Welcome to #AskVidasAndAusra 34!
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Please let us know, if having a transcript of the audio is helpful because we presume some people like to read while others - to listen (and now you can do both, actually). Anyway, here's our answer to today's question about how to quickly change stops by hands.
Listen to the audio or read the transcript bellow.
Vidas: Hi guys this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And let's start episode 34 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by John. And he writes, „I have an Allen protégé L10 organ at home, a three manual help worked midi works set up in our church with only an 8 gigabyte memory computer and I play once a month on a two manual organ at Freemantle's Wesley church and a three manual organ at St John's Lutheran in Perth which has recently been fitted with a Peterson computer system. Sadly the wooden frame under the lower positive manual of that organ is slightly too low, so I have problems with playing the pedals properly on that organ. It wasn't built to AGO standards.
Before I read this question further Ausra, do you think that he can adjust the height of the bench a little bit?
Ausra: Yes, that might be a possibility, but it's always fascinating that you never expect to know that the organ will fit you well. You need to know to adapt to an organ, and that's the most fascinating thing of being an organist.
Vidas: A challenge, but also a benefit, right? On the piano, you know exactly that your instrument will be more or less familiar, right? Familiar environment and mechanics will be more or less similar, although the touch is different, but not as drastically different as the organ.
So, advice probably would be to adjust, right?
Vidas: To just in your mind that probably the ideal situation when the bench would be at the normal height, is ideal right, but ideal circumstances are not always found.
Ausra: Sure and he says that it's not up to AGO standards, the pedal board, but if he will travel to Europe, I don't think he will find organ in usual standards at all. It is rare in Europe actually.
Vidas: Yeah, you can find maybe at Paris Cathedral right, Notre Dame and many other famous places which were fitted specifically to AGO standards, and GDO standards German system is a little bit different too and a lot of European organs have this German system too. So, you need to adjust, I think. The more organs you play the better you will feel in any situation, I think.
Ausra: That's true.
Vidas: So let's continue, right. John writes further, „now that I am getting weekly lessons as compared to the occasional lesson once every so often on the pipe organ that didn't have a swell box, like many Dutch organs as I found out during the recent Dutch organ tour visiting Zutphen, Arnhem, Doesburg, Helmond, Roermond and others, all except for Doesburg organs are without swell boxes and no registration helps like thumb and pedal pistons.
He writes, „I am beginning to use the swell pedal more often and operating the swell pedal as it is not hidden in the music score as often is a problem, but I am slowly getting there I think.“ So Ausra, about swell pedals a little bit. When we don't have for example in our house we don't have a swell box, how do you practice pieces with swell box at home?
Ausra: Well I just imagine that I have a pedal and I am imitating that I am operating that pedal; opening it or closing it according to the score. And actually it helps.
Vidas: Yeah, you need to mentally visualize the swell box and place the right foot in approximate place.
Ausra: Yes, because even the swell pedal, you never know how it will be, because for example, like in our Philharmonic hall yes, on the Schucke organ, we have swell pedal which is far on the right side and it's really tricky to use it. So you just need to mentally adjust.
Vidas: Did you mention that the swell box operates in the opposite direction too?
Ausra: Yes. So it's kind of tricky.
Vidas: Yeah, but you need to adjust in your mind.
Ausra: Yes because if you are practicing the organ without the swell box and you will not imagine it, then you will get to the real organ with a swell pedal it will be a problem.
Vidas: So he writes further, „quickly changing stops, or even operating some pistons according to the score, isn't always easy either. There are often so many things to think of together, but it keeps you on your toes and it‘s an interesting hobby. So, John's main concern is as I understand, changing stops quickly right? By hand or by pistons, or toe pedals. How could he make this technique easier?
Ausra: Well, I think it will come with practice. The more he practices, the easier it will get. But for the beginning, for starters, you could use, maybe less registration changes if it bothers him a lot, and then he will get more comfortable with it, he can change as much as he needs.
Vidas: Do you remember the first time you had to change stops by hand, a long time ago probably, at the Academy of Music, right, or later? In Academy of Music we didn't practice that much with registrations.
