Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 532 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Maureen, and she writes:
I am a graduate from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London which was for piano playing..
I have never sat any organ exams nor played music for the organ at that level. My foot work was not at such a high standard.
In recent years I had to give up playing in public because of my physical health. I have a condition called Fibromyalgia which is a painful and debilitating one.
Playing the organ was my first love and made my debut in my hometown when I was only 13 years old. I played at a Sunday evening service in the Protestant Church of Scotland and later asked to deputise for my music teacher who was the church organist.
Good organists were scarce as was money so choices had to be made as to the disciplines which would be most beneficial to me. I chose piano, singing and cello. Organ was almost an extension to the piano lessons.
I loved playing in Church for all the various Sunday services and for Mass. Hymns were particularly important to me and practised diligently each day before I started my teaching. Voluntaries were also played daily in preparation for services. Funeral music was always being worked on and it was my delight in investing in a variety of suitable music. Weddings over the years have dwindled as many people do not favour the sacrament of holy matrimony as once they did in my teenage years.
I can have access to a small organ in the nearby monastery of Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin Moray where there is a healthy community of Benedictine monks. They sing plainchant which I love doing when I attend Sunday Mass there each week. I have no transport to attend daily Mass when I could be staying on to play the organ.
The nearest I get to practising an organ is on my own personal Klavinova which I can attempt to mimic a near enough pleasant enough sound for the organ.
I would like to think that I was more than competent as a regular organist who accompanied Church services. To put a grade on it would be one for my hands and a different level for my feet I think...
Thank you for reading this account.”
V: And she continues writing later:
“The most important fact which I failed to tell you about was the loss of use in my right hand and arm. My hand wouldn’t open out without pain and tightness in the palm of my hand. Pain went through the whole of my arm constantly for five years! Over time and with acupuncture my hand and arm became pain free. Nothing showed in x-rays and nerve tests. What I still find is a reduced dexterity in my hand. The muscles are strong there was no damage to be found only excruciating pain.
I would appreciate your advice on which type of exercise I could do daily. Hanson for piano is my mainstay at present.
V: First of all, I’m not familiar with Hanson, maybe she means Hanon. Could be.
A: Could be…
V: I don’t know. To summarize her situation, I think she had this Fibromyalgia, and the remaining result is that her muscles are not… the fingers are not fast enough on her right hand. Did you understand the same way?
A: Yes, that’s what I understood, too.
V: So, right exercises, probably, should be done with more care than left hand exercises.
A: That’s right. I would suggest for her to take supplements of vitamin B. It’s crucial for muscles, too, and I think that in order to strengthen those muscles, maybe she needs to strengthen other muscles as well, because everything in our body is connected in between, so I guess the physical exercise in general is a good idea.
V: If she has no pain in her knees and legs, maybe she can walk—start walking.
A: Yes, and you know, when we actually play on the organ or any other keyboard instrument, we need to think about that not our hand is doing it alone, but actually that we have a long arm, which is connected to our back, and actually that our back is even more important than our hands, because the back supports the entire arm!
V: In this case, you mean that the hands are an extension of the back.
V: And we have to play with feeling even the back muscles.
A: True, and sometimes if you have a muscle problem in your hand, it might mean that something is wrong in your back. So my suggestion would be probably to do some Pilates.
V: Yes, Pilates would be good. It’s moderate intensity exercise, not to be very dangerous, and see how she feels.
A: Because you know, if you will do only manual exercises, playing, let’s say, scales or arpeggios or something, and you will play extremely a lot of them, you might hurt yourself.
V: Yes. I think with organ playing at this time, she should be moderate. Take moderation into account and not to extend herself, and maybe take care of her general health issues more carefully, and just slowly build up her technique, not expecting results overnight, or over a week, or over a month. Just her goal has to be, I think, just keep practicing, and stopping, probably, before she gets tired, not to hurt herself—not to feel exhausted—and to rest for a while and then playing some more if she wants.
A: Yes, and you know, this Fibromyalgia is sort of a very mysterious disease. I read about it, but I still could not understand it, and I don’t think that doctors can, either.
V: Okay, guys, 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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