SOPP356: I’ve found that it’s more difficult to learn and remember good pedal technique, when you’re changing shoes constantly on which you play pedals
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 356, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jay and Pauline. They are responding to my blog post from yesterday about playing with pointed high-heel shoes. I talked about when one lady, beginner organist, came and tried to play with high heels and pointed toes. And at the end of it I asked what our listeners think, should she keep trying to adjust to the difficult of playing with these high heels and pointed toes, or should she just get a pair of real organ shoes. So Jay responded with following message:
I think it’s better if she (or anyone) can get closer to a ‘real’ pair of organ shoes. I’ve found that it’s more difficult to learn and remember good pedal technique, when you’re changing shoes constantly on which you play pedals. It’s better to have some consistency.
Some people may not have the funds to purchase great organ shoes, like from the Organmaster site for example, especially students. I don’t have a ‘genuine’ pair of Organmaster shoes either. I’ve thought about purchasing a pair of those, but just haven’t yet. Mainly because I had an older pair of shoes that I just had resoled—just had a leather sole and a higher heel put on them, and they work fine for me. Cheaper too! In doing that though, you need to make sure that if you just replace the heel, that the rest of the sole is leather, or at least not rubber. Something that will slide easily on the pedals.
That’s my two cents worth.
And Pauline writes that she plays organ shoes less. So she writes:
Hi, I play organ shoeless. Because when I took organ lesson before we’re not allowed to wear shoes into the studio. And at home we also don’t wear shoes inside the house.
And after so much practices without wearing shoes, I felt more comfortable without shoes. I can feel the pedals better. 1st day I played in church I also took off my shoes. So I m a naked feet organist. In your opinion what do you think? No standard or just being natural.
V: Interesting comment, right?
A: Yes, it is. And maybe outside [of] answering to Pauline’s part of letter, it’s a very nice one, and I also know some organists in Lithuania who always play without shoes. But, and I played without shoes myself too. I find it sometimes it’s very beneficial to know how to do it. Because let’s say, if you are traveling, and you didn’t take your shoes…
A: with you, and you want to try some new organs, you cannot play with the street shoes. At least I don’t do it because I feel that it’s disrespectful and it’s not a nice thing to play organ with street shoes.
V: Unless you wipe the dust...
A: But, still, I just take my shoes off and play on my socks. A disadvantage of it is, actually there are two disadvantages, because if you are playing a really virtuosic piece, let’s say romantic or modern, not Baroque piece, your ankles will, might get hurt. Because you will have to…
V: Flex it.
A: To flex it too much. And it might be really harmful for your foot. And another thing is that, imagine that you are playing a recital, and organ is not upstairs in the balcony but it’s downstairs in front of people, of your listeners. How do you imagine that happens? Because often in that case, the pedal board is turned in such a way that people would see your feet because it’s one of the most exciting thing for people to watch for organist is dealing with the pedal.
A: And then can’t you imagine that you are walking on your socks, next to the organ bench?
V: With slippers!
A: With slippers. I don’t know, how you go with shoes and then you take the shoes off and put next to the organ bench and then sit down and play. So you might get in a really comical situation.
V: Make this large artistic movement of taking your shoes off so that everybody will see it. it’s part of the game.
A: True. True, and it’s so you might find this very comical situations.
V: Not right that you’re playing without shoes but actually expose your socks and expose the process of taking off the shoes.
A: So I guess it’s a good thing to know how to play without shoes, organ, and to be able to do that, because it’s very useful sometimes. But I also believe that you need to adjust some shoes and practice with them as well.
V: Plus it’s cold in the winter—without shoes.
A: But it might be cold with shoes also, and sometimes it’s better to play on your socks in winter when it’s cold. It’s less dangerous...
A: to play in shoes.
V: Why? This is counter-intuitive, right, Ausra?
V: Explain please!
A: Because your organ shoes is always right on the edge of being too small for you.
V: Mmm-hmm. They fit very…
A: And I had such experience in my life, maybe, I don’t know, twenty years ago. It was December, right around for Christmas and I was performing in one small town in Lithuania, and I was using my organ shoes for like, what, hour and a half, and actually my toes froze.
A: And I was in a big, big, big trouble. And I’m lucky that everything was fine after a while, but it was really bad. I didn’t feel it at the beginning but when we went, left the church, and went to our house, to our, to my parents’ friends house, actually, and I started to feel that something is really, really, really bad with my feet.
A: I had that feeling that somebody took many needles and started to…
A: To hammer my toes. And I took my socks off and I saw that my toes are red and they are actually swollen.
A: And was really, really bad.
V: What degree of frost is this?
A: This is the first degree, I believe.
A: And I got lucky that it wasn’t the higher degree. Because I might end up without toes left at all. So, but luckily that there was a medical student next to us and she told me not to do anything like external with my toes—not to rub them, not to try to put some ointment on them, but she said that I need to get warm from inside. So actually they gave me like…
A: Yes, brandy.
A: Like a hundred of brandy and I really got warm from inside and somehow when I put woolen socks on my feet to keep them warm, and well, I got fine after a couple of days.
V: What if you went to the bathroom and put your feet into the bathtub with a little bit of warm water?
A: Well, she told that it wouldn’t be good.
V: Not hot water but…
A: No, no!
V: But lukewarm...
A: No, no, no, no...
V: Room temperature.
A: Because your skin is very sensitive in cases like this and you might do more harm than good.
V: I’ve noticed that when you are really cold, you’re fingers are cold and you put them under the hot water flow—it’s extremely hot.
A: And actually after that time, I learned my lesson. That now when I know when I will have to perform during winter time in a cold church, I put the woolen socks on my feet instead of organ shoes, and that way I know that I will not froze [freeze] my feet.
V: That’s good to know for other people, I guess, too, who are playing without shoes. But now you are playing with shoes every time, right? In public?
A: Yes, but if it’s really cold, I try just to put them right from my performance and then to take them off.
A: As fast as I can.
V: Not for a long period time…
A: True, true.
V: But just as short period of time as possible. That’s good to know. Thank you guys. If you have any observations about playing with, without regular organ shoes, please keep, send them to us.
A: And another remark about Jay—I think he find a great solution—that he remade his shoes into an organ shoes. I think that’s a very good way to do.
V: Yes. You don’t always have to buy things.
A: That’s right.
V: You can repurpose.
V: Just make sure that the soles are from leather, and that the heel is like three centimeters or two inches high.
A: Yes. And another thing about that lady who played with high heels; maybe she has a French blood. Because I have heard so many stories about these French madams, like Madam Durufle who came actually to Lithuania to perform, way back.
A: And some older colleagues of ours listened to her recital we told that she actually was playing with high heels and really fashionable shoes, and she was just brilliant. So I guess some people can do it.
V: Do you think that Madam (???-12:23) started with high heels?
A: I don’t know.
V: As a beginner organist?
A: I don’t know.
V: That’s the question.
A: I guess French women are very special.
V: But I have no doubt that it’s possible to play with high heels too. It only takes much more effort and much more time to get used to this, because it’s much easier to slip, because of narrow heels. It depends on your needs, I guess, and how fashionable you want to look on the…
A: That’s right.
V: organ bench. Okay guys. Wonderful questions! We hope to help 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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