AVA248: Wanted to let you know that I received word that I passed the CAGO from the American Guild of Organists today
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 248 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by Jeremy, and Jeremy is on our team of people who transcribe our podcast conversations. So one day, he wrote that he received word that he passed the CAGO examination from the American Guild of Organists. And I asked him what the requirements were, and he writes:
I found out about three years ago that I need some type of long term goal to work towards in my life. The easiest thing was to become certificate in something. It began with my Masonic organization, which I received a Masonic Instructor in the state of Iowa.
I have been playing the organ for church for about ten years now and two years ago, I decided to take it more seriously by seeking out a teacher. Dr. Christiansen got me involved in the local AGO chapter, and encouraged me to work towards the Service Playing Certification and continued my education to get the Colleague certification. We now have a blood pact! If I take the Associate exam next year, he will take the Fellow exam.
That being said, the certification program up to this point has been very practical for me as a church musician--standard repertoire that I have used quite a bit in the service, hymn playing, transposing passages of music, sight reading, harmonization, and improvisation. All of these things I have used at some point in the last year. The most work for me came in the improvisation and transposition portions of the exam. I was introduced to this in the past, but it always remained theoretical and not practical. I have now incorporated these into my daily practice sessions. Your courses have helped out a lot with them, but I still have miles to go!
3 pieces of repertoire: Bach In dir ist freude; Parry Chorale prelude on Omnium Christe Redemptor, and Alain Variations on a theme of Clement Janequin.
2 anthems: Britton's Jubilate Deo and Dupre's Ave Maria.
Improvising an 8ish bar piece modulating between two keys.
Sight reading a short three staff piece.
Harmonizing a folk tune.
Short prelude and hymn playing on two hymns.
Transposing a hymn into two keys. A half step up and a step down.
The improvisation and transposition were the most difficult part. I am reviewing your transposition course and your prelude in Baroque style course. Also, the complaints for the most part were about tempi. Too slow.
V: So, let’s congratulate Jeremy about this great achievement. Right Ausra?
A: True. It takes courage, you know, to do something like this.
V: We have a Colleague, his name is Paulus, and he also wants to take the AGO Service Playing Certificate test. And he needs to practice; he needs to focus his efforts during the year, learn a lot of repertoire, and I know that it’s a challenge for him, too.
A: Yes, it seems like he’s postponing it all the time.
V: Yes, I haven’t heard about his decision lately to take this test. Maybe we should ask him. But Jeremy took the AGO colleague certification exam and passed, actually. So, that’s a big achievement. And next year, maybe if he has this motivation with Dr. Christianson to take the Associate exam, then that would also be a wonderful step—a big step forward.
A: True. I think it’s wonderful that America has this program, and that you can get a certificate without entering to the University or a college.
V: Plus, he has this “blood pact,” as he writes, with Dr. Christianson. And, when you have a mentor like this who is also involved in taking an exam, maybe, at the Fellow level, they both motivate each other, right?
V: And that’s probably invaluable to have a partner in crime, so to speak.
A: I think that way it’s easier to achieve something than to do it alone, by yourself.
V: Yes, that’s why we figured out we need to have those improvisation competitions for people to advance together—to learn to improvise together, too, on Steemit. And also, Jeremy writes that improvisation and transposition were the most difficult part. Why do you think this was the case, Ausra?
A: Well, because these are the hardest requirements, to transpose and to improvise.
V: And why do you people struggle with this? Why can’t people, let’s say, transpose as easily as they can sight read?
V: It’s a stupid question, I know.
A: That’s an interesting question. I guess it depends on how hard the piece is itself. Sometimes it might be harder to sight read, and sometimes it might be harder to transpose. But transposition—I think it’s something inside us that prevents us, because we sort of look at that assignment as a hard one, but it’s not that hard. Transposition is not that hard. You just need to do it regularly. Maybe take some exercises in the C clefs, that would help you to transpose easier. And of course, the skill of transposition will help you to improvise, too.
V: Would you think that improvisation would help to transpose, too.
A: Yes, I think these two assignments are related somehow.
V: Because, when you improvise, you need to transpose the theme a lot of times.
V: And when you transpose, you don’t need to improvise, but you need to read the music and to move it to either another either clef or key or position on the staff. So, this skill, of course, would develop with improvisation, moving the melody around. And that’s why it helps with improvisation.
A: True. And you know, with transposing, you need to know that there are three ways to transpose, and each time, you need to select which way is more comfortable in a given situation.
V: For example…
A: As Jeremy wrote, that he needs to, for example, transpose a half step. Usually, that’s the easiest way to transpose, when you only need to transpose a half step, because then, you just change, in your mind, the key signatures. Let’s say you need to transpose from D major to D flat major. You just change in your mind 2 sharps with 5 flats.
V: And 2 pus 5 is 7. So the sum of those two accidentals, when you do this half step, is always 7.
A: And most of the time you can do that. Of course, you will say that, “Ok, if I have G major and I have to transpose a half step higher, how would I do it?” You can still do it. In that case you will have to imagine, for the key signature, 6 sharps and 1 double sharp, because it would be the key of G# major. And it still works. I think some of the piano composers such as Chopin used this key occasionally in their compositions.
V: Yeah, you’re right. And would would be the last way to transpose?
A: Well, the second way...
V: The second way.
A: ...would be to change the clef. I don’t know how well you are acquainted with the C clefs, but basically using those 5 C clefs, you can transpose pieces in any way.
V: And F clefs. You need F clefs, too.
A: F clefs, too.
V: So, on the first line, we have Soprano clef. On the second line, we have Mezzo Soprano clef. On the third line, we have Alto clef. What else?
A: Then Tenor clef on the fourth line, and then above, you have the Baritone clef.
V: Aha, and what kind of C are we talking about?
A: C clef always marks the C of the middle octave. So, if you have the soprano clef, it means you have the C note on the lowest line of the staff.
V: And there are three F clefs, right?
A: Yes. The one that we know so well,
V: Bass clef.
A: Bass clef.
V: Which is F on the fourth line.
V: Then F on the middle line, which is called Baritone clef. Then the one on the fifth line, it’s called Basso Profundo clef, which is the lowest.
V: But all three clefs indicate the tenor F, either on the third line, fourth line, or the fifth line.
A: And there is also the old French treble clef, which is located on the first line.
V: So this is G clef then, on the first line.
A: Yes, is the G clef. So, basically two G clefs, then three F clefs then five C clefs.
V: Oh, so there are 10 clefs, right? You only need to know 10 clefs.
A: I know.
V: And, if you know 10 clefs, you know everything.
A: And, it seems hard at the beginning, but if you work with those clefs, the transposing will become very easy at the end of it. And, of course, you can always transpose on a given interval. And you use this system when you need to transpose probably to change by a major third, or a fourth…
V: Whatever interval you want.
A: Whatever interval you want.
V: Not more than a perfect fourth or a tritone, because a perfect fifth is an inversion of the fourth.
V: Excellent! Guys, please try it out at home. It’s not dangerous; you will not hurt yourself, unless you do it too much, and then what happens Ausra?
A: I don’t know, you will get sick, probably.
V: <laughing> I see, ok. This was Vidas,
A: and Ausra.
V: 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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