Today's question was posted by Sandra, our Total Organist student.
"The assistant pastor at the Lutheran church where I am the organist bellows fiercely and drags all the hymns. Every verse is the same volume, regardless of the meaning of the words. He holds all final notes of every phrase. It is quite horrible. The head pastor will not tell him to stop. Help!!!!!!!"
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Vidas and Ausra
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Vidas: Okay guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And we're starting our episode number 4 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast and we're doing this while driving in the car to our school and today's question was posted by Sandra, our Total Organist student, and she asks, "The assistant pastor at the Lutheran church, where I am the organist bellows fiercely and wrecks all the hymns, every verse is the same volume, regardless of the meanings of the words. He holds all the final notes of every phrase. It's quite horrible, the head pastor will not tell him to stop, please help."
So, it's an interesting situation, right? Where the pastor really sings quite loudly and I think entire congregation can really hear this, don't you think Ausra?
Ausra: Oh, yes, but actually that's not the such a rare case.
Vidas: That the pastor sings loudly?
Vidas: Loud and slowly, right? I see. Is this real problem or it's a minor detail? What do you think?
Ausra: Well, you know it might get real annoying for, you know, the organist especially. But I think for congregation too, especially for a musical one.
Vidas: Right. So, this assistant pastor, of course, will not listen to anyone. The head pastor also will not tell him to stop. So the acting and singing fiercely, right? Basically, he acts like a soloist, I think, right? From what I hear from Sandra's question.
Ausra: Maybe, Sandra should offer him to do some solo.
Vidas: Solo, yeah. Or we could come from Lithuania and help him understand, right? To Sandra's church. Anyway, that's really funny.
Ausra: No, speaking seriously. I think one of the things she could do, actually, she could talk with him herself, and try to see how he will respond. If he will not respond and still keep singing loudly, as a soloist, she could probably just to play the organ to accompany organ louder. And to push him to sing faster and and I'm sure if she will start the next stanza to play right away, he will not, you know, on that last note forever.
Vidas: Yeah. Of course, the organ will play further. Remember, Ausra, we had a similar situation when we were working a number of years back at Holy Cross church.
Ausra: Yes, in Vilnius.
Vidas: And not pastor was the problem, but entire congregation was singing extremely slowly.
Ausra: Yes. There was some elderly ladies who would just drag everything. Actually, once one of them just caught me on the street, like a half a kilometer away from church already. She was just running behind me, trying to catch me. Then she told me, “oh, just play more often in our church. Don't let Vidas do it so often because he plays so fast and we are old people, we like to sing very slowly.
Vidas: Yeah. That was really funny. But not at the moment, right?
Vidas: From the hindsight. It's funny. But, of course, when Sandra faces this challenge, it's not funny for her, because it ruins the entire feeling of congregational singing. If one person drags all the notes or sings like a soloist, right? But as Ausra says, it's really, really good to play the organ louder, in this case, right? Make the organ lead. I'm not sure what stops Sandra is using, but Ausra, what stops could you suggest she would use?
Ausra: I would say probably a principal chorus for softer verses, and, you know, Pleno for the louder verses.
Vidas: Principals, you mean, without mixtures, right?
Ausra: Yes. 8’, 4’ and 2’ principals.
Vidas: And then if you want the culmination versions, the last verse, for example, you can have the mixture.
Vidas: It's not too soft, it's not too loud because people who have a urge to sing louder.
Ausra: Sure. Pastor, too. Assistant pastor.
Vidas: Assistant pastor. Yeah. It might be that it will be like competition. A race, who will be louder? Who will win?
Ausra: But I hope it will help, you know, eventually.
Vidas: Yeah. I think the best thing to do is to keep a healthy perspective and to have a humor about it, a little bit. To laugh at the situation, not at the pastor, but at the situation. It's really like an anecdote, right, like a joke that it's very traditional and a lot of cases, a lot of parishes and congregations do that, sing too slow, Sandra. And it's annoying, but you can be quite funny about that, right? Not too frustrated I think. Keeping a healthy mind in that situation. Because it's not Sandra's fault, right?
Ausra: Sure. You know as an old saying says, "you cannot teach old dog new tricks", so that might be the case of that assistant pastor. I don't know. But let's be hopeful that even he can change.
Vidas: Of course, Sandra could play more organ music, right? Instead of just hymns.
Ausra: Well but still, there are, a few hymns appropriate to have in your service, you cannot avoid it, so. But you really need to ask him to do some solo work for you.
Vidas: Yeah, if his voice is so strong and he can sing in tune, hold the pitch, why not? Ask. Maybe he can even read music. I can suspect, because usually people who cannot read music, they are shy, and will not sing loud enough. Or not? What do you say?
Ausra: Not all of them. Not necessarily. You know some people are singing out of tune and we don't realize that they are singing out of tune, so it's a tricky question.
Vidas: So then Sandra could really approach the assistant pastor and talk to him. That would be number one thing.
Vidas: Very politely, very gently, or even better, record him for you, and let him listen to the recording? And ask if he likes his solo in the congregational singing, like this, right? Put a microphone someplace. Or a recorder in the middle of the church, or just from the organ balcony. Anywhere, right? The closer to the pastor, the better, actually.
Vidas: Then, he might understand without Sandra's actually words what's happening.
Ausra: Or maybe not.
Vidas: Maybe not.
Ausra: It depends on how big his ego is.
Vidas: Oh yeah. Ego is sometimes as big as western hemisphere, for some people. So, Ausra, I’ve seen, when we came back from our birthday party yesterday, on the music rack on our organ, you had some great organ music collections. Even the organ music by Jehan Alain…
Vidas: Did you practice that yourself?
Ausra: Yes, I practiced myself.
Vidas: What kind of piece?
Ausra: The second fantasy.
Vidas: Second fantasy? Oh, yeah, you played this long time ago.
Vidas: Did you like it? Yesterday.
Ausra: Oh, very much, yes.
Vidas: Yes? Was it difficult for you to refresh this piece after, how many, ten years of not playing or eleven years?
Ausra: Actually, I think ten years.
Ausra: It actually was not.
Vidas: It wasn't?
Vidas: It wasn't. Wow. Hey guys listen, it's really, good news. When you, once you master something really well and play it in public a few times, right, then you can forget about it and do something else and master other pieces. And then come back in ten years and this piece, which you haven't touched for ten years, will not be like a new piece. Of course it will be not mastered enough, not ready for public performance tomorrow, but it will be quite familiar, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, sure.
Vidas: Wonderful. So I think we can practice today also later on, after school. I have four graduation ceremonies to play at the church, and also a podcast conversation to record with the organist from, I think, Argentina.
So, wonderful, guys. I think Sandra's question will apply to a lot of congregations, to a lot of people, and I hope you will find it valuable too.
So, this was Vidas ...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: 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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