Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 321 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Heidi and she writes:
“Wow! Vidas Pinkevicius, what an Artist you are! Runs in the family, except your media is painting with music, rather than oils.
The music you’ve created and performed here is deeply profound and moving to me. At times, I also noticed that it is so far 'above my comprehension' that I feel a bit confused. In no time, however, the music is telling its story again.
The birds singing brought so much joy! I actually wondered for a moment if they were live birds. And then there is the Giant. How I loved hearing the giant come tumbling down. Very deliberately, filled with tension and suspense, slow, getting slower as he descended!! Wow, it was so much fun listening to this. Everything about this piece is wonderful, including the Artist - thank you. Oh, and by the way, the fact that the organ is mechanical totally added to the music’s drama. Beautiful performance by the artist, Vidas. Articulation beyond compare. You deserved a vacation after that.. Whew! I love it.
V: It seems that Heidi is talking about my performance in Liepaja, Latvia when I recently broke down that organ.
A: Yes, nobody will invite you now to perform.
V: (laughs.) This was storytelling improvisation about David and Goliath which I recently shared with our listeners too. So what can you say about this feedback because obviously you could tell more things than I.
A: Well you know I wasn’t up there together with you so what can I say. Was it rough for you to register during performance?
V: I made two recordings. One was rehearsal and another was live performance in front of the audience. This rehearsal which lasted exactly one hour was all the time I had to adjust to the organ so I deliberately limited my practice time on this instrument and wanted to find out how would it feel to give it really live and spontaneous performance on such a big organ with 131 stops. And to my surprise, rehearsal was even more spontaneous I think, maybe because the organ didn’t break somehow.
A: Well, do not scare our listeners. You actually didn’t break that organ. The electrical company who was fixing that organ a week maybe before your performance, forgot to add one extra fuse, and since the organ is totally mechanical it needs a lot of power and it didn’t have enough power so that’s why at the end of the recital simply all the power was off.
V: Or maybe the organ gave up and said “Oh no, I cannot stand Vidas improvisations, let’s finish this concert earlier.”
A: Well I don’t think so. It’s just coincidence.
V: You never know what goes inside of this beast. Monster organ really, even without additional side panels it’s already very big but in 1885 I think, Barnim Gruneberg added, enlarged this instrument, made it into a larger instrument than the Riga's Cathedral actually. The famous Walcker organ there and it’s completely mechanical, it only has I think barker machine for the first manual, but no combination action, everything has to be done by hand. So to answer your question, actually, it’s easier to register on that organ than on St. Johns’ organ because the stop handles are shorter. You could move a few of them quickly.
A: Well, yes. At St. Johns’ sometimes you get the feeling when you are trying to pull of the organ stop that actually the organ stop might take you into the organ with it.
V: Umm-hmm. And I had another improvisation experience when Pope Francis was visiting Vilnius and Lithuania too, so I played in Lukiskes square in conjunction of his prayer at the monument for the victims of genocide. There I had a digital organ, Johannus organ, and that time I didn’t use the stop knobs, I used dynamic buttons, pianissimo, piano, mezzo-piano, mezzo-forte, forte, fortissimo, those kinds of things.
A: And I think it worked quite well.
V: Yes it was sort of easier for me to just push the button and to see the desired dynamic level but I kind of didn’t feel in control because by pushing the button you give up control. You don’t know exactly what will sound.
A: But I think on an occasion like this when you don’t have rehearsals basically, and you are improvising in open space let’s face it, you don’t know how the result will be in a way.
V: Yes, you might hear one thing when large speakers are next to you and you don’t know what the audience is hearing 300 meters further.
A: And I was listening to it on TV, of course it was broadcast, so I think it sounded fairly well.
V: So to go back to Heidi’s comment she started her comment that it runs in the family except my media is painting with music rather than oil. My dad was a painter.
A: So do you think it’s largely because of him you are so creative.
V: No, I don’t think so. I think we are all creative in one way or another, maybe in different fields maybe, not necessarily in organ playing everybody equally creative. But what I mean, I took from my dad maybe motivation to create because I saw the example but not necessarily the genes. He didn’t transmit his organ playing genes to me because he wasn’t an organist.
A: But don’t you think that your parents could understand you better what you are doing because they were artists themselves?
V: I hope so, yes. People who create themselves tend to understand other creators better but I could also feel certain limitations when talking to my parents about organ playing. Their knowledge about organ artists was very limited. My dad for example, he could not really differentiate between certain periods of musical composition I believe, so I don’t really know what or how he comprehended organ music.
V: Maybe a little bit differently than a person from the street would but certainly not like an organist.
A: Well but still you were lucky you could talk about art in general because what I could talk with my parents was with my mother about blood formula and with my dad about all that building engineering things.
V: Which is also creative too.
A: Still it’s very far from music and organ playing.
V: In order to talk about engineering creatively you would need to know a lot about engineering before you even start this conversation.
A: But actually yes, my dad helped me a little bit to understand how the things in the engineering drawings looks like and it helped me in an organ building class that Gene Bedient taught us in Lincoln.
V: Listen Ausra, of course your background with your family is different from mine but tell me this, would you say that your creativity over the years diminished or is growing.
A: I think it’s growing.
A: Because I’m living with you. (laughs.)
V: No. Because you let it grow I think. That’s all it takes.
A: I think simply you stop fearing things, to try things, so it helps. Actually to stop thinking what others will think about you.
V: Stop comparing yourself to masters or your peers, your colleagues. Just ignore everybody. Ignore your husband, Ausra. (laughs.)
A: I don’t think you would like that.
V: Actually I would love it and then I could ignore you.
A: OK, let’s try it.
V: Let’s start ignoring each other.
A: How we will do this Podcast then?
V: I think our ignorance of each other would last only last until lunch.
A: Yes, you always know where the food is coming from.
V: Unfortunately. Thank you guys for listening to our silliness. We hope this makes you smile a little, 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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