lt Website about the basics of organ playing—how to sit on the organ bench, how to press the key, or how to play the pedals—things like that. And remember, Ausra, the first subscribers started coming in a week or two later, and some of them are still to this day!
Ausra: Yes, that’s wonderful!
Vidas: And one of them is John Higgins from Australia! That’s our first highlight. It happened in 2016 that he came to play a recital at our church, Vilnius University St. John’s Church. I thought this was really, really exciting thing to mention this conversation because it shows that John Higgins, an amateur organ player who actually wasn’t even studying organ professionally for many years. Right? He had a gap of not touching any instrument for many years, and he is by profession a mechanical engineer, like a machine doctor, at a power plant, and by studying from our courses, scores, and training materials, he was able to actually able to actually prepare for this very strenuous organ recital at the largest pipe organ in Lithuania, and it went quite well!
Ausra: Yes, it went quite well, and the audience appreciated his playing a lot. I remember when he played “Waltzing Matilda.” I liked that the most because it’s an Australian tune. It really went quite well, and I was really excited to see how our instructions really work!
Vidas: Yes, and not only did he start playing recitals in his church, like Christmas recitals, Christmas Carols, and lessons in Carols services; basically he’s a very big part of his community, and when he took a trip recently during Christmas break to visit the family, suddenly his church realized how hard it is to find an organist in that area, and they started to realize his contributions, and I think they won’t take him for granted after that.
Ausra: Yes, sure, because an organist is a really important figure.
Vidas: So here is to John, and of course he started his YouTube channel following our examples, and now you can also visit and subscribe to his channel, and look forward to his future uploads in 2022.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right!
Vidas: Number 2 on our list is our concert trip to Stockholm, Sweden in 2017. We’d been invited to perform an organ duet recital on the German church organ Gertrude Church, basically. This is a German speaking Lutheran congregation in the heart of Stockholm old town, and it houses is a replica of the 17th century style organ, on which a very important organ composer Düben, Andreas Düben, I think. Basically, I have to double check his first name...wait a second… Andreas Düben, exactly. He was a Swedish Baroque composer and organist and worked in that church, and he was a Sweelinck student, a very important one. So we played this wonderful music on that 3-manual instrument with short octave, and split keys. We had to adapt our fingering. It was a very exciting journey, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, and very exciting and beautiful instrument. And the carvings on that instrument actually are made by the same master who also carved and decorated the famous Wasa ship. And if you guys ever go to Stockholm, please go to Wasa Ship because it was sunk, but now it’s taken out of the sea, and the wonderful museum is built, actually, in that exact ship.
Vidas: The Vasa Museum, yes!
Ausra: It’s fascinating, really! The most fascinating museum that I have ever been in. It really makes a huge impression.
Vidas: Number 3 on the list is for Ausra, right? Can you talk about it?
Ausra: Yes! It was, you know, the year 2018, the end of July, I believe, as Vidas and I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral in London! Actually I was just recently released from the hospital so was still not feeling quite well, and you know, London greeted us with enormous heat. It was like 36°C on the day of our arrival, and we had to play a recital at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and one night we were having a rehearsal in the church. It was really exciting, you know, that vast acoustics and vast church, and really really very impressive place to visit and to be and to play, and after rehearsal, we had to leave the church through the basement where the security is located, and actually we got lost, and we were just wandering throughout catacombs and seeing all kinds of tombs and other interesting things, and it was so dark and so scary, and I felt really tired, and I thought if we would not find an exit we would have to just lie down next to some coffin and just spend the night! But luckily we finally found an exit and were able to go back to our hotel to sleep.
Vidas: One upsetting thing about this recital was that they didn’t allow any videos to be recorded,
Ausra: Yes. Yes.
Vidas: So we only recorded audio.
Ausra: But still, you know, we have something to remember.
Vidas: Yeah. Number 4 on the list is my highlight, I think… yes… so from 2019, late Winter early Spring trip to France—Alpe d’Huez. High in the French Alps stands a church, very modern-built and looking church from the 20th century, and it houses a German built, but French style 2-manual instrument. I think it’s a Kleuker organ, and wonderful, wonderful acoustic in that modern church. It’s a round building with a big tower, and the architecture of it reminds of mountains!
Ausra: Yes, it fits very well with the surroundings.
Vidas: So, we played a duet recital there with some solo pieces and improvisations, and of course we walked around the town. It’s a ski resort town, so it was still possible to ski. We didn’t ski; we were too afraid, right? But we had nice hikes along the mountains.
Ausra: We were saving our hands and feet for organ recitals, so…
Vidas: Yeah, we were too cautious.
