SOPP381: I have just started a new job and I find it extremely challenging to focus on anything else
Just a quick reminder that there is still time to submit your entries to our Secrets of Organ Playing Contest Week 5. Ausra and I are looking forward to listening to your organ playing. Here are the details.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 381 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Ariane, who is our Total Organist student, and she writes:
I have just started a new job and I find it extremely challenging to focus on anything else.
And Erika jumped into the conversation on Basecamp too:
I struggle with the same thing and there are times when I don’t get any practice in for a while. But I find that if I force myself to practice for 5 minutes a day, then I will be more likely to practice 10-15 minutes the next day and pretty soon my love for practicing returns. Until the next crisis ?
Keep it up- I’m cheering for you ☺️☺️
Thanks a lot for your words. I think I will start straight away with what you suggested. I am glad I am not alone out there!!!
V: What’s your first impression, Ausra?
A: Well, that it’s very nice that we have this Basecamp platform where people can share their experience and support each other! I think it’s very important.
V: Exactly. If you are alone on this organ-playing journey, then it takes a very high motivation to persevere in lows and difficult times, but when you have other people struggling in the same way or similar way as you are struggling on the same journey, basically, then you really feel not alone, like Ariane said, and, you keep pushing through the bad times and hope for the best.
A: Yes, because you always will have some bad times, like having a new job, or being sick, for example, now I haven’t touch any keyboard for eleven days already, I believe, because I have a sinus infection, and I have a fever, so, what good would practice do for me? Nothing, probably. So, I just have to go through all this stuff and then resume my practice. And, it’s okay. Things happen.
V: Yeah. We try to take our minds and bodies seriously, and take care of them, so that they would take care of us! We don’t recommend overexerting ourselves, especially when people have illnesses.
A: But also, the one thing that I understood about being sick, and it’s not the first time that I understood it, but as time goes by, I used to forget about it. And it’s not a good thing, because as Ariane wrote, that her job takes everything out of her, and she cannot practice, I think that none of us would need to focus on our job so hard, because a job is a job, but it will not make you feel better, and sometimes I thought that in my work I’m irreplaceable at school, but it’s so not true!
V: You think that you are irreplaceable, right? Or replaceable?
A: I thought that I was irreplaceable, but now I don’t think so!
V: Because somebody else is working for you while you are sick.
A: Sure. And plus, we had such a case in our school, actually, that one colleague of ours died just recently, and nobody at school knew about it. And, we have a sort of an institution which pays….
V: Social care….
A: Yes, social, like social care institution, and they called to school to inquire why they are still paying this person, because she’s dead already!
V: But the school did not know.
A: And that’s how the school found out about it! So that’s what your job does for you, that you might pass away and nobody will even notice that you disappeared. I think this is horrible.
V: It is a little bit disturbing, how little…
A: I think it is very disturbing, and it teaches us to take better care of ourselves, and don’t be so much tied to any job.
V: You are not your job title. You’re much more. You are free to be whatever you want to be.
A: I’m not saying that jobs are not important, and you don’t have to do it. Of course! It pays the bills! But even if it does that, you need to have some time for yourself and for your hobbies, and for your friends and your family.
V: Exactly. And even if we are not talking about death, but what happens if you are no longer needed at the job, and they try to replace you with somebody else, somebody more personally appealing, perhaps, then you get kicked out, and what you do then if you spend decades immersing in this job and fully giving yourself to this position and work, then there is a sort of emptiness, and you don’t know what to do next.
A: True. They have such an old saying in Lithuanian, that what people do with old horses that are not suited for work is they just shoot them. That’s not a nice saying, but it’s so true.
V: Yeah, or make them into sausages. That’s even worse!
A: That’s gross! Vidas, you shouldn’t talk like this.
V: Alright, so, advice for Ariane and Erika, who are focusing extremely on their jobs and struggle with playing the organ at the same time: If organ is important to you, important enough that you will want to practice it from time to time regularly, then as Erika says, just do it for 10-15 minutes a day at first. Try not to skip any day. Even if you don’t have an access to the instrument itself, just take out the music in front of you, put it on the table, and play it in your head while moving your fingers on the table and your feet on the floor, pretending that you’re on the organ bench. Would that be considered as organ practice, Ausra?
