Yesterday evening in our church there was a memorial service dedicated to those members of the university community who died this year. I improvised 4 pieces on the organ for Prelude, Offertory, Communion and Postlude. Now I'd like to share with you these videos and hope you will enjoy listening to them.
Prelude - Requiem aeternam
Offertory - Domine Iesu Christe
Communion - Lux aeterna
Postlude - Dies irae
Yesterday also I was contacted by one of my former music history teachers at Klaipeda E. Balsys Art Gymnasium which I graduated from back in 1994. She runs music theory department there now. She noticed how much I travel with recitals and improvise and wanted me to share something with the school as well. She hope she can organize my meeting with the current students. I wrote to her that I will have to investigate the possibilities and thanked her for the invitation.
By the way, a long time ago it was she who gave me a gift of the copy of "Graduale Triplex" Gregorian chant book which I use even today for my improvisations and compositions.
If I go, I would definitely want to share my online experiences and introduce students and teachers to Steem and blockchain.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 499 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Joanna, and she writes:
I bought a copy of Vieux Noel by Cesar Franck from your website. I wanted to ask you something which I do not understand. What are the numbers at the beginning of the piece...number 1, number 4 and number 0 in a circle?
Regards and thanks
V: First of all, Ausra, we’re approaching soon episode 500! This is exciting!
A: True, it is exciting.
V: The next will be 500.
A: I didn’t think we would survive for such a long time with our podcast.
V: It’s a small milestone to celebrate. How will we celebrate?
A: I don’t know, maybe practice something on the organ!
V: No! I already practiced on the organ something today.
A: You can’t practice too much!
V: Maybe I’ll eat a cookie.
A: That’s a good idea.
V: And you?
A: Then I’ll eat a cookie, too.
V: My cookie?
A: No, another cookie!
V: We have enough cookies for both of us.
V: Okay. So Joanna bought a copy of one piece by Cesar Franck from his cycle “L’Organiste.” This collection is created to be played on either pipe organ or harmonium—French harmonium. In other countries, they are called “reed organ,” or in German, “Phisharmonium.” Basically, they’re a little bit different, but the idea is the same. You pump the two pedals, and therefore your two feet are busy. You cannot play with your feet as with pipe organs on the pedal board. But, I have seen, actually, an electric harmonium which has an electric blower, and then you have a pedal board. You have seen this, too!
A: So, how is this different from the organ then?
V: Because it doesn’t have pipes, it only has free reeds vibrating, like in a harmonium.
A: Harmonium actually reminds me of an accordion.
V: Yeah, it has those bellows, and the same type of reeds. You know where we saw this instrument… I’m not sure if you were there… in the house of the priest/organist, Gracijus Sakalauskas.
A: No, I haven’t seen it.
V: You haven’t been there?
V: He was, for a long time an advisor, I think, for an organ building company from Marijampolė, and he also is a priest, but he is, or was, trained as an organist as well. So, I think during one concert of our organ studio of professor Leopoldas Digrys, a few of us went to perform at some church in that region, and we had a dinner, and we visited this priest’s house, and he had this electric harmonium. This was nice.
A: So, what do you think about the collection?
V: So the collection… before last summer, I started sight-reading these pieces and recording them on videos, and putting the cameras above the keyboards, so that the hands would be clearly visible, with the hope that people would find the fingering useful that later, our team has transcribed from those videos. And apparently, Joanna wants to learn a piece from the suite suitable to be played for Christmas time. It’s, I think, in the middle of this collection, and this Noël is just one part of this suite. It’s a very interesting collection. It has, I think, seven suites in seven keys, major and minor keys. So the first is C, the second is C-sharp, the third is D, and the fourth is E-flat, and so on. It goes up chromatically. And in each suite, you have, I think, seven pieces suitable to be played for liturgy. Six pieces, plus either offertorium or the Sortie.
A: I think it’s a wonderful collection for church musicians, because the pieces are easily done, quite easily done, but they sound like solid pieces of music.
V: Yes, they are not crappy compositions at all.
A: They are really aesthetically pleasing, and you know, it’s worth it to have this collection if you are a church musician—a church organist.
V: And you could be a highly strained organist, but you can still sight-read them, and your congregation would definitely enjoy them.
A: So now, could you explain about those numbers, what they mean?
V: The numbers refer to the stops on the French Harmonium. In this particular Vieux Noël, there is #1, #4, and 0. So, I copied those numbers, indications of those stops, on the French harmonium from the collection, and one is Cor Anglais 8’. Cor Anglais is a reed sort of similar to the oboe, maybe, but only in the bass register. Right? Because French Harmonium has a divided keyboard: Bass from C to E1, and then treble from F1 to C4. So basically, #1 is Cor Anglais 8’, and #4 is Basson 8’ level. So here you have two stops of 8’ level. And then 0 means “Forté.” 0 means “Forté”, which basically I adapted to pipe organ and wrote my own registration suggestions using only 8’ stops. You obviously have to adapt. You don’t have to play everything with reeds here. What do you think, Ausra?