Ausra: Because when we arrived at Alpe d’Huez, actually the first building that we saw was the emergency room with the x-rays! So that’s when we realized that people often really need help and assistance.
Vidas: Okay, next!
Ausra: Well, and let me just add quickly about Alpe d’Huez about that famous organ! It’s really famous because of its facade! It is shaped like a hand, and I think most of the organists and you, hopefully have seen this instrument! Because no other instrument in the world that has the look as this organ does.
Vidas: Like a palm.
Ausra: Yes, like a palm, like a God’s hand!
Vidas: It was designed by the late Jean Guillou, the great French organ virtuoso and composer. And even though it has only two manuals and pedals, it sounds like a cathedral instrument. It’s so versatile.
Ausra: Yes, so if you like to ski and you will be in Europe and France, please go and visit that church. It’s really worth to visit and to hear it.
Vidas: Wonderful. So the next item on our list is number 5, for Ausra!
Ausra: Yes! And it was our concert trip to Svendborg in the year of 2019 in the Summer.
Vidas: Where is Svendborg?
Ausra: Well, in Denmark!
Ausra: And it’s quite nice and a little town full of really happy people.
Vidas: Happy retired, probably, Danes.
Ausra: Yes, happily retired Danes, and it’s so interesting, so different from Lithuania, because, for example, we arrived to Svendborg late at night, it was dark already, and we saw a full town full of people, laughing, going for a walk, eating ice cream, and usually in that time in Vilnius, for example, you wouldn’t see old people. And in Denmark there were no young people at that time, there were all elderly people enjoying themselves, so it was really nice.
Vidas: But you were also sick that time. Right?
Ausra: Well, actually, I got sick after our arrival, and by the time that we had to play our recital, I was really not feeling well. I had a high fever and really really bad virus.
Vidas: I even had to find a doctor for you!
Ausra: Yes, that was a few days later.
Vidas: To get some antibiotics.
Ausra: Yes, when we were in Copenhagen. But actually, you know, it was really a good experiences to play a recital while being so unwell and feeling really sick, because you know, when you usually play a recital you have sort of adrenaline and you feel anxious and at that time, I didn’t feel any of that. I just had to focus really really really hard to survive through that recital. But I think I played very well, and it all went really well!
Vidas: Yes, correct! We have a video of that like evidence! So, number 6 is also yours. Right, Ausra?
A: Yes, and actually it’s ours. But you know, when you guys are sending us all these wonderful questions, there was a period of time when there was a guy called ??15:45 who sent us quite a few questions.
V: Yes, his name made an impression to you.
A: Yes, Ugochukwu was such a nice name. And now every time when somebody sends us a question, I still miss this name Ugochukwu.
V: Yeah, he stopped showing up.
A: Yes, because it’s really a nice name. Although I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing it right.
V: Ugochukwu, if you are still listening, please…
A: Send us more questions…
A: …because we still miss you!
V: Yeah. Number 7 is Ausra’s also item. Christmas with Bach recital from 2017. Why was this so special?
A: Well, it was really special because so many people came to listen to that recital and actually it went really well, despite crying babies in the middle of concert. We still have recording of that, too. You can find it on our channels. And so many people who we know came also - our friends and relatives. It was so amazing. I was really so much surprised. We had all church actually crowded. And the thought that I had after this recital, I thought everything went so well and so people came, I thought it shouldn’t be a good sign probably, something really have to happen. I thought this was the last recital I’m doing in my life somehow. And you know actually, it wasn’t the last recital, but it was the last live recital for a very, very long time because actually pandemic hit us after this recital.
V: You mean with live audience.
A: Yes, with live audience.
V: Mm hm. Yeah, pandemic started and for 3 months I think I couldn’t go even to church. The church was closed, so.
A: Yes, that’s true.
A: Although we were able to go to Örebro, Sweden and to play a recital in February when that…
V: Just before that.
A: Just before the shutdown. Lockdown, so.
V: Mm hm. Excellent. Number 8 is item called 4-5 finger trills. Why was this special? Oh, because one subscriber reacted to one of the podcasts, I think, where we talked about how difficult it is to play fingers with 4 and 5 fingers on our organ, tracker organ, at Vilnius University St. Johns’ church, with this difficult tracker mechanics. And he offered to come to us and play those trills with 4 and 5 fingers for himself, you know? But then just a couple of weeks before the trip, he canceled it and never showed up.
A: Yes, I just laughed a little bit. It reminded me that famous competition between Bach and Marchand that never took place actually, because Marchand simply disappeared.
V: Yeah, the 4-5-3 fingers are very difficult to play fast on our organ. And you know why? Because the keys are very hard to depress. More hard than usual.
V: Excellent. Number 9 on the list is Ausra’s.
A: Yes. This was already during pandemic when we were on the lockdown. I noticed that every day, the new boxes arrived to our home. The couriers bring them, and Vidas is constructing something very secretly. And this is how our Hauptwerk actually arrived. And Vidas kept adding new keyboards every day.
V: And it wasn’t just one package, it was like…
A: Many many!
V: Many many packages a few weeks apart or a few days apart, and Ausra was like “What’s going on here?” Right?
A: Yes. I already understood that something is happening that I might not like.
V: We already had, like one MIDI keyboard, and Ausra was used to that idea. We already tried Hauptwerk on one keyboard, single keyboard, and it was okay for you.
V: We started recording Krebs I think, on that keyboard.
V: You were not so scared of that anymore. But as we all know, the biggest cost of having your Hauptwerk setup is pedals, obviously, pedalboard. So when those packages started arriving, I always said, “Oh it’s just accessories to keyboards.” Didn’t say anything about pedals.
V: But then she…
A: But they finally arrived, bench and pedals. And because at that time we were so scared of corona, because we still didn’t know much about it, how bad it is, and how can you get infected, so we would put all those boxes to our storage house first.
V: For quarantine.
A: Yes, for quarantine, so later we would just unpack them
V: After 10 days.
A: Or even more.
A: At the beginning. So it was fun.
V: Are you happy now with your Hauptwerk? That you have a recording studio at your house?
A: Yes, I’m actually very happy.
V: Right, even though we have a pipe organ here, too. But for recording purposes, obviously Hauptwerk makes much fuller sound.
V: And the last item on the list is what - mine - playing with portable keyboards. That’s from 2021, from this year. It’s a really recent discovery that you can actually bring your Hauptwerk with you anywhere. So I ordered this roll-up MIDI keyboard, and we took it to our summer vacation, to the coast of Baltic Sea, the town of Palanga. And there I played on the beach, on the bridge, on the fountain, on the bench in the park, I think everywhere, right?
A: (laughs) Yes. At home you even played it on the roof.
V: Yes, Ave Maria on the roof. And…
A: In the tree.
V: In the tree, exactly. So it was so annoying for Ausra, right? We would go for a walk, for our daily walk around the area in the woods, and instead of talking with Ausra, I would look out for suitable recording set-ups.
A: And I would have to film you while you were playing actually.
V: One setting I didn’t do is under the falling water.
A: Yes, waterfall.
A: We have one, not a big one, but next to where we live.
V: So you still owe me that.
A: But it’s really scary, I think you can get killed by doing that.
V: After the roll-up keyboard proved not so comfortable for the hands, and it’s really difficult to play polyphonic music, I bought a foldable, or folding MIDI keyboard, where you could just fold 4 octaves in half. It’s the size of a small, small, like a 2 octave keyboard which actually fits in a backpack.
A: Yes, and actually it became very useful, because you already played a few events for the university…
A: Vilnius University, and one of them was award ceremony at the Presidential Palace, so you are making career.
V: Right, yes. I went to a funeral with that keyboard. I went to the graduation ceremony, or not…
A: That was the lawyers.
V: Lawyers, yeah. Lawyers, university.
A: University, School of Law of Vilnius University.
V: Again, I played around the house. And now, when I’m looking through the window, it’s snowing so nicely, I should go and play outside
V: Some Christmas music, Christmas hymns.
A: I don’t think that keyboard would appreciate snow falling on it.
V: When it stops maybe. It’s so white, like white Christmas.
A: Yes, we had a nice Christmas. Cold weather and a lot of snow.
V: But not too much, like last year.
V: For now, right? We don’t know what’s ahead of us.
V: So that was our highlights of 10 years of Secrets of Organ Playing. Again, thank you so much for staying with us for this journey. Thank you to our subscribers, fans, supporters, team members, people who transcribe these podcasts, people who transcribe scores from the video, fingering and pedaling, Buy Me a Coffee Supporters, Total Organist members, people who donated us through PayPal over the years. All of your help is greatly appreciated, Everyone is so dear to us. People who send us questions, who share our posts and watch our videos and share with your friends. Really really great to have you in our community. Thank you so much We really like to help you grow in your organ playing journey as well.
A: And we wish you a really happy and healthy 2022 year, and of course, we all hope that pandemic soon will be over and we will have many nice life experiences with organ.
V: Yes, and here’s to another decade of Secrets of Organ Playing from 2022. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: 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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