SOPP696: What to do when you come to practice and there is a funeral in the church?
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
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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.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 696 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. Today, I would like to talk about what to do when you come to practice and there is a funeral in the church. Is it a familiar situation, Ausra?
Ausra: Oh yes! It happened to us many times, and the last time it happened, actually, a few days ago.
Vidas: Yeah. We had our Unda Maris Studio rehearsal planned, but before that, we were going to record some organ music on our church organ. But before entering the church, we noticed widely opened doors which means something is going on. And sure enough, in one of the chapels, there was a funeral being prepared.
Ausra: Yes, and nobody warned us about this, and we just found it out too late.
Vidas: What was your feeling? How were you feeling when you saw that your practice or rehearsal might be interrupted?
Ausra: I was frustrated, of course, very much!
Vidas: Did you think you could go to another place to practice, or you thought there was some other solution?
Ausra: Well I just wanted to cancel, actually, the studio and go home. What about you?
Vidas: Well, I didn’t want to go home without any recordings, so, I had to do something about it. So, we went upstairs, right, and then we discussed how to get out of this situation without upsetting anyone, because previously, in previous cases where a funeral was unannounced and we were showing up for practices, there were mixed feelings. Sometimes relatives of the deceased would want organ music and sometimes not. Remember those days?
Ausra: Oh yes. Of course!
Vidas: So what happened next, Ausra?
Ausra: Well, we just went downstairs to talk to the daughter of the deceased, and actually, she was pretty happy about the organ music and allowed us to practice and to record some things. We promised her we won’t be loud, but she said, “Oh, you can also play loud.”
Vidas: Because it was her mother’s funeral. Her mother would have wanted that.
Ausra: Yes. She was actually a famous poet.
Vidas: Yeah. In general, our church sees many funerals of famous artists, musicians…
Vidas: ...yeah, members of the academic community, so it’s a famous place for funerals—funeral masses—in Lithuania in general. And I’m glad I talked to her, and we went upstairs and, yes, started recording some quiet meditations.
Ausra: Yes, I used mainly Flute or Strings, one Principal maybe for a solo voice.
Vidas: Right. So, obviously organ music is really suitable for funerals—appropriate organ music… let me specify, right? And you just have to be respectful of the situation and sometimes ask for permission. Right?
Vidas: Because in general, organ music associates with funerals for a lot of people.
Ausra: Unfortunately, yes! For some people even Bach’s Cantatas associate with a funeral. But anyway, later our students came, and because we are preparing actually a Christmas recital, so we are playing sort of Christmas music, but the good thing is that only… how to say this politely… only those students showed up who are not very virtuoso players so far, so we don’t play very complex pieces of music right now, and actually it worked pretty well, too! Of course we had to adjust the registration and play it softly, but it worked out well.
Vidas: So let’s talk about for a few moments what we played. You recorded a few Chorales by Otto Dienel, a forgotten German Romantic composer, soft pieces that we selected and would be appropriate for this occasion, and then students came and I didn’t have time to record, so then the students played, as you say, quiet music. What was it? Do you remember?
Ausra: Well, yes. They did the Chorale by Johannes Brahms, “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen” and then we did the piece composed by you.
Vidas: Ah right. Meditation, on one of the hymns, I wrote recently, also quite peaceful. And then?
Ausra: And then we worked on Zipoli’s “Pastorale.”
Vidas: Right. So these are, of course, not necessarily thematic material for funerals, but the mood is quiet and contemplative.
Vidas: And even “Pastorale” if it’s even playful in general, today, this student played really slowly, and it was a really meditative “Pastorale” and not playful at all.
Ausra: Yes, so it worked quite well. And say what you did afterwards!
Vidas: And I, afterwards, recorded two pieces—two takes of “Improvisation on Nearer My God to Thee” which is obviously very suitable for funerals, and Phil Lehenbauer’s “Cortege and Hymn.” It was composed in memory of Queen Elizabeth II when she passed away. So it all worked out well, I think.
Ausra: Yes, I think so, too.
Vidas: So in general, to summarize our conversation, yes, you can give up and go home, or you can ask for permission from the relatives and practice, not necessarily the same music that you were going to play, but you know, adjust the situation and play something contemplative, something quiet like communion pieces.
Ausra: Yes, I’m glad it all worked out well.
Vidas: Yeah. And most of the time, I think relatives would be happy if you played like this.
Ausra: Yes, I think so, too.
Vidas: Would you like to add anything else today, Ausra?
Ausra: Well, let’s hope that in the future we won’t have many funerals to attend or to play.
Vidas: Well, that’s the issue with this church. There are so many unannounced events in this place that it’s hard to plan something regular, ongoing, or important like a festival, because you never know what will happen with… if for example, we are participating in an event, it’s okay, we can be flexible. But let’s say this was not our rehearsal, right, but let’s say a guest recitalist who would be performing a couple of days from now…
Ausra: Well, we had a situation like this before, so… he wished he could practice on the silent keyboard.
Vidas: That’s the best they can do, of course, but that’s already a red flag, obviously, if you want to organize a festival in this church. You can’t plan anything. If they create such unannounced occasions of interruptions for festivals, it’s not okay. For normal rehearsals, practices, fine. You can adjust and no problem. But that’s the problem with planning something big. Do you agree Ausra?
Ausra: Oh yes. Definitely!
Vidas: So the only reason I wasn’t frustrated was because I was flexible and I could do something quiet today. So I hope you can be flexible if this happens to you, too. Okay guys, this was Vidas,
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Please send us more of 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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