Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 382 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast and this question was send by Hanna and she writes:
I started with the Virtuoso pedal course. It took me 30 minutes to do the 10 reps each and was very hard for me with my short legs. After struggling for a few months, unfaithful practicing, I decided to switch to this course (Organ Playing Master Course Level 1) because it was easier.
Interestingly, the Virtuoso 30 minute exercise had an effect on my brain. It was like my brain had been formatted after I practiced. I am 69 ½ years old, female, struggle with short-term memory loss to some degree.
But after this rigorous organ practice in the morning, for the rest of the day I could remember things in order and functioned with much more calmness. Sadly, I don't get this effect from the master class.
I am out of state babysitting for my daughter for the next 10 days. But I am resolving to do both when I get back home. Work on this beginner one to get the scales down better in my mind, then challenge myself to do the virtuoso. I might do the easy one in the evening, and the virtuoso in the morning when I'm fresh and need to format my brain. Thank you for the challenge and this unexpected health benefit.
V: Well Ausra what do you say?
A: Well it’s amazing how organ can help you to improve your life, but actually I wasn’t really surprised by what I read in this letter, in Hanna’s letter because let’s say I know it from myself that playing organ is very beneficial for people that have neurodegenerative diseases. This is the right way to say it because it’s when you are playing with your hands and your feet it means that you coordinate things in your body and it means that your brain needs to work too and I think that it slows down all kinds of bad diseases and keeps you going.
V: It’s in a way it’s like physical / mental therapy too.
A: Yes. I think it’s very, very beneficial.
V: Because it’s all body experience, body and mind experience.
A: Of course, in cases like this when you have certain medical issue you need to find what works for you and what does not.
A: Maybe not all kinds of practicing will help you but I’m sure that you will find something that works for you.
V: And a good thing that Hanna can easily switch between the easy and challenging courses because in our Total Organist group and you can easily pick and choose what works for you. We have organ repertoire, we have courses with exercises and some people like those, some people like repertoire, some people like improvisation, everything is different here and we cannot force everyone to do just one thing according to their level, right? It’s the taste that matters too and the choices and the goals and dreams that matters. Some people like hymn playing, right?
A: True, I like to do that myself.
A: Sometimes when we came back from the United States we brought with us a few hymnals.
A: And sometimes that what I do. I just put a hymnal on the organ and sight-read hymns.
V: I sometimes put the hymnal in front of me and put the melody in pedals, pedals in the soprano, and alto in the tenor, tenor in the alto…
A: Yeah, you are very creative and you like to improvise but sometimes I not such an imaginative person so sometimes I just play straight through the hymns and it’s very refreshing.
V: And calms you down, right?
A: Yes, true because I think that music affects people in a positive way and because when we sit on the organ bench we play, perform music it has that sort of positive affection but also you have to move because as we talked before, you have to move your hands and feet and I think it’s a very good thing.
V: Umm-hmm. It’s wonderful. You know people of all ages can listen to organ music and sometimes younger generations don’t like to do that because they think organ is a thing of the past and they are forward looking but sometimes there are young people who get hooked with the organ too but for senior people it’s very refreshing to listen to the organ music but organists have another privilege, they sit and play and actively participate in the music making which it’s much more immersing experience than just listening to the organ music I would say.
A: Yes, but definitely playing organ and in general making music I think makes you feel better and live longer and healthier. I have heard stories that even very old people in the retirement home that they cannot remember their name even or have such a great dementia that they can still sit at the piano and play some tunes from their childhood.
A: It’s unbelievable how the human brain works.
V: I remember when Dr. Faulkner and Dr. Ritchie took us, entire organ studio I think, to one of their retirement homes near Lincoln.
A: Not Ritchie and not Faulkner took us there. We went there with our music director from our church.
V: Sarah Schott.
A: Yes, so we were performing a recital for the elderly people.
V: Uh-huh. I think that was a very moving experience.
A: Yes and some of those old ladies were so excited and thanked us and we told that we are returning back to Lithuania in a month or so because I think this was the very end of our Doctoral studies.
A: And they were so upset and said “Oh no, we need you here” and actually that retirement home had that very beautiful Bedient organ in the chapel and it was very nice to play.
V: French style two-manual instrument.
A: Yes, very, very nice.
V: Wonderful experience for everyone involved, from us who played and obviously for listeners who attended the event. As Ausra says “they might not remember even what they ate for breakfast but they have those long-term memories from their childhood perhaps, the hymns that they want to sing or love to sing, and when they recognize the tune someplace then it has a wonderful effect I think.” It eases their experiences in the retirement home when maybe they feel they are neglected perhaps, they don’t have anything to do and that’s why its so important when you are reaching retirement age to find as much to do as possible, volunteering work, work with your hobbies, when you no longer need to go to work sometimes people feel like empty, like your life is finished, but it’s simply not true.
A: That’s right. Nothing is finished until you are really dead.
V: It’s not over until it’s over.
A: That’s right. So keep going, keep practicing.
V: And thanks so much for sending those wonderful 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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