A: Sure. It could be considered. In general, I think that practicing organ is to give you some sort of satisfaction, pleasure. You need to find pleasure in your practice. Maybe it’s not very easy every time, when you are drilling, for example, hard spots, but I think if you find joy in practicing, you will find time for doing it.
V: Exactly. Ausra, do you miss your practice now when you’re sick?
A: Sure, but I didn’t miss it at the beginning, because I was really feeling very bad at the beginning of this infection. But now that I am getting better, yes, I feel the need for practicing.
V: Okay, if you continue to recover, when do you think you presume to get on the organ bench again?
A: In a few days, probably.
V: Later this week?
A: Yes. When we're reading this it's Monday, so probably on Saturday.
V: Nice. Thank you guys, we hope this was useful to you. Please keep sending us your wonderful questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Thanks to Jan Pennell for her meticulous transcription of fingering from the slow motion video.
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SOPP369: I was wondering if you have any other fingered editions of other pieces by north German baroque composers
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 369 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Luke and he writes:
“Hello, I just enjoyed playing very much your fingered edition of "Variations on Dances" by Samuel Scheidt. I was wondering if you have any other fingered editions of other pieces by north German baroque composers, such as Scheidt, Scheidemann, or Sweelinck, or if you were planning to make any more.
My skill level is somewhere between beginner and intermediate, I would think. I am playing a one manual positive with pedal.
V: Ausra, what do you say, why do you say people like north German baroque composers such as Scheidt, Scheidemann, Sweelinck, Buxtehude, Tunder.
A: Well because we agreed they are my favorites too although I don’t know if these composers would be my favorites if I would play one manual positiv organ without pedal because in general these composers are known for creating music, not all of them but most of them, for creating compositions for large organs. Look at those north German organs with big pedal power and multiple manuals, not positiv.
V: Especially Scheidemann.
A: Yes, especially Scheidemann. Not so much Scheidt of course and Sweelinck. Those could be done on one manual positiv. Oh, he has pedal, yes, with pedal. But still for most of Scheidemann’s compositions you would need at least two keyboards, two manuals.
V: Umm-hmm. So later on Luke found other scores and he bought Fantasia Chromatica by Sweelinck, Benedicamus by Samuel Scheidt, Da Pacem by Sweelinck and More Palatino by Sweelinck. Then he wrote that he wanted to find even more scores. He is hungry for north German music in general. But it’s a good start I think. It doesn’t make sense to buy everything and only practice one or two pieces, right? Especially at the beginner level or early intermediate level. I think those four scores are plenty to start with.
A: But that’s what many people want to do. They want to own something and they buy things in advance just to have them. Haven’t you noticed this kind of tendency?
V: I know I have Kindle device for reading books and I have many books loaded up there to read. Guess how many I have read by now.
A: I don’t know.
V: A small part of them. Yes it is a problem I’m dealing with too because I have a big curiosity about various phenomena and it’s difficult for me to focus on one thing and I feel distractions everywhere. If I see a wonderful book, which is of course wonderful in itself, and I feel to urge to buy it with the hope that I will read it one day or someday. But lately I’ve been checking myself and I’m kind of focusing on the books that I have on my Kindle so that I would not be so distracted. What would you recommend for people, to buy more or to practice more?
A: Of course to practice more but usually this is not how it works.
V: Obviously when people are subscribed to Total Organist program that we have they don’t have to buy every single one, they can download one or two or four or whatever number they like and see their goals or how they fit their goals and then try them out and practice music that fits their needs the most. But that’s the beauty; they can choose whatever works for them without the need to invest in each individual score separately.
A: That’s nice.
V: Which is another way. Some people choose not to pay monthly or yearly membership and just buy what they need or I would say what they want sometimes.
A: Out of these three mentioned composers which one is your favorite? Sweelinck, Scheidemann, or Scheidt.