Ausra: Well, in Lithuania it's funny, because you always just have assistants, even two of them on each side of the organ. But, and it's funny, like in the Academy of Music we had an organ with what 12 stops.
Vidas: Twelve or thirteen stops.
Ausra: Yes and still had at least one assistant.
Vidas: And sometimes two.
Ausra: Yes and sometimes two, but everything changed when we went to study to the States and we had to change registration by ourselves. It was a challenge for us at first, but I found out that its actually easier in some way to change registration for myself because I know exact spot where I have to change it. It makes actually my playing more musical.
Vidas: You slow down at this place.
Ausra: Yes, a little bit and it makes it good.
Vidas: You're prepared mentally.
Ausra: And then other assistants help me with registrations sometimes, we play things too early or too late. So I think it's better to do it yourself.
Vidas: Unless it is really, really too complicated.
Ausra: I know, yes. There is some type of music where it is probably impossible to assist yourself.
Vidas: Right. Remember at Music Academy we were in awe of one organist from abroad, but I don't remember, from Germany I think, he played Reger also on this Schucke little studio organ and he did everything by hand, and he operated swell pedal with his right foot you can say if you remember his name.
Vidas: Weinberger yeah! Weinberger was so virtuoso with his right foot on the imaginable swell pedal. And he did all kinds of virtuoso pedaling changes in order to accommodate swell pedal and also changed stops by hand. So, I think it comes with practice obviously. It's not an overnight adventure. Okay, then John, then later writes, „there are so many things to think of together when you play the organ but it keeps you on your toes and its an interesting hobby. Getting time to practice is also a problem and even more so that now I am retired.“
You see, people when the work right, during the day time, they have the day job and later in the evening perhaps they can practice the organ. But now, in John's case, he is retired and still he gets difficulty in finding time for practice. What would you suggest for him?
Ausra: Well I don't know. What would you suggest?
Vidas: Good question. Probably priorities right? You have to set your priorities straight. If I were in John's shoes, I would do a list of things I want to do. 25 most interesting things in my life I want to do. 25. Maybe every day, right, if I have that many. Then, cross out lower 20 and leave only the top five. And never think of the lower 20 again and you will find time for the top five things easy.
Ausra: That's a good suggestion.
Vidas: Because its just too much, life is short and you only live once and you have to concentrate on the most crucial things, the most things that make your life matter, right?
Vidas: And not all the passions are important I think, right? Your maybe top five. Concentrate on that and you will find you have enough time, I think. Excellent.
So he continues to write, „we are running a members for members concert this Saturday afternoon at the Scotch College Chapel which has an Allen Bravura L10, similar to mine. But then we have a Wurlitzer instead of an English organ selection. The other organs on that organ Baroque, French and American classics, are the same. Except for one or two stops it is a similar organ, so that means I can practice for my pieces at home. I am playing Largo by Gianbattista Martini, manuals-only piece and Louis Vierne's Communion on Opus 8 which needs some stop changes and swell pedal action.
We normally have real pipe organs for our Organ Society of western Australia functions, but haven't had a digital organ for some time, hence the decision for a recent Allen installation. Keep up the good work! I like your emails and appreciate your efforts. Kind regards. John.“
So Ausra, do you think that it is a benefit to have a similar organ at home and a similar organ in the recital?
Ausra: Well definitely. It saves some time and it makes you feel better.
Vidas: Right. It's a rare coincidence I think right, to have two similar organs at your disposal.
So guys, I hope this episode was useful to you. Please send more questions to us and the easiest way to do this is by becoming a subscriber to our blog at www.organduo.lt. You can receive the updates to our latest podcast episodes and you can reply to our messages via email and we can answer your questions on this podcast very easily then.
But please be patient because right now we have quite a number of future episodes lined up because people are really responding and sending us their questions. But make sure you wait, and if we don't respond right away with our answers, please know that they are on our radar and we will respond in the future ... in time, because other people are also sending many questions to us too. Wonderful!
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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