SOPP318: Happy Halloween - "please do not suggest a psychologist, for I did see one for three years and not help"
Happy Halloween everyone! Will you be playing scary organ music tonight? I hope you will... I will certainly be playing organ music of Teisutis Makacinas. It will scare off some neighbors who will be trick-or-treating for sure. If nobody will show up at our door, perhaps I can scare Ausra at least... :)
And now let's go to the podcast for today.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 318 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Sjouke and he writes:
“Hi Vidas and Ausra,
Today I have finished a morning practice session for about 2 and a half hrs, and than after that I was done for, meaning very tired. I get that way, my back is hurting and between my shoulder blades etc. Although I am not very good at it, playing the organ that is, still I try to get to the church at least once a week, because others also want time behind the organ, which is understandable and I do not begrudge them that, and I am working at trying to get a key for the church so I do get more time behind the organ. I do have a organ at home and I enjoy playing of it but of course the sound is different, so that is why I go to church to practice.
But it seems that I am a slow learner, being 72 years of age does not help, but that is frustrating me. I usually pick pieces that I know that I can learn, a couple of months ago I heard a friend of mine play, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" by J.S. Bach and I asked this friend of mine if he thought I could learn this piece, his reply was to try, but to take it slow. I have done that, now this piece has four pages, but it is going very slowly, and I do not mind telling you that I get impatient and frustrating for a piece of music of this kind, I can work on it for a year before I can say I do know it now and I can play it at home with not problem, but in public is another story.
I played for a congregation for fifteen years, and it took me another eight years before I felt comfortable enough that I did not get overly out of control nervousness. One and half years ago that church closed its doors, to bad for I really enjoyed my time there. My question to both of you is how do I get over this out of control nervousness. I done a performance last March I believe and it was not very good, I did know the piece I was playing, which was an improvisation by Dianne Bish " Great God We praise Your Name" I do not know if you know it, but it did take a while for me to learn it. Anyway the nervousness really I need help with, please do not suggest a psychologist, for I did see one for three years and not help. Thank you for answering this question.
V: This is really a common problem people are having about nervous during public performance. It can make or break an organist in public.
A: That’s true and I think it’s a common feeling for anybody who is performing so I think the trouble is that maybe Sjouke is not performing publicly often enough.
A: Because usually what helps is frequent performances for somebody else because the more you appear in public the more you can learn how to control your nervousness.
V: If we look at our Unda Maris studio students we already teach for like eight years I think and some of them are still with us right from the beginning so from the start those people were really weak in their public performance skills but now look they are quite comfortable, not confident enough, but maybe comfortable while playing in public. In your opinion Ausra, how much time does it take for a person to feel more comfortable and not nervous?
A: I think it depends on the person, I think it’s a different number for everybody. I couldn’t tell you a number but the more often you do it the better it gets, the more comfortable you will feel.
V: Probably not eight years as we see with our studio, I think less, maybe a few years if you perform regularly. Not once a year obviously, but maybe like once a few months. They don’t have to play an entire program, maybe one or two pieces. A good place to start is schedule a prelude and postlude or communion with your friend organist at church.
A: But Sjouke talked in his letter and I think it’s sort of a general tendency in Europe that more and more services are dismissed and churches are closing and I heard maybe a couple of years ago that the Dutch are selling the organ to South America and Africa and I just think that this is too bad. Where are we going to.
V: I think we have one Dutch organ too in one of the churches installed recently in town, not very bad organ.
A: At least I hope that the best historically interesting and valuable organs will remain in the native places because it is so important. I strongly believe that the organ needs to be built for that particular place and should not be moved someplace else because it is part of that architectural structure.
V: Well let’s take Africa or South Americas’ example. If church closes doors in the Netherlands and they feel the need to sell it or donate it overseas is it better for the organ to keep silent for decades or be played?
A: Well I would rather have it silent because I’m afraid if they go to Africa or South America think about climate in the Netherlands and think about climate in Africa or South America. It’s completely different and because the metal of organ pipes is soft or soft metal as you know it might flatten and collapse quite easily and another thing, other pipes are wooden pipes and let’s say if you are in Northern Europe, the Netherlands I would consider them part of Northern Europe, you could use even Maple to build an organ and everything would work fine. If you would take the same pipes to Africa or South America they would be eaten by worms, local worms, because simply that wood would be just too sweet for that climate and worms would be very happy to receive delicious pipes from Europe.
V: I know what you are thinking. Let them ship their organs to Lithuania (laughs.)
A: Yes, we would be happy to have historical rich organs in Lithuania. At the same time we have many spectacular organs here that really need restoration. I think it’s part of our responsibility of each person who thinks broadly enough that we would preserve our historical heritage.
V: Umm-hmm. This is true, obviously. And the other Sjouke wrote is that he is thinking about playing Wachet Auf by Bach. This is a very sweet piece, not very easy though for beginners.
A: Well it’s for me for example it’s easy when you have only two voices, pedals and right hand, but when the left hand comes in then it’s harder and cadences are especially hard. Don’t you think so? Even for a professional you have to work on those cadences.
V: Now that I remember this piece I think I’m going to assign Wachet Auf to one of our Unda Maris students.
A: But it’s so beautiful I think it’s worth the trouble of learning it. Because if you would think it’s taken from collection of Schübler chorales, that Bach himself actually arranged to be played on the organ from his cantatas, so I think Bach himself liked it so it’s really worth learning.
V: Right. The fact that it was published means that it was important for the composer to preserve it for future generations and also arrange it for the organ and maybe it’s a sign that we should not be afraid of arranging other orchestral music to the organ. It sounds beautiful sometimes too.
V: So we could close our conversation with maybe our assurance to Sjouke that yes, this piece could be done by him and that he needs to take frequent brakes when he practices so that his body would not go tired.
A: Another suggestion would be sometimes if you know that you will have to perform in public you can prepare in advance sort of scaring yourself about how you will feel doing that public performance and sometimes you can lift those emotions about having an audience and see how it goes.
V: I know what you mean.
A: You can imagine that you are already in a real performance. That might help sometimes too.
V: This reminds me that I read someplace that ancient samurai from Japan had a saying that you should constantly imagine death coming to you in many ways. Dying from spear, sword, water, falling stones, fire, you know all those warrior things, and then when the time comes to die they were ready. So if we as organists could imagine the worst situations ahead of time then the real situation would not be as scary. We hope this was useful to you guys and please send us more of your questions, we love helping you grow. 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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