V: Maybe Scheidemann I would say. At one time I memorized a lot of Scheidemann’s music and tried to assimilate his style and improvise like Scheidemann. I remember my lecture recital at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. It was about mastering the composition treatise by Sweelinck but applying it to the rules of how Scheidemann would create. Dissecting the pieces of Scheidemann and putting them back together in different order and making it my own. That was my idea some 13 or 14 years ago. For that reason I had to memorize a lot of Scheidemann’s music in small fragments and transpose them. That’s why I feel kind of connected with him a lot.
A: Yes, I guess when you spend a lot of time with one composer’s pieces you sort of feel like yourself while playing his music.
V: What about you?
A: I guess also Scheidemann is my favorite because his music is so sweet.
V: We have this CD Recording by Bill Porter, it’s called “Music Sweet and Serious.” So Scheidemann’s music was considered sweet by his contemporaries and serious music was by Jacob Praetorius II who lived also in Hamburg. They were contemporaries I believe. They were both students of Sweelinck but Jacob Praetorius’ style was more grave and serious.
A: And then Ranken continued the sweet style of Scheidemann.
V: Yes, and of course Buxtehude later probably learned from Ranken and transferred this style to Lubeck.
A: That’s right so out of those three composers I think that Scheidt is probably in the last place for myself.
V: But you know, the good thing about Scheidt is that he is the only one of those composers who wrote a complete collection of keyboard works.
A: Tabulatura nova.
V: Yes, in three parts and it’s like a compendium of the types of organ compositions or genres that were played at the day in north Germany at the beginning of the seventeenth century and it’s very beautiful too.
A: So I guess he had probably the most teacher and scholar approach to the music that he did.
V: And scholars today believe that his style still resembles the most Sweelinck style.
A: That’s right, yes. It’s very much Sweelinck-like.
V: That why Balletto del Granduca or Ballo del Granduca sometimes they call it, was first thought to be created by Sweelinck and now I believe Peter Dirksen says it’s by Scheidt. So sometimes it’s really hard to differentiate both styles of those composers. Scheidemann went further with his diminutions and ornamented line in the solo part which of course neither Scheidemann nor Sweelinck was the champion of it.
A: That’s right.
V: Although they both knew it and especially Sweelinck when he got involved with English virginilists, virginal composers such as John Bull and Gibbons and others. They have those flourishes in the solo parts, in the bass and the right hand and Sweelinck uses two sometimes in his keyboard variations for example. But Scheidemann went further and I think he created those chorale fantasies with those ornamented versions of the solo lines which are very beautiful on large organs with solo stops. What would you say about polyphony of Scheidemann and Sweelinck, are they similar?
A: Of course they both created polyphonic music but I think Scheidemann took a little bit different approach.
V: Yes, and he probably made this style fitted for keyboard instruments as well because Sweelinck’s polyphony is basically totally local, taken from Italian theorists like Zarlino.
A: Well yes, because you can find all those ornamentations and diminutions and all other polyphonic devices in his fantasies for example. I guess the biggest advantage was that Scheidemann used the organ in more various ways so definitely when playing Scheidemann you really need to have more that one keyboard which is not the case with Sweelinck’s music.
V: But you know what I would say in addition to that because Luke fell in love with those three composers is that regardless of the type of instrument you are playing it on the music starts to speak for itself. It’s not like Spanish music, Portuguese music, or even Italian music where need to have specific instrument to sound it convincing, English music too. Otherwise it doesn’t transfer all the beautiful qualities. With north German music the music starts to speak on any interesting keyboard instrument regardless of the style and specification. Even if you have one flute it sounds beautiful just like with Bach. Would you say I’m on the right track here?
A: Well, (laughs) yes and no. I don’t think that north German like Scheidemann would not sound well on any type of instrument. Be careful when you are telling things like this because it’s not true, not entirely true.
V: So that’s your opinion.
A: That’s my opinion. I wouldn’t play Scheidemann on Cavaille-Coll’s organ. Would you?
V: Would you play Bach on Cavaille-Coll’s organ?
A: Not if I could help it.
V: (laughs.) Not if you could avoid it.
