Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 293 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jeremy, and he writes that he struggles with finding practice time.
V: Ausra, do you struggle finding practice time this week when you started teaching?
A: Of course! But sometimes, I feel sort of strange, because people might think that we are magicians. And they write to us asking about having more time to practice and we will make more time for them to practice. What do you think? Don’t you feel the same way?
V: Well, sometimes just a few words of encouragement can go a long way. But, obviously, deep inside people know that real steps have to be taken by themselves if playing is important to them—important enough. Right? A person, not necessarily Jeremy, but anybody could say that organ playing is important on the surface, and they might have a lot of CDs in their collection, even listen to a lot of YouTube videos of their favorite organ music, they could read a lot of organ related books, they could go to organ related concerts, they could buy even an instrument—used instrument or some kind of electronic organ at home to practice. They would invest everything. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that person will sit down on the bench.
A: But maybe they need all that other activity just to get inspiration! Don’t you think so? Because sometimes listening to a good recording or going to a concert is worth very much.
V: Yes, for example, last week we went to a few concerts of an early music festival, which we also played in last week, too, which is called Banchetto Musicale. We know the organizers, and we absolutely love the kind of music they promote, but it would be, I think, counterproductive to just go that week to all the concerts but never touch the organ ourselves. Don’t you think?
A: I know, but it’s funny you are talking about last week when we both played that recital in that festival of the early music, and then you went to Liepāja and performed a solo recital—improvised recital—and basically killed that Liepājas organ!
V: Yes, shall I talk a little bit about that?
A: Yes, you need to tell everybody about it.
V: Ok. Liepāja—the city about 70,000 people living there on the Baltic coast, in the southwestern corner of Latvia, about 100 kilometers from the city I grew up in Klaipėda. So basically, it’s a very nice city on the coast, and it has a wonderful Lutheran Cathedral—Holy Trinity Cathedral—which houses sort of the largest mechanical organ in the world, with 131 stops. Even larger than Sydney town hall organ, because Sydney town hall organ has 127 stops and tubular pneumatic action, not mechanical. So, it’s completely in original condition, and it has all those mechanical devices which you would have in mechanical action organs at the time, from 1885. And, this is such a mammoth, magnificent and gigantic organ, that sometimes you are at a loss, where are your stops! It’s a sea of stops—a sea of handles. Various colors notate various divisions, and you have to get used to that. In my case, I’ve been playing there already the third time there last weekend, so it wasn’t a new experience for me, and in order to prepare for that recital, I simply watched my own videos. On that organ, I made a few demonstrations a few years ago, and I refreshed my memory where the divisions are located. But since I improvised everything, and my theme was David and Goliath, the biblical story, I didn’t need to be very strict with my music, because I was improvising on the spot, and choosing the stops on the spot as well. So, what I did is I practiced on the organ one hour, only one hour before the concert in the morning of Saturday, and in the evening, I played this recital.
A: But you’d better tell us about your grand finale!
V: Grand finale… yes! I thought that my grand finale should be very joyful and solemn, that David must have killed that giant, Goliath, and I planned to finish on Fortissimo sounds, but, to my surprise, the electricity of the motor or the blower went off, and at that time, luckily, I was playing rather softly, with soft registration, and after a few seconds, the organ sounds stopped. So, it might might mean that I killed the Goliath! David killed Goliath!
A: So the organ was like Goliath, yes? And you were like David yourself.
V: Yes, one of the interpretations could be that way. And, at first, I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to do! I kept pushing and pulling that organ blower stop with hopes that it will come to life again, and I did this while sitting on the bench for several minutes, and this recital was broadcast down to the pews on the big large screen! Two cameras were filming me from both sides, and people obviously were seeing me work with my hands but didn’t know what I’m doing, because there was no sound at the time. So, when I finally gave up, I stood up, and took a bow, and then they finally started clapping. And then I went downstairs to take a bow again, and that was the end. So, then I asked the local organist what happened, and he said that this happens from time to time with this organ, and he needs to call an organ builder. I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the first one to break this organ! It’s basically, maybe, some contacts. Some wiring was not in the right place, in the right order.
A: That’s a fascinating story! I hope it will encourage people to practice, and maybe Jeremy might listen to your talk, will squeeze some practice time in his schedule.
V: Do you know why I think people could squeeze some practice into their day, at least 15 minutes? In my case, it’s because for the last two weeks, every day of the week before this Liepāja recital, I went to the church to practice my improvisations, and I even broadcast my improvisations on Facebook Live, that I don’t usually do, and this gave me motivation. Like, I knew my concert is coming up, and if I don’t sit down today, I missed one day, and tomorrow my fingers will be weaker, my creative muscle will atrophy a little bit, and in the long run it will affect my playing. So, I kept motivating myself through this public accountability, through deadline approaching to my recital, and also through broadcasting my live organ videos. I’m not saying, Ausra, that Jeremy should necessarily broadcast himself. He can if he wants to, but having a deadline, that really helps.
A: Yes. Pushing yourself forward.
V: Do you like deadlines, Ausra?
A: No, I don’t like them. But sometimes, they are necessary, as taking your medicine.
V: Would you practice less or more if you didn’t have public recitals lined up 5 years from now?
A: Probably less.
V: Me, too. I remember, there was a time after we returned from the United States studies, and in one half year, six months, I didn’t have planned recitals, and I didn’t practice everyday. I even didn’t touch organ keys for weeks or even months, I think. But now it’s obviously different, because I make those public performances to happen, and I make the time to prepare for them.
A: Good for you.
V: So you will practice a little today Ausra?
V: Even though you’re starting to prepare for your Notre Dame recital, right?
A: Which will come in 2 years!
V: Will you be inviting myself to come along to help you out with packing and carrying your stuff?
A: That’s usually actually I help you with YOUR packing! So...
V: So, I’ll stay at home, and you go to Paris!
A: No! You can carry my bag!
V: Bag, yes! Excellent. But that will happen only in the summer of 2020.
V: And you will have to play what kind of pieces?
A: Well, Bach, Alain, and Franck…
V: Bach E♭ major, right?
V: Prelude and Fugue. Alain Second Fantasie?
V: And what about Franck?
A: The second Chorale B minor.
V: Wonderful piece. Not too easy. Thank you guys, this was Vidas,
A: And Ausra.
V: And please remember to practice today. We also will go to the organ bench and play something. Maybe not too much, after those exhausting days last week, but still, we need to sit down at least for a few moments to play something. This is really helpful, because 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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