AVA230: The Total Organist courses are excellent for me because I can brush up all the things that I have already studied since I was young and learn new ones
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 230, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Ronald. He writes:
The programme that I have thought of studying for the diploma is the following:
1. Buxtehude Prelude and Fugue in D, BuxWV 139 (c. 6 mins)
2. Franck Prelude, Fugue and Variation in B minor , Op.18: no 3 from '6 Pieces' (c.11 mins)
3. Stanford Postlude in D minor: no 6 from '6 Short Preludes and Postludes, 2nd Set, Op 105 (c.5 mins 30 secs)
4. Bach Chorale Prelude "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme", BWV 645 (c 4mins)
5. Jongen Petit Prelude (c. 3 mins)
6. Vierne Symphonie No 1 in D minor, Op.14; 6th movement, Finale (c 6 mins 30 secs)
The total programme duration is around 36 mins. I am not young. I am 52, work as a self-employed accountant and also hold a Masters in Environmental Planning and Management which I use in my role as a member of the Maltese Catholic Church Environment Commission. Some 13 years ago I had obtained a Diploma in Music Studies from the University of Malta focusing on organ performance and composition. I still do some composition every now and then. Currently I am finalising a Christmas Carol for SATB and children's choir accompanied by harp and organ. I had studied for the ABRSM grades in piano and organ and obtained distinction in Grades 6-8 in both instruments. I am the organist of a choir in Malta called Jubilate Deo directed by Christopher Muscat. I therefore have frequent occasions to play in church.
My challenge now is to stick to a timetable and practice programme in order to sit for the organ diploma. The Total Organist courses are excellent for me because I can brush up all the things that I have already studied since I was young and learn new ones. There are ALWAYS gaps in knowledge which can be excellently filled by the online courses that you provide.
Thanks a lot for your interest.
V: So, Ausra, Ronald is preparing for the ABRSM diploma, exam, right?
A: Yes, true.
V: And he has to prepare about 36 minutes of organ program for that. From the pieces that I have mentioned before, in your opinion, what is the most difficult, or some of them. What are the most difficult.
A: I would say probably the Vierne Finale from 1st Symphony.
A: Then of course there might be like couple not so comfortable spots in Bach’s Chorale "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme", BWV 645. Overall it’s not a hard chorale, but those spots where the third voice comes in are harder.
V: Mmm-hmm. So it seems that those six pieces are arranged in the order that could be performed as a recital, short recital.
A: True. True. Very nice program, I would say.
V: Mmm-mmm. You start with Baroque piece, then Romantic piece, and so on. I see the alternation between loud and soft dynamic colors. And fast and slow movements too; that’s a nice variety.
A: Yes, I think so, yes. I think that’s a very nice program.
V: So, his challenge is of course to stick to a time table, and being able to practice the program, you know, in a timely fashion, that he can prepare for the diploma on time. Of course this is a challenge when you have a short recital program like that. But, do you think that having a goal like this helps?
A: Sure. Because it always pushes you forward.
V: It’s even better probably than having a goal of playing a recital because it’s an examination. It’s even more, it’s like a competition.
A: What about you? Were you worrying more and preparing more than you were preparing a degree recital, or just a regular recital?
V: Probably, to me at that time it was a routine work because so many recitals came out, one after another. And we both spent, you know, we were immersed in this study all year round. And yes, it motivated me to not procrastinate and to play every day. What about you, Ausra? Do you like deadlines and due dates.
A: No, I hate those. I don’t know, somehow, sometimes it motivates me but sometimes it just kills me. Demotivates. But you know, while preparing for degree recital was always fun and was a lot of pleasure because for a degree recital you would always learn new pieces of music. You would never repeat your old music.
V: Of course if you can choose those pieces yourself, then its even more fun, right. They’re yours.
V: So hope that Ronald chose those pieces himself, at least some of them. And he’s eager to learn them.
V: It’s not like a burden to him but he would probably learn them anyway, without even preparing for the diploma.
A: True, because it’s classical pieces for any organist.
V: And it’s good to have in your repertoire, anyway.
A: Sure. Because as you told earlier, some are shorter, some are longer, some are loud, some are soft. Some are virtuosic some are lyric in character.
V: And he mentions that he frequently plays in church, so he can play one or two pieces all the time, alternate those and in immerse himself in public performance.
A: Yes because you know some would work nicely as preludes or postludes. For example Buxtehude or Vierne. And some would work very nicely as, I don’t know, elevation pieces, or communion pieces. For example, you know, he could play Franck’s Preludes, Fugue and Variation, like in three different methods for, let’s say communion. Do preludes in one mass and then fugue in another mass and variation in another mass. Because he has such a soft, nice, I would say sad character. It’s used I think in communion main very well, although it’s a three piece.
V: Ronald writes that he’s a self-employed accountant. So being self-employed of course might add you flexibility in your day. You can work whenever you want, basically. But it also adds you pressure, right? Because you have to find the work yourself. Risk.
V: More risk.
A: So, more freedom but more pressure, probably.
V: Mmm-hmm. With freedom of course, it’s a good thing because he can then prioritize his time and say that, let’s say, this diploma preparation on the organ, is important for him.
V: And do it first thing in the morning, let’s say. I don’t know if he has an access to a keyboard at the home. Because probably he is not at church all day long.
V: It could be. It’s better to have an instrument at hand, even without pedals. Right Ausra?
A: Yes! That’s true. It’s always nice to have an access to an instrument, at any time.
V: You wake up early in the morning, and you do the thing that’s the most important to you first, creatively, let’s say.
A: Yes, and your neighbors are so happy about that, yes? If you live, for example in an apartment building.
V: In this case, sometimes people have electronic keyboards, with headphones, right Ausra?
V: Do you like electronic keyboards?
A: No, and you know that. So what are you asking me?
V: Because other people don't know.
A: I think they who listen carefully to all our podcasts, they know my opinion about real things.
V: I see. That’s why we bought a mechanical action pipe organ which only has two stops, at home.
V: But’s it real, instead of, you know, electronic version with three or five manuals.
A: True. But it’s still costs much more to have mechanical instrument.
V: And it lasts longer.
V: With decent, probably, care and maintenance. Anyway, so, the challenge is of course to Ronald is to get motivated every single day, to sit on the organ bench. But since he has a goal, it’s already built-in. Motivation is built-in.
A: I think, thinking about the diploma that he will receive after he accomplishes this program. I think he (it) should be well motivation for him.
V: Yeah. Maybe this diploma will help him find a decent church position.
A: Yes. I think that’s what he is looking forward for.
V: Or maybe his current church position will elevate him to a higher level of income, maybe. If the church officials recognize this diploma.
V: In Malta.
V: Okay. What would you suggest for Ronald in terms of scheduling and being able to know if he is on track with his program? You know, step by step?
A: Well, of course, I would start learning from harder pieces. Such as Vierne, Bach, probably Buxtehude, Franck, and you know to learn text first and then to progress further things. Musical things.
V: I would probably also suggest calculating lines of organ music that he has to learn, and the days that he has to be ready. And he has to prepare probably two months before the date. Don’t you think?
A: No, at least a month before, at the very least.
V: A month is very risky, for non-professionals. Risky! But two months would give him plenty of time to improve his current level. So, for him would be good to calculate the lines and divide those lines in days. And then he will know how many lines he has to learn per day.
A: True. But you know, but just counting the lines wouldn’t do the same, because some lines can be very easy but some can be really hard.
V: It’s an average, I think. It’s, at the end it will average out, and, as you say, some things are easy, some things difficult. So on average, it will be okay. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. This is really fun to help you grow. And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
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