V: I know. Yeah, that’s a tricky distinction we sometimes have to make. If we like the music so much sometimes we tend to sometimes play it on any instrument that we find and some people are fine with this and some believe that more specific instrument are needed to express the beauty of the music. But what I was referring it’s a little bit from a different angle that Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and English music let’s say in itself they lack those purely musical qualities which let’s say north German music has, and therefore when you strip north German music from the wonderful north German sounds they have much more left than any other I mentioned stylistic trends and Bach even more. I could play Bach’s chorale or fugue or prelude on my little positiv organ at home with one flute without 16’ but it would sound complete in itself because it’s thought out composition and north German is on this track too, not as complete as this, but more on this track that any other previous music that we know. I would say this.
A: That’s why Bach writes it so much and took influences from this music because one genius knows another genius.
V: Let’s say French classical music. It also lacks a little bit in color when we perform it on a different type of instrument. Not so with north German music.
A: Well I would not judge so much.
V: But that’s my opinion and I am open for discussion. OK guys.
V: Let’s be liberal here. OK thank you guys for sending thoughtful questions, we love helping you grow and see how long our answer was. Once I start talking I cannot shut up.
A: Yes, because it’s about north Germans whom we both love.
V: Just like when we started drawing Pinky and Spiky cartoons those animals start to talk and we have to shut them up because they wont’ stop on themselves. Alright, we hope this was useful to you and remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
Thank you everyone for participating! You all made us very happy with your entries.
@laputis and I selected the following winners:
I just love the Plenum sound of your organ! Very nicely articulated and the flow is just perfect! I would love to read your introduceyourself post...
Also power up your Steem and your vote value will more than double...
It's nice you played this Menuet. Good articulation. Don't forget to count the beats, keep the steady pulse, relax your shoulders and breath. Looking forward to your entry next week too. I like this stop of your pipe organ. What is it's name?
I would love to read your introduceyourself post...
You have created a nice melody and chords in accompaniment. I'm sure you had lots of fun doing this...
Congratulations to the winners! I will send them the prizes soon.
We hope to see even more entries next week! Here's a link for Week 5:
And remember, when you practice, miracles happen!
Have you ever wanted to start to practice on the organ but found yourself sidetracked after a few days? Apparently your inner motivation wasn't enough.
I know how you feel. I also was stuck many times. What helped me was to find some external motivation as well.
In order for you to advance your organ playing skills and help you motivate to practice, my wife Ausra - @laputis and I invite you to join in a contest to submit your organ music and win some Steem.
Are you an experienced organist? You can participate easily. Are you a beginner? No problem. This contest is open to every organ music loving Steemian.
Here are the rules
Would you like to enter Secrets of Organ Playing Contest Week 4? People have already starting to submit their videos but we need yours too...
Here are the details
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 386, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Rob. And, he writes:
Hi Vidas and Ausra,
1: My dream is to play two or three pieces very well. I’m currently working on Gigout’s Toccata; and, thank you for the excellent fingering. There were a couple of measures that I just couldn’t figure out!
2: a) time, I’m a 45 year old at-home organist with some college organ performance training with a Johannus coupled to Hauptwerk on a mac mini, b) haven’t figured out a good memorization scheme (although I plan to use Dupre’s – again thank you for that information), c) I have played full time in the past but with my current travel schedule, unable to so I play for myself, family and friends.
V: So the second part of the question is about his challenges, right?
V: Time? He doesn’t have enough time. Then memorization is a challenge and also he no longer plays full time but just for his family, friends and himself. And his dream is to play a few pieces really well. I think this dream could be probably reached in a few months, right?
V: Maybe six months from now.
A: Yes, it’s not like, ‘I want to play complete organ works by J. S. Bach, very well’.
V: Yes. Or ‘I want to become the best organist in the world’.
A: Yes. We receive questions like this and statements like this. So I think sounds very reasonable to play really well two or three pieces.
V: And the fact that Rob is using our fingering is a good sign, right? Because it takes a lot of time.
A: Sure. And since Rob doesn’t have much time, so I think it’s beneficial to have fingering written in.
A: Do you think that memorization is really required for organists?
V: No, but I can understand why people want to memorize. It’s enjoyable to be able to play without music. If he’s traveling for example and gets hold of another instrument, somebody says, ‘Hey Rob! Can you play the organ?’ And he doesn’t have the music with him, he could sit down and play from memory, Gigout toccata for example, or any other piece that he likes. Of course improvisation would help here too.
