SOPP676: My goal is to be able to play a wide selection of easy to moderate standard organ pieces suitable for service use.
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!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 676 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Nick, and he answers my question, “What is your dream in organ playing in the next 3-6 months, and what are some challenges along the way?” So he writes,
1. To be able to play a wide selection of easy to moderate standard organ pieces suitable for service use.
V: and challenges would be
2. Sight reading, sight reading and sight reading!
V: Why do you think he writes “sight reading” three times?
A: Because it’s his main challenge.
A: But you know, I think that this sight reading is very important for him to achieve, that his first goal to have a wide selection of easy to moderate standard organ repertoire suitable for service use. I remember when I played at church in the United States. Well of course, because I was always working on the big repertoire for my degree recitals, I was looking for easy church music to play, basically the pieces I could maybe sight read once or twice and then play for the services. So basically it was really important to find suitable music. And then after doing that for awhile, the sight reading just became so easy.
V: Mm hm. Did you prefer to play, sight read for service purposes, music of composers who lived in previous periods or contemporary music?
A: Actually, mainly Baroque music, some Romantic music. A little bit of Dupre, but not so much of living composers.
V: Mm hm. Nowadays there are some publishing houses, especially in the United States which specializes for service music for organists, accessible music basically. Accessible may be quality music too.
A: Yes, but it costs, and at that time I didn’t have any money, any extra money, additional money to get new scores, so I just had to pick up something that is accessible to me.
V: Mm hm.
A: So I really loved Dover’s publications because they were cheap and they had a large collection of music. I remember buying like Pachelbel, and I played it - almost entire collection - sight read for services.
V: If you had good improvisation skills at that time, would you rather have improvised than sight read?
A: Yes, probably because it’s so convenient when working at church.
V: Let’s say your pastor would select hymns, right, or some other music director select hymns for you. And then you could improvise preludes and postludes and interludes, right?
A: True, true, that would be very useful skill.
V: That’s exactly what contemporary composers do. Maybe they’re not improvising newly written repertoire, but they’re creating music based on those seasonal hymns, right? Mostly. So that an organist could go to their catalog and order something suitable for that Sunday, particular Sunday. And there are publishing houses like Lorenz or Wayne Leupold Editions. I suspect there are many others too, but those two came to my attention just recently. For example, Wayne Leupold Editions have periodical. You can subscribe to, how it’s called… The Organist…Organ Companion I think. Yes, Organ Companion. We have two archival issues of this periodical, about 30 pages long, so maybe like nine or ten pieces in each issue. Issued bi-monthly, every two months, and for any particular season in that period. And one third of that consists of pieces of Baroque, 17th and 18th century music, one third of Romantic and early 20th century music, and one third of contemporary composers, specifically created for that purpose. What do you think about that?
A: You know, there was a time when I really thought, I had a very high opinion about Wayne Leupold’s Editions, in general on the music, because they were really good collections in terms of historical approach and performance practices. They had extensive articles about what they are publishing.
V: Yes, I will interrupt you, because in that Organist’s Companion, there are commentaries about each piece and extensive historical documentation too.
A: But if we would look at the prices, what he offers, I think they are just enormously high.
V: To add to this, maybe nowadays he offers alternative publications also, like PDFs. Much much cheaper you can subscribe to PDFs every two months, and they are quite affordable. You get constant flow of new repertoire.
A: And in general, I remember listening to his presentation, live presentation back in the United States, I realized that he is more like businessman, not as musician, because he really knows how to sell his product very well. He reminded me actually of that turtle from the Ice Age movie, remember?
A: Who could sell anything! Right before the flood coming. So that reminded me a little of Wayne Leupold. I hope he will not be offended of my comparison.
V: But on the other hand, musicians also should be able to sell their art, don’t you think?
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: Otherwise you will end up in the drawer.
A: Yes. Except that you know the auditorium of musicians are never rich basically, and your products cannot be…
A: Expensive, yeah.
A: …or so expensive, because our income is really low.
V: …if you work at a large church, for example, sometimes your employer buys things for you.
A: That’s maybe only in United States and a few places in United States. But I don’t think that’s true in Europe. Not in Lithuania, anyway.
V: These purchases could be tax deductible, you know.
V: It’s still not free, but it’s a good support I think.
V: For professional material.
A: But anyway, if you love to read and you like a historical approach, then yes, Wayne Leupold is a good place for new scores.
V: Another place I found is Lorenz Publications from United States. Carson Cooman, our colleague on YouTube, organist and composer, he is an editor there in Lorenz, and he manages those subscriptions also. They have this subscription, monthly subscription, you pay a fee for a certain number of download credits. And let’s say five or ten credits, you can select your own choices, or you can trust what the editor suggests for each season. They send you like a subscription-based newsletter every month.
A: That’s very good if you lack your own ideas, then you can be advised what to do and what to select. It’s very handy.
V: And it’s very affordable. And if you’re not satisfied with what the editor suggests, you can go online to their catalog online and pick your own things from their publishing house of course. And they specialize on affordable - accessible maybe - accessible contemporary organ repertoire for church use.
V: So that’s two things to think about if you are not willing to improvise during services, right? And if you need…of course, you still need sight reading skills for that, if you are constantly playing…
A: But I think if you are having the church position, like regular church position, I think that sight reading skills will come to you.
V: Sooner or later.
A: Sooner or later, yes. Because you will be forced to sight read every day. Maybe you will have no time to prepare for each service, then what else can you do? Just sight read.
V: Yes, excellent. So I hope this was useful to our listeners. These ideas. And 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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