AVA249: My dream for my organ playing is to be confident with articulation, pedals, and registration as I accompany hymns
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 249 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by Sarah. She writes:
My dream for my organ playing:
To be confident with articulation, pedals, and registration as I accompany hymns; am I supporting congregational singing? I wish to be an excellent church organist.
Three things holding me back:
Here, I don't have anything holding me back. I just need to continue to practice, listen, and learn. I have just accepted a position as accompanist at an Anglican church. My background is in...you guessed it: piano and voice. I have had a few organ lessons and have played organ using pieces written for manuals only. I discovered you and am very grateful you are here. I need to put in the time at the organ. This is all doable. I am blessed with a supportive pastor and a beautiful small pipe organ for practice. Thank you for what you are doing. My plan is to work through my basics books and then enroll in your program.
V: So it seems that Sarah is on the right track.
A: True, seems like she’s very well organized. She knows what she wants. She has nice surroundings, she has organ, nice pastor support so I think she’s on a good track.
V: Of course because her major is voice and piano I think she needs to work on pedal playing more.
A: True and on articulation of course because it’s different on the piano and the organ.
V: And registration because it’s new.
V: But she knows that already.
A: That’s very nice.
V: There are not too many people who know what they need, right? Many people know what they want not too many people need to know what they need. Do you think there is a difference between needs and wants?
A: Sure, sure.
V: What do you need Ausra?
A: Many things.
V: And what do you want?
A: (laughs) Also, many things.
V: Same things or different?
A: Well probably different.
V: Different, yah. And a lot of times when people let’s say come to us with some form of question they write that they want to be such and such organist, to develop these skills and sometimes they don’t realize that they need in addition to that to happen something else too.
V: Because Sarah wishes to be an excellent church organist. That’s her dream in organ playing. And to be that organist she needs to be good with articulation, pedals, and registration in hymn playing because she is a church organist, right?
V: Is there anything else Ausra, that she doesn’t mention here that she needs.
A: I think also playing repertoire.
V: Ah, you are reading my mind.
A: It’s important too because you know any church service does not exist only with hymns because you have to play something at the beginning and at the end and maybe one piece in the middle or maybe two pieces in the middle depending on the service.
V: But if you go to any church in Vilnius and count those organists who play the repertoire for prelude and postlude or communion or offering do you think there are five people who do this?
A: Probably less than five.
V: Right so what are others playing then?
A: Well some are doing some kind of hymns.
V: Hymn playing, yah.
V: They are singing introductory hymn, opening hymn as a prelude which is not the same, right? And since in Lithuania people in clergy don’t notice, don’t know how to make quality church music. They are satisfied probably, they can’t complain.
A: True. But I think that even if you have an opening hymn you still have to have a prelude before it.
V: Like introduction.
V: So you think Sarah needs to learn how to introduce the hymns then.
A: True. Because I think it would be very nice to play some sort of improvising sort of prelude in the same key and the same similar style as the opening hymn. But maybe that would be too much for a beginner, for starters.
V: What if she played the first stanza of the hymn without singing, would that be a prelude?
A: Sure, why not. You could do that.
V: With different registration.
A: Yes, yes.
V: But of course when you do this often enough and with different types of hymns, little by little this becomes boring to you.
V: So at first Sarah might be satisfied with playing just the hymns but I know that in less than three months she will feel that she needs something else too. To learn to introduce the hymns properly and to create short hymn preludes.
A: Well yes and actually you can find even to buy some hymn introductions by other composers that might be suited well for the organist but I think it’s easier to create something on your own.
V: Would you buy those collections Ausra, yourself, today?
A: If I would be like twenty years ago then yes, I would buy but not now.
V: You would introduce yourself.
V: So, do you think Sarah needs to practice hymns and introductions for twenty years before she learns this skill.
A: I don’t think so. If I would know so much twenty years ago as I do now I would never do it.
V: Uh-huh. So it will come naturally to her if she practices and maybe some creative ways to introduce the hymn.
A: Maybe it’s good to study some of examples written by other composers what they have done and maybe she would find some ideas that she could use on her own.
V: Don’t you think she could take a look at Orgelbuchlein by Bach.
A: Yes, but it might be too complicated. The Orgelbuchlein is quite a source but…
V: What specifically is too complex there?
A: Well you know thick texture.
V: But then she could take a principle like one technique and try to use it in ten or twenty hymns in a row and they she will learn this specific technique with twenty hymns on the spot. That would be very handy skill to have, right?
V: OK guys, if you are in Sarah’s situation where you need to transfer your piano skills and singing skills to the organ to accompany hymns and you wish to learn the pedal playing and registration and articulation and you need to learn creative ways to introduce the hymns don’t be afraid to play just in two voices.
A: That’s true.
V: Soprano and the bass from the hymnal. And soprano could play the normal hymn line, the chorale melody, and the bass, what could the bass do then? Passages then?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: What else? Arpeggios?
A: Yes. There are many ways to approach it. You can do passages, you can do arpeggios, you could do alberti bass.
V: Um-hmm. It would sound like Krebs a little bit. So take a look at what Johann Ludwig Krebs did in his Clavier Übung Part I.
A: I think it would be easier for starters to look at Krebs Clavierubung and not probably Bachs Orgelbüchlein.
V: Yah, that’s right. They’re more systematic. Thank you guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions, we love helping you grow. And remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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