A: Yes. That’s what I want to know more about it.
A: But it’s nice to learn to improvise just to be able to play something on the organ at any given time.
V: Ausra, when you try out the instrument when you travel for example, do you prefer to improvise, or to play something from memory, or to play your famous harmony sequences?
A: (Laughs). Sometimes I mix all of those three together.
A: Play a little bit of everything. A little bit of repertoire, a few measures…
V: A little bit goes a long way.
A: Yes. Then a little bit of improvisation, but you always laugh about them.
A: Well, let’s not go into it.
V: Oh, let’s do.
A: No. No, no, no!
V: Tell me the last instance when I laughed at you!
A: Well, you are laughing even now.
V: No, I’m laughing at the situation. But when I do remember the time when you played something, and I laughed.
A: Well, no you do it in a more subtle way.
V: Oh! More mean way.
A: The motives that I used for my playing, you repeat them in not a very nice way.
V: Oh, so, I sit down afterwards and I try to copy you.
V: Mmm. So maybe you are my own inspiration.
A: I don’t think so. I think you just want to expose me to ridicule.
V: But nobody is listening, so there is no harm.
A: But I’m listening.
V: Maybe it’s our way to joke between each other.
A: Yes. That’s what I thought about too.
A: But anyway, those harmony exercises that your making fun of them, gives you some perspective what you could do on the unknown instrument when you don’t know any repertoire at all. You could definitely use them.
V: I remember a few years ago, my friend Paulius Grigonis who’s now an organist at St. Joseph church in Vilnius, he, I think went on vacation and asked me to substitute him in his old church—the Church of Holy Cross. And this instrument has just one manual and the pedals. And I was very strategic about that. I said, ‘Okay, I will substitute you, but on the condition that I will record myself, and put it on Youtube, all those organ pieces that I will be playing’. And I insisted that I’m specifically will be playing organ music and not singing hymns. I would sing just required mass parts, like Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, in every day mass, but not hymns. I would improvise my organ preludes, postludes, offertories and communions. It would be like organ versets. Ausra, do you think that was a good idea?
A: Well I think it was a good idea but I don’t know if congregation liked it. If those women, elderly ladies were used to singing…
A: hymns. Then I think they was shocked, were shocked by your improvisation.
V: The shocking therapy is also a therapy, right?
V: Maybe they will appreciate the real organist when he comes back.
V: But I didn’t play anything out of the ordinary—anything too modern or anything too dissonant. What I played were versets like I said before, but all improvised. And I would record myself before every playing, and I was doing this for about two weeks I think, every day. Imagine that! So in every mass, I would have at least four pieces, and for the first two weeks in a row I would have maybe fifteen times four, maybe sixty recorded videos. And what became of that was the basis for my course, which is called Organ Verset Improvisation Master Course, I think. I recorded everything, put it on Youtube, and then later analyzed my own playing, what I did, so that other people could improvise like I could. And what I was trying to say right now is that my improvisations at that time were very structural and they sounded just like expanded modulations and harmony cadences and sequences. Like you are teaching. You are teaching maybe eight measure long ideas, right? Or twelve measure long ideas. I would just expand it into maybe twenty-four or thirty-six or forty-eight measures long. A few musical ideas put together, but it’s just like a second step after harmony. And people who studied that course said that they helped them to improve too, improvisation skills. So that’s one of the suggestions also—how you can improve your own improvisation just based on the harmony skills, nothing more. And you can actually demonstrate this instrument various stops, tryout different combinations, purely on improvised cadences and versets like that.
A: True. So harmony never hurts. It only helps.
V: It’s a basis and it was the basis for any tonal music composed up until early 20th Century, for sure.
A: That’s right.
V: So if we’re talking about Gigout, for example, Widor, Gilmant, Vierne, although Vierne becomes more complex, but still the tonal harmony is still there, with...
A: Sure, sure...
V: some variation.
A: Although he uses many dissonance, but then still everything is very conventional...
A: In his music.
