Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 449, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Patricia, and she writes:
Dear Vidas and Ausra, Thank you for contacting me regarding your program of Organ tuition and assistance. I studied organ at Trinity College in London and also at the same time I studied the French music from Jean Dattas at Notre Dame in Leicester Square. I was working in London at the time teaching English to students at Morden Girls Secondary in Surrey. When I returned to Kingston, Ontario in Canada, I worked as an organist in a Lutheran Church called St. Marks for 5 years. My mother got an illness which the doctor's said was incurable. They said it would be better to take my mother to Australia to help her but that was not a good idea as she died soon after arriving. I live in Melbourne and have a Johannes organ in my house. I am very bad at practicing and need some help to get started again. I need to master some on my favorites such as the Bach toccatas and other organ preludes and fugues which I played before. I am trying to teach myself the Widor Toccata.
V: Can we help Patricia with those goals, Ausra?
A: Well, I hope so, but as I talked in a previous podcast, inner motivation is the most important thing. So if Patricia has it, I think everything will be just fine.
A: Since she was quite advanced organist, because she now is not learning to play the organ from scratch, but she just has to refresh her skills, and to renew her ability to play the organ. What would you suggest for her to do? What would be the best choice and the first step?
V: Well sometimes when you repeat previously mastered material from the past with the gap of many years in between, sometimes your old habits come back and those old habits might not be the best habits, you see. And that’s something to keep in mind. Sometimes it’s better to learn the same piece but in a new way. Like completely from scratch, with a new articulation, with a new fingering and pedaling, from a new score, let’s say. I think that would be more productive. What do you say?
A: Yes. I couldn’t agree more. Because when I’m trying to refresh some of the old pieces that I played, let’s say many years ago, and I remember the spots that were hard for me in that time, they are still hard for me, today. It means that I wasn’t working in a right way...
A: At such time.
V: But is it true from your early days, you got a decent foundation, and even if you refresh those pieces, those old habits are not the worst habits, I mean, for you.
A: Yes, they are not the worst habits.
V: At least some of them you can keep.
A: But still nowadays when I’m starting to repeat an old piece, at least I won’t be playing it from the beginning to the end. I start to work on the harder spots right away.
A: Because I’m already sort of respecting myself and my time. I don’t know that I don’t have much of it, so I want to use it as productively as I can.
V: And Patricia writes that she’s very bad at practicing. Can you interpret that in some way for us Ausra? What to you suppose she means?
A: Well, it’s hard to tell what exactly she means but I could say what in general I consider is a bad practice. Probably the worst practice is not practicing at all, or not practicing enough.
A: Or practicing unproductively. Because sometimes you can sit on your organ bench and play for four hours straight, and it will be still bad practicing.
V: I suppose that’s true Ausra. I always said that the hardest part of practicing the organ is sitting down on the organ bench. Which means, if you practice enough you will get better. But, sometimes, I can observe my Unda Maris students practicing and practicing and over and over again and not getting…
A: Any better.
V: Any better, sooner than they wanted. They are getting better, but really slowly. And I know why. I know how I would practice differently. And I tell them to slow down. And I tell them, let’s say to practice separate parts multiple times, and they don’t do that, you see. And that’s how they get the same result every time. Maybe a little bit better, because with time, even stone can be furnished with drops of water, enough drops of water. But it really, it takes ages and we don’t have that time.
A: But I would think that Patricia has organ in her house. It means that she can easier find time to practice because she doesn’t need to go anywhere to the organ loft.
V: Mmm-hmm. True. So those are general ideas to get started. I suggest she would take a look at my organ practice course. And we are talking about also in some courses about organ practice. Maybe she could just take a look at the category of courses in the Organ Practice category in our Secrets Of Organ Playing store. And she will find useful materials there.
A: Do you think it’s wise to work on several old pieces at the same time, or not? How would you do it?
V: Several pieces, yes, but not too many, maybe three, for starters.
A: But do you think it’s important only to repeat the old repertoire or to learn something new as well?
V: Definitely something new to keep her going forward. And definitely something from different stylistic periods. Let’s say she likes Bach’s Preludes and Fugues, and also she tries to learn Widor Toccata. That would be different choices. But maybe something slower than Widor Toccata would be nice too, like a chorale prelude, or a romantic piece in Adagio tempo, or slow movement from the same Widor symphony.
A: Well actually, I always thought that all French people just love French composers.
A: But as we performed at Alpe d'Huez in French Alps last March, actually the man who actually is one of the main organizers of that organ festival, he told that ‘very good’ that we are not playing Widor and we are not doing the famous Toccata. Because actually what happens when organist playing Widor on the program, people start leaving.
A: And it was actually a big surprise. I was slightly shocked when I heard it—that French don’t like Widor, especially this toccata.
V: Maybe the listeners have heard it enough times.
A: Could be, that it’s already, it’s up to...
A: Up to your throat. So but it was a surprise because the audience is like 99% French in that church.
V: Mmm-hmm. And older age, I would say.
A: Well, yes, I would say. So maybe you could do not only like Widor Toccata but practice some pieces by Louis Vierne.
V: Yes, and softer pieces, not necessarily loud.
A: Yes, not only fast and, because I think this toccata is one of the most mechanical organ pieces…
A: that are written. But it’s good for wedding. Usually people quite like it, and order to play it during wedding time quite a lot.
V: She says she likes toccatas and organ preludes and fugues by Bach. What is your favorite toccata, Ausra, by Bach, today?
A: Probably C Major Toccata, Adagio and Fugue.
A: I think it always was my favorite, and it still is. What about you?
V: I like very much E Major Toccata…
A: I like it too.
V: but transposed to C Major.
A: It’s sort of Buxtehude style.
A: Reminds, it would be my second choice.
V: Good! And what about organ prelude and fugue, by Bach? What would you take with you to the island without any people around?
A: I think you know which one. It would be E Flat Major from the first part of Clavier-Übung. (????)
V: E Flat Major?
V: BWV 552.
A: That’s right. But I also like C minor Prelude and Fugue.
V: I like A Major.
A: I like C Major.
V: Which one? There are a few.
A: The one you played in America.
A: Yes. I’m no good with numbers. I really need to learn to memorize Bach’s catalogue that I could tell these numbers as well as you.
V: You know what’s the best way to memorize the catalogue? Is to sight-read each piece and then you will know the numbers by heart.
A: Yes. But also what I would suggest for Patricia to do, to play some of Bach’s chorale works because I think they are great too.
V: Yes. That was our first suggestion.
A: And with age I even start preferring Bach chorale based works.
V: So guys, we hope this was useful to you. Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
V: 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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