For a last post of 2015, I would like to share with you some of the dreams and fears of Secrets of Organ Playing community.
Can you recognize yourself in these words? I sure can.
Thank you for another great year together!
I'm looking forward to continue helping you reach your dreams, overcome your fears and discover your true potential.
Here's to a creative, brave, generous and healthy 2016 to you and your loved ones!
Practice vs performance. What's the difference, really?
Is the fact that a 100 people are looking at you should be an obstacle for you to play to the best of your capacity?
And what's the big deal that you don't get a second chance? So what? Play perfectly the first time.
When we cross the street, we only get one chance to do it right. We can't say to the driver, "Wait, go back, let's do it again. This time you won't hit me because I will be more careful."
We cross the street safely the first time (usually).
Fear of failure has a big role in making you under-perform in an organ recital or a church service.
But you know what's the antidote to this fear is?
Laser sharp focus.
Tuning with your partner can be a pain in the neck. Especially with a melodic instrument. Sometimes it's impossible but more often than not the solution may be found (although you or your partner may not like it). Here are 3 options:
1. Tune a melodic instrument to the organ
2. Transpose the organ part
3. Transpose the melodic instrument's part
When you play on an old organ, sometimes transposing is the only option there is. That's why mastering this skill is essential for organists because string and wind players rarely have the capacity to do it themselves.
Never let transposition scare you.
Total Organist Christmas Special ends December 31
When you are afraid to play in public that what you feel a strange attraction to, who will help you find the guts to do it?
No guru, no teacher, no master, no angel, no muse, no aliens from Mars, will ever do it for you.
Only you will.
You have to be scared out of your mind, you have to be feeling you are risking everything.
But you also feel that there is a (small) chance it will be OK.
And deep down inside you have this soft voice whispering:
"If not you, then who? If not now, then when?" [Paraphrasing John E. Lewis]
Welcome to episode 22 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Listen to the conversation
Today's guest is Pieter van Dijk, a master Dutch organist and pedagogue.
Pieter van Dijk (1958) studied organ with Bert Matter at the Arnhem Conservatory. He continued his studies with Gustav Leonhardt, Marie-Claire Alain and Jan Raas and was a prize-winner at international organ competitions at Deventer (1979) and Innsbruck (1986).
He is the organist of the St. Laurenskerk and in addition he is the City Organist of Alkmaar. Pieter van Dijk is the artistic representative for the city of Alkmaar in the ‘European Cities of Historic Organs’ (ECHO). He is also a member of the ‘Beirat’ of the Arp Schnitger Gesellschaft in Germany as well as being active in the organ-commission of the Katharinenkirche in Hamburg. In addition to concert engagements throughout Europe and the USA, Pieter van Dijk is professor of organ at the Conservatories of Amsterdam and Hamburg. His publications include articles on Matthias Weckmann, Sweelinck and J.S. Bach, and he has made several recordings on historic instruments in Spain and the Netherlands.
Photos above: the world-famous 1646 / 1725 van Hagerbeer / F.C. Schnitger organ (above) is perhaps the most beautiful organ in the world both to listen to and to look at. The second organ is equally illustrious: the 1511 van Covellens choir organ is the oldest playable organ in the Netherlands.
In this conversation, Pieter will share his insights about the two world-famous organs at Saint Laurenskerk in Alkmaar.
J.S. Bach - Kommst du nun Jesu, vom Himmel herunter BWV 650 on the Van Hagerbeer Schnitger organ in Alkmaar, Saint Laurenskerk:
Enjoy and share your comments below.
If you like these conversations with the experts from the organ world, please help spread the word about the SOP Podcast by sharing it with your organist friends.
Fugue State Films DVD about the organs in Alkmaar
Have you ever been to an organ recital or played one where the audience was supposed to applaud but didn't? For the organist or an outside observer it seems weird, doesn't it?
Here's what my friend John Higgins from Australia wrote about his special recital before Christmas:
"It turned out very well, I really played well, and I think I got the best out of the organ. Afterwards, there was a really strange silence, no applause, I felt quite uncertain at that moment. But after the concert, some people were telling me that a few people were getting emotional and started crying. I also had several people tell me they had never heard the organ played like that before, and didn’t know it was possible to get such sounds from it. I started to realize why there was this strange silence. It was quite humbling."
The feeling John experienced is very rare. Sometimes you don't understand why there is such silence, why people are compelled to hold off the applause.
Because intense silence can also mean that people didn't understand you but it never means they were bored. It always means your impact was great (and it's not necessarily a good thing).
It's in these moments that you start to understand on what level the connection with the audience it really was.
This intimacy is like they are letting you whisper into their ear.
And this is when the external joy shown though applause is changed into internal contemplation which is evident through this strange silence.
As John puts it, it's quite humbling.
If you ever experience such recital, I think people will remember it for a long time just as you most certainly will.
Share your thoughts in the comments, if you've ever witnessed such an event.
Blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones!
I wish you:
Joy - that we would treasure the little clusters of miracles that happen all around us every day.
Good health - that our body, mind, and spirit would enable us to take action to grow the talents we inherited.
Love - that we could forget about ourselves more often and do the things that help others instead.
I wish also all my readers that next year we could all gather together again with people we love to share a special Christmas dinner.
And to those of us who are playing at Christmas services:
Never Fear Mistakes.
When we play organ, our tendency is to judge ourselves and our playing on how well we did. After all, if we din't make mistakes, we did a good job, it seems.
I look at this question in the different light. If we didn't fail (at least a little), we probably didn't expose ourselves to enough risk and fear. If we didn't expose ourselves to enough fear, we chose a safe path. If we chose a safe path, we didn't reach our potential. If we didn't reach our potential, we let ourselves and the people who are counting on us down.
So I say, don't ask whether or not you made a mistake. Instead, ask whether or not you showed up. And showing up is really underrated.
Because if you have the guts to show up again and again no matter how many times you fail, sooner or later you will succeed.
"Your sight-reading course is for me a great pleasure. In the beginning the course took me much more than 15 minutes a day. But now I am exercising the left hand everything is going much easier better and faster. And the same is the case when I repeat the right hand exercises. I feel the sight-reading training will for me be very helpful for my further study." - Willem
Should you play what you want or what your listeners want? Should you perform what suits you or what you feel your audience might enjoy?
It comes down to who is your listener.
If your listener is an anonymous heckler, armchair quarterback, who always knows better (but never does anything that matters), then you've chosen the wrong audience. If, on the other hand, your listener is someone in your shoes, someone you respect and trust, then by all means pay attention to what he or she has to say.
Ultimately, the decision is yours and yours alone because actually nobody is in your shoes but you.
How to create organ improvisations on the Nativity story?
Click here to watch my Saturday's recital "Christus natus est nobis".
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Would you like to say "Thank You" to us?
Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.