V: Right. So what Rob could do, well, is to simply analyze his Gigout toccata, for example, or pieces that he’s playing, and write down the harmonies, maybe above the pieces—above the music, or below the music. And then try to play the chords—just the chords in that key. And then later transpose them. That would be wonderful exercise.
V: Thank you guys for listening. We hope this was useful to you. Please keep sending us your wonderful questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
Very often people have questions and feedback not only to us but also to other community members. Earlier I would have to write an email to person 1 with the question from person 2. When I would receive a reply from person 1, I would write back to person 2. A few days would pass with this procedure. Imagine if person 2 decides to write a second reply to person 1 and entire cycle continues.
Very inefficient. Luckily modern technology has solved this problem with chat channels where instant messages are delivered right away to entire group.
You may know that we have Total Organist channel on Basecamp and it has proven very effective in communicating and motivating our students.
That's why I have also created Secrets of Organ Playing channel on Basecamp.
We know many our community members by name. They write to us. We write back. They ask questions for the podcast. We discuss them on the show.
PROBLEM: Our community members don't know each other. They might have heard about some of them from the podcast but have no way to reach them.
SOLUTION: Check out our new Secrets of Organ Playing Basecamp channel where anybody from Secrets of Organ Playing community can communicate with each other:
On Basecamp you can submit serious questions or simply chat with each other. You can post whatever you like with one rule. Please don't spam.
Basecamp works on every device (computer, laptop, tablet or phone).
From now on you can submit questions for the podcast not only through email but also through Basecamp.
When you subscribe to our channel on Basecamp, please stop to say hello!
SOPP385: I constructed a mini-keyboard with two buttons, mounted under the manual, next to the thumb pistons and connected to the USB port of the laptop
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 385 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Damian and he writes:
” Thanks for today's podcast, I have to admit that everything you talk about works in my case.
As far as memory is concerned, usually, I know the words of the first few verses of hymn, and thanks to that I have a little easier in most hymns.
Your comments about the divisibility of attention and "disturbances" from other people are very accurate, exactly how I feel.
I will try to switch tenor with alto and "free" my left hand sometimes ;)
I think we have to try to make it easier to do many things at once. I've made it easier for myself to switch verses on the display. In my church the screen is operated by a laptop, and the verses are switched with the mouse. Right button forward, left back, you can also use the arrows on the laptop keyboard, but it is very uncomfortable. You also have to reach the mouse quite far, and doing it quickly you can confuse the left button with the right, etc. So I constructed a mini-keyboard with two buttons, mounted under the manual, next to the thumb pistons and connected to the USB port of the laptop. Thanks to this, I can switch the verses with my thumb without taking my hands off the keyboard, left or even right hand if it's more comfortable. It definitely made my life easier.
V: Don’t you think Ausra that Damian should patent it and make it available for sale.
A: Yes, I think that’s a very good idea.
V: Similar tools might be already on the market but there is still room for this tool too I think.
A: Sure. Don’t you think it’s so impressive that there are no technologists like this who could have thought about it thirty years ago let’s say.
V: Umm-hmm. Thirty years ago probably churches didn’t even have those screens with text.
A: Well, we don’t have them in Lithuania yet. It’s not common.
V: Right. This is advancement. People are already living in the future and sometimes the future is not as friendly as it seems. For example, a few days ago I was playing a funeral mass for one famous business man who was also a supporter for the arts in Lithuania and at the end of the mass there came a pianist who was preparing to play an accompaniment on our organ tomorrow when the real funeral would take place and I showed her the organ and how to use it a little bit. She isn’t an organist so she needed to write down the stop names, what to choose, and actually curiously she didn’t write down numbers of the stops but exact precise names. That was impressive to me to see. She wrote “Principal 8”, “Salicional 8”, you know like that.
A: Not like most of the organists do in Lithuania. They just write numbers and then you don’t know what stops you are actually using.
V: So this lady told me that I think in the summer she visited Austria and in Vienna they have this famous St. Stephens cathedral and she went inside and it was a Sunday mass and guess what she heard. She heard not organ music but recorded organ music from recording.
A: Well things like this happen in the Stephansdom as it’s called. You know I always thought that Austria is sort of a heart for classic music.
V: Exactly. We know that orchestral masses by Haydn and Mozart are performed regularly there, at least on Sundays, but it was sort of disturbing to know that situation with recordings could be done in public.
A: Well I have known things like this have happened in Lithuania but maybe not during mass but during for example wedding ceremonies and many years ago I heard about one of our acquaintances went to perform I think to small town called Kretinga and that’s what she saw when she went upstairs to the organ balcony and there was the wedding ceremony and the local organist was not playing but when she had to play she would just push the button and the recording would play.
V: Umm-hmm. People make their lives easier this way.
A: I think it’s ridiculous.
V: It is, absolutely.
A: Although you know in some cases for example when we were back studying in Michigan and I was playing in Christian Scientist Church in Ypsilanti which after that bankrupted. But we would have two services, one on Sunday which I was playing and one I think on Thursday nights, evening service, and they wouldn’t hire organist to accompany for that service so they just bought CDs with all Christian Scientist hymnal recorded and they would play hymn recordings.
V: Because they couldn’t afford to hire you on every occasion they needed it.
A: Sure. Because the congregation was so small I don’t know if they would get 20 people on Sundays.
A: And then they were already bankrupted and they were selling the church and I think they waited another month or two until I graduated and I think that was extremely nice that they did it for me.
V: And only after that they went bankrupt.
A: Sure and shut the church down. It was really nice.
V: Do you know what became of the organ?
A: I’m not sure but it was quite a nice electromechanical organ. It had some really nice string stops but it was funny because the console was put in a tiny room but pipes were upstairs and were covered so you could actually not see them at all.
V: It was hidden.
V: Umm-hmm. I guess Damian’s idea about technology inspired us to talk about what technology dark side is sometimes. What kind of replacement to the real organ music can be when they have not enough funds. I have a suggestion but you were almost making a comment, right?
A: Yes, I just wanted to comment that now some of world famous orchestras will not buy new scores but will just play from a tablet so I don’t know if it is good or not but that’s the thing that now a new tendency to do it. It saves trees, of course.
V: Umm-hmm. But it eats up electricity.
A: Sure and they think it is not so good for your eyes, your vision.
V: You know there is this digital ink which is OK for your eyes. It doesn’t have this constant refreshment of data on your screen therefore your eyes won’t be tired too much. There is not glare like on the phones or on the laptops. I’m talking about Kindle for example. But tablets sometimes have this defensive shield against glare too which is good for your eyes. I guess technology can solve many problems too. So I had just one final advice for churches that don’t have budget enough to hire good organist to play hymns or organ music. I have suggestion for them to choose a volunteer from their own part and this volunteer might teach himself or herself how to play the organ and play for them at minimum a few hymns, maybe not all 4 parts for starters but maybe the soprano and the bass just like we are teaching beginners who are starting to play in churches and maybe better music will attract more people to the church and they will be able to afford later to pay. What do you think about that Ausra?
A: Yes, I think that’s a good idea.
V: It’s at least doing something other than pushing the button and playing the recording.
A: That’s right.
V: Trying to improve the situation. OK guys, thanks for listening, we hope this was useful to you and please keep sending your wonderful questions. We love helping you grow. And remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 382 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast and this question was send by Hanna and she writes:
I started with the Virtuoso pedal course. It took me 30 minutes to do the 10 reps each and was very hard for me with my short legs. After struggling for a few months, unfaithful practicing, I decided to switch to this course (Organ Playing Master Course Level 1) because it was easier.
Interestingly, the Virtuoso 30 minute exercise had an effect on my brain. It was like my brain had been formatted after I practiced. I am 69 ½ years old, female, struggle with short-term memory loss to some degree.
But after this rigorous organ practice in the morning, for the rest of the day I could remember things in order and functioned with much more calmness. Sadly, I don't get this effect from the master class.
I am out of state babysitting for my daughter for the next 10 days. But I am resolving to do both when I get back home. Work on this beginner one to get the scales down better in my mind, then challenge myself to do the virtuoso. I might do the easy one in the evening, and the virtuoso in the morning when I'm fresh and need to format my brain. Thank you for the challenge and this unexpected health benefit.
V: Well Ausra what do you say?
A: Well it’s amazing how organ can help you to improve your life, but actually I wasn’t really surprised by what I read in this letter, in Hanna’s letter because let’s say I know it from myself that playing organ is very beneficial for people that have neurodegenerative diseases. This is the right way to say it because it’s when you are playing with your hands and your feet it means that you coordinate things in your body and it means that your brain needs to work too and I think that it slows down all kinds of bad diseases and keeps you going.
V: It’s in a way it’s like physical / mental therapy too.
A: Yes. I think it’s very, very beneficial.
V: Because it’s all body experience, body and mind experience.
A: Of course, in cases like this when you have certain medical issue you need to find what works for you and what does not.
A: Maybe not all kinds of practicing will help you but I’m sure that you will find something that works for you.
V: And a good thing that Hanna can easily switch between the easy and challenging courses because in our Total Organist group and you can easily pick and choose what works for you. We have organ repertoire, we have courses with exercises and some people like those, some people like repertoire, some people like improvisation, everything is different here and we cannot force everyone to do just one thing according to their level, right? It’s the taste that matters too and the choices and the goals and dreams that matters. Some people like hymn playing, right?
A: True, I like to do that myself.
A: Sometimes when we came back from the United States we brought with us a few hymnals.
A: And sometimes that what I do. I just put a hymnal on the organ and sight-read hymns.
V: I sometimes put the hymnal in front of me and put the melody in pedals, pedals in the soprano, and alto in the tenor, tenor in the alto…
A: Yeah, you are very creative and you like to improvise but sometimes I not such an imaginative person so sometimes I just play straight through the hymns and it’s very refreshing.
V: And calms you down, right?
A: Yes, true because I think that music affects people in a positive way and because when we sit on the organ bench we play, perform music it has that sort of positive affection but also you have to move because as we talked before, you have to move your hands and feet and I think it’s a very good thing.
V: Umm-hmm. It’s wonderful. You know people of all ages can listen to organ music and sometimes younger generations don’t like to do that because they think organ is a thing of the past and they are forward looking but sometimes there are young people who get hooked with the organ too but for senior people it’s very refreshing to listen to the organ music but organists have another privilege, they sit and play and actively participate in the music making which it’s much more immersing experience than just listening to the organ music I would say.
A: Yes, but definitely playing organ and in general making music I think makes you feel better and live longer and healthier. I have heard stories that even very old people in the retirement home that they cannot remember their name even or have such a great dementia that they can still sit at the piano and play some tunes from their childhood.
A: It’s unbelievable how the human brain works.
V: I remember when Dr. Faulkner and Dr. Ritchie took us, entire organ studio I think, to one of their retirement homes near Lincoln.
A: Not Ritchie and not Faulkner took us there. We went there with our music director from our church.
V: Sarah Schott.
A: Yes, so we were performing a recital for the elderly people.
V: Uh-huh. I think that was a very moving experience.
A: Yes and some of those old ladies were so excited and thanked us and we told that we are returning back to Lithuania in a month or so because I think this was the very end of our Doctoral studies.
A: And they were so upset and said “Oh no, we need you here” and actually that retirement home had that very beautiful Bedient organ in the chapel and it was very nice to play.
V: French style two-manual instrument.
A: Yes, very, very nice.
V: Wonderful experience for everyone involved, from us who played and obviously for listeners who attended the event. As Ausra says “they might not remember even what they ate for breakfast but they have those long-term memories from their childhood perhaps, the hymns that they want to sing or love to sing, and when they recognize the tune someplace then it has a wonderful effect I think.” It eases their experiences in the retirement home when maybe they feel they are neglected perhaps, they don’t have anything to do and that’s why its so important when you are reaching retirement age to find as much to do as possible, volunteering work, work with your hobbies, when you no longer need to go to work sometimes people feel like empty, like your life is finished, but it’s simply not true.
A: That’s right. Nothing is finished until you are really dead.
V: It’s not over until it’s over.
A: That’s right. So keep going, keep practicing.
V: And thanks so much for sending those wonderful 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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