A: Sure, of course! Not every organ has reeds at all, so…
V: Maybe I should just mention other numbers. #2 is in the bass. #2 is Bourdon 16’, #3 is Clairon 4’, #4 is Basson, as I said, #5 Harp Aeolean 2’, and then is Forté. In the treble, #1 is Flute 8’, #2 Clarinet 16’, #3 Flageolet 4’, #4 is Hautbois 8’, #5 is Musette 16’, and 0 is Forté again.
A: So what if you don’t have a divided keyboard as it is on the Harmonium?
V: Then sometimes you need two keyboards.
A: Two manuals.
V: Two manuals, yeah. But not on this piece. Probably not on this piece. I have to double check, though, but not all of them required separate stops for the solo voice. So yes, having those markings in your head, you can adapt to any pipe organ that you want, even on an electronic organ. You just have to be mindful of the pitch levels: 16’, 8’, and 4’, and dynamic levels. If it’s 0, then it’s forté, and you can also sometimes find the letter G in the score, and G means Grand Orgue. Grand Orgue means like Tutti.
A: That’s right.
V: So most of the stops together. Okay, so that’s the idea of playing this piece. Alright, guys, please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. This was Vidas,
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen!
Here's my entry to Sonic Groove Live Week 10. I'm improvising a piece based on the Alleluia verse "Verbo Domini" of the Gregorian chant. I'm playing it on Flute 4' stops.
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 524, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Mark. And he writes:
Hello I am 63 years old and have had a stroke on my left side. I fell and banged my head and had a further brain injury. I can still play but things feel different. I have reduced feeling in my fingers. I am trying to retrain myself. My muscle memory is just not there. My sight reading is much harder. I have a Rodgers organ at home so I have no trouble practicing. I sometimes feel like I am beating a dead horse. I have Hauptwerk and can play a nice Father Willis organ with it. Any suggestions for something I could do?
V: I wrote him a short answer:
Thanks Mark! Look forward to our answer on the podcast.
In short—don't overextend yourself and enjoy every moment of your practice, even if it seems slow.
V: What can you add, Ausra?
A: Well that’s a sort of a very difficult issue to discuss because I’m not a medical doctor but I think our brain is remarkable in that way that it’s very flexible and it tends to recover.
A: Even after such a serious illness as a stroke. So I guess you just have to take things easy and take a slow steps, not rush yourself. And I think eventually you will regain your abilities that you had before the stroke. Maybe not one-hundred percent but still I think it will become easier and better with each day. I think the worse thing in the situation like this what you could do is to do nothing.
V: Or to push yourself too hard.
A: Yes! That’s two extremes that you should avoid—doing nothing and to doing maximum out of yourself. I think you need to be somewhere in the middle. But anyway I think that in a rehabilitation process the physical activity is crucial. You will not recover without it. So I think also in addition to practicing organ, you need to do your physical therapy as well.
V: Mmm-hmm. All kinds of exercises.
A: Yes but of course you need to consult your doctor.
V: Yeah. We don’t know exactly what works for you.
A: But I guess you have to find the right balance for yourself in your life, how much can you do and what you need to avoid.
V: You know, people who have suffered a stroke or a heart attack, for example, those severe life threatening situations, and if they recovered like Mark, for example, they need to take life not so seriously any more. Don’t you think? Maybe let themselves enjoy a little.
A: I guess it’s easier to say than to do.
V: Why? After this experiment, experience, right?
A: I guess nobody of us knows what is waiting of us. So I guess we just have to receive every day as a gift...
A: and enjoy it, and live it.
V: Yes. It would be a mistake to try to fight the situation and say ‘okay, I will push myself even more, and my muscle memory will return faster, and my sight-reading will become much better really fast, next week’, for example. That would be a mistake, I think.
A: I think enjoying the moment…
V: The moment, yes.
A: is most important thing and the further we live, the more obstacles we get in our may, the better we understand this crucial thing, that we need to really enjoy the moment.
V: He sometimes feels like he is beating a dead horse. It’s an expression saying that he doesn’t feel any progress probably.
A: Well, but even if he only trying to do it is already a progress. Because think about all those people after stroke who either die…
A: or they just become…
A: inactive at all, and they stay on their bed for many, many years.
A: I know people like that in my relations, my relatives.
A: We have a women who is now probably seven years lying in bed. So I guess if you can move after [a] stroke and do something, it’s still very, very good. So you don’t need to rush progress and I think you will get stronger and better with each day.
V: You’re not a physician. You’re not a doctor, but do you think that walking would not hurt him? Talking walks, you know.
A: I think in general, walking is the most beneficial exercise for people who have trouble with their physical health.
V: Unless they have knee problems, hip problems…
A; Of course, but in general…
V: Those mechanical.
A: I think for people who have heart conditions and other problems, I think walking is very beneficial because you can, you regulate the tempo of your walking. You don’t need to rush. You may walk slowly and maybe with time to increase the speed of your steps.
V: And the distance too.
A: And distance too. And now we have all these Fitbit sort of…
A: smartwatches, and you can see what your pulse is and how it reacts to the tempo you are taking. So you can regulate it much, much easier, than in any other physical activities. So I guess the walking is the most harmless exercise, as least I understand it.
V: Will we go for a walk today?
A: Yes, I guess.
V: After this recording.
A: True. But of course if you have trouble walking, maybe swimming might be useful too, or some exercises in the swimming pool. For some people especially if they have leg joint problems...
A: the water smooths the damage to the joints. But you can still exercise.
V: Does reading help?
A: What do you think about that?
V: Well, you are the smart one here!
A: (Laughs). Well I think that walking or swimming helps more in such a case.
V: Than brain activity?
A: Of course you have to combine both things but…
V: So organ playing is also a combination of mental and physical activity too.
A: But of course you need to take things slowly and easy and not to overwhelm yourself with either physical or mental exercise, especially after such a difficult events...
A: and serious ones.
V: Always remember that practice is privilege, like our professor Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra used to say.
A: But I guess playing organ is a good idea for people like this because it really works on your coordination and on your brain and on your muscles. On your motor motions.
V: Yes. So please guys, send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
@contrabourdon asked me today what I'm going to do today and I was just finished with recording my 3 improvisations for today and said that I'm ready to transcribe a Bach cantata for organ duet.
However, I got side-tracked into composing this 3rd part of my cycle "Organ ABC". It's called @contrabourdon! By the way, Contrabourdon is a very low sounding organ pedal stop...
So @contrabourdon said he will play it for the contest and I recorded a video where my hands and feet are visible so that @drugelis can add fingering and pedaling to it.
When I came to my church this morning, I live-streamed 3 of my improvisations on Facebook and later uploaded them to YouTube and would like to share it with you here. They are based on Gregorian chant melodies recommended to be sung this week (31st Week in Ordinary time). I have this Graduale Romanum book with me which I like to use as a basis for my music. Hope you enjoy them.
O quam bonus
By improvising them in public I'm preparing myself for an upcoming improvisation recital on November 16 in my church. It will be based on the poems of Baroque Jesuit poet Sarbievijus who worked in Vilnius in the 17th century. The poems will be read between my improvisations.
Check out my free 10 Organ Playing Mini Course:
Luckily, the light of the organ was switched off this morning when I came to my church to practice. First, I improvised my entry to Whaleshares Open Mic Contest Week 55. It's based on the Gradual of Gregorian chant "Suscepimus, Deus".
Have you ever wanted to start to practice on the organ but found yourself sidetracked after a few days? Apparently your inner motivation wasn't enough.
I know how you feel. I also was stuck many times. What helped me was to find some external motivation as well.
In order for you to advance your organ playing skills and help you motivate to practice, my wife Ausra - @laputis and I invite you to join in a contest to submit your organ music and win some Steem.
Are you an experienced organist? You can participate easily. Are you a beginner? No problem. This contest is open to every organ music loving Steemian.
Here are the rules
Thank you everyone for participating and voting! You all made us very happy with your entries. We all have selected the following winners.
I got 50% raise today!
Went to my church to play for the Mass and upon greeting me the sacristan gave me 30 Euros. They would normally pay me 20 Euros so this is nice raise. But considering it's the first one since we had Euro from 2015, I think it's not that much because the prices have risen considerably too. Plus, I had to politely ask for it at the end of the summer.
I went to the organ balcony where I saw a microphone set up for me to sing. I turned on the light switch on the wall and got ready to play and sing. During the Mass I sang Sanctus and Agnus Dei parts from my own Mass of the 1st tone and went downstairs to sing a psalm with Alleluia between scripture readings.
For my organ improvisations I used themes of the Gregorian chant melodies suited for today.
The Prelude was based on Ne derelinguas me, Domine. It's a chant in the 7th mode with the start and end on the tone G while the tenor tone is D. I used 2 flutes and Viola Gamba of Oberwerk division for the solo voice and strings with Flute 8' on the Swell division for the accompaniment in the left hand. The pedals played with 16' and 8' foundation stops.
The Offertory was based on Benedic anima mea Domino. It's a chant based on the 5th mode with the starting and ending tone on F and tenor tone on C. My right hand played the melody with the Unda Maris, Salicional and Flauto Major stops, the accompanying parts played on the Flutes 8' and 4' of the Swell division and 16' and 8' foundation stops in the pedals.
The Communion was based on Notas mihi fecisti. Like the Prelude the chant melody is written in the 7th mode. I juxtaposed two stop combinations here - a flute in the right hand played with quick 16th-note rhythms with strings and Principal 16', Salicional and Flauto Major played with chords.
I live-streamed Prelude, Offertory and Communion on Facebook and later uploaded the videos to YouTube. But I forgot to press "Record" on the Postlude so there is no evidence here but I can tell you it was a loud piece with mixtures and reeds based on the opening fragments of all 3 previous themes to end the suite. Some members of the congregation left to listen to it and applauded at the end which was nice ( I took a bow).
After the Mass I pushed in the organ stops, disconnected the microphone and took it to sacristy for safe keeping. Said "Good bye" to the sacristan and the security guard and left for my car. On my way back home I remembered that I didn't turn off the light on the wall probably because of all the excitement about the raise so I called the security guard and asked to check it out. He promised to turn it off. I'll find out if he did tomorrow morning.
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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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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.