SOPP674: There is a huge part of me who would love to play again in public and there is the other part of me trying to be sensible, logical, and practical.
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.
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V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 674 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Maureen, and she writes,
I have been working on Christmas carols. There is a Catholic church 26 miles from my hometown needing an organist. I haven't played in public for a long time. Seeing this advert has given me renewed vigour to play with a definite purpose.
There is a huge part of me who would love to play again in public and there is the other part of me trying to be sensible, logical, and practical. I would need daily access to the organ and the energy to meet the challenge.
I don't drive; I haven't played in years; I don't know whether to let the priest know I can play a church organ with time to familiarise myself with it. What would you do?
V: So Maureen is a member of our Total Organist Community and basically she’s wondering whether to pursue this dream of playing organ in public, right, Ausra?
A: Yes, and I would say, just take this chance. Because another opportunity may never come to you. And I think you need to see as many years in life as you can, because you can always, if after trying something will not work for you. But if you will not try, then you will never know if that would have worked for you. And you might even regret that you haven’t tried it.
V: Yes, I agree with you. And this is because we often think that our limits are low, you know, when we are practicing at home. That we can do certain things and not more. But surprisingly, when the situation has more risk like playing in public, at church or in concert, if you’re able, and then somehow you get more ability to play for other people, right? You discover you have some kind of inner power you didn’t think you had.
A: That’s right. And you know, maybe Maureen can practice in her hometown. But to go to perform in public in that Catholic church which is 26 miles away from her hometown. Because she’s not driving, maybe somebody can give her a lift. Maybe somebody from that congregation lives close to her hometown.
V: Absolutely true. Usually, in Catholic liturgy, people are required to play hymns, some acclamations, what else…maybe…
A: Parts of the Mass of course.
V: Parts from Ordinary Mass, yeah. And sing some psalms, I don’t know if in her town this is the case, but in Lithuania, Poland, for example, organist also has to sing.
A: But I think this is unique for Lithuania and Poland. I don’t think in other countries Catholic organists also sing psalms.
V: You might be true. You might be right.
A: Actually, in Lithuania it’s more important to have a good strong voice than to be able to play well.
V: Right. So probably Maureen should be thinking about playing hymns.
A: Most likely, yes.
V: Playing hymns in time well, with good leading, sense of rhythm. It could be actually beneficial practice for her to record her own singing - for herself, you know - starting from a certain pitch. Then later she could play that recording to herself and accompany her voice with the organ. Meaning that you, an organist, cannot drag or change the rhythm because the melody is sung by people already. What do you think, Ausra? No?
A: I don’t know. Never thought about it.
V: You know, you pretend that you are your own congregation in that recording. I can test on you.
V: You can sing for me, and I could accompany you.
A: I know when I played at church, did many hymns, I would sing myself. But not loud.
V: Mm hm.
A: But inside of me I always was singing because that way I can pick up the right tempo of a hymn.
V: That’s a good idea, too. Sing inside.
V: With your inner voice. And I guess the test that I was suggesting wouldn’t work for us, because you know me and I know you, and you would adapt to my playing, and I would easily adapt to your singing. It has to be like a stranger person, who would not bend to your playing that much. So that’s why I suggested doing recording first of your own singing, and then playing it back together with your accompaniment.
A: Well you just need to accompany really loud, and don’t listen to what congregation is singing. That way you will be a leader and they will have to listen to you.
V: Well, exactly. It’s a good idea. Interesting question for discussion, maybe for another time: An organist…is an organist a leader or a follower? Accompanist or somebody who leads?
A: Well definitely I think the organist should be leader in hymn accompanying. And you can follow somebody who sings, if it’s a soloist, then yes you need to follow with accompaniment. But if you’re leading the congregation singing then you need to be a leader.
V: How is it different from soloist - following a soloist - accompanying a soloist?
A: Well, it’s much different, a lot different, because it’s only one person, the soloist. And then you can adapt and follow him or her. But if it’s entire congregation, no. If you will start to listen to congregation too much, it won’t be good.
V: It’s like in classroom?
A: Yes. There needs to be one leader.
V: Like you. Teacher. You are teacher for 15.5 years, right?
A: Well no - in general to count all the years that I have taught, it would be 22 years.
A: So I’m done with teaching for now.
V: For classroom setting.
V: Mm hm. Yeah. If you have a lot of students in the classroom, you have to lead. But if you have just one-on-one lesson, you can listen.
A: You still need to lead.
V: But you can listen more.
A: If you are a teacher, you always need to lead.
V: But there is more room for listening, I think, one-on-one.
A: Well yes, but I don’t think this is related with the hymn accompaniment.
V: Oh it is related. Much related. Same principle, human psychology. What do you think?
A: You know what I think.
V: (laughs) Okay, okay! So we have different ideas with Ausra, but maybe that’s good because people who are listening also have different ideas, not always agreeable one of us. And they can choose whom to agree with. Tell us sometimes - we need feedback, right? Whom do you agree with more?
A: (laughs) Well I think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle between us two. But I remember once - remember when you played hymns too fast in one of the churches and you lost your position.
V: And…so I was a leader.
V: And I lost the position.
A: But maybe that’s a good thing because I don’t think that congregation was worth your time.
V: Bingo! Yeah, if they don’t want you as a leader, maybe they are better with somebody else. So thank you so much, Maureen, for this very thoughtful question. And we hope this was useful to you and maybe a few other people who are thinking of playing in public, in church liturgical setting. So 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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