SOPP540: I almost fell asleep practicing BWV 659 Nun komm der Heiden Heiland as the prelude for tomorrow
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 540 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by May. She’s our Total Organist student. And she writes,
Thanks Vidas. We just returned from a 2-week Europe trip yesterday. Now I almost fall asleep (because of the jetlag) practicing BWV 659 Nun komm der Heiden Heiland as the prelude for tomorrow. I should be very comfortable with this piece for I played it quite a few times at the Church in the past Advents. However, I am now very nervