This question is much broader than simply playing organ compositions better during recital. It involves things like relationship of the organist to the listener, general musical education level of the listeners and their expectations, among other things.
Having this in mind, here are a few basic ideas which may help you to ensure that your recital will be appreciated by the audience.
1. Know your listener. What are his dreams, wants, desires, problems, fears? What keeps him awake at night? What is his worldview? How do you encounter him in a way that he trusts you? What are you trying to change in your listener?
2. Connect with your listeners through stories. Story-telling during the recital is a powerful tool which an organist should take advantage of. You can give interesting facts and details about the composer, the music, and the instrument which your audience can relate to. This way people can get much more out of your recital.
3. Choose a repertoire in a meaningful way. Remember that it's the listener that matters, not you. If you play average music for average people, there won't be much connection with your listeners. Instead, if you could program a remarkable recital with pieces that your listeners care deeply about, then you might be on to something. Remember the principle of variety - slow-fast, sad-joyful, loud-soft etc. Thematic recitals work splendidly in this case.
4. Keep in mind your instrument. Try not to play the music which doesn't work for your type of organ. Organ repertoire is vast and surely you can find an interesting program which suits your instrument well.
5. Develop your relationship with listeners beyond your recital. Start a blog, write a newsletter, create a video lecture or two, collect emails through a hand-out during the recital, interact with your fans through social media. These things really help you connect and lead your fan base.
A final note: less is more. In case of doubt, always program less music than you want. It's better to leave the listeners wanting for more than to be annoying and overwhelming.
What things do you use to keep your audience engaged during your recitals? Share your thoughts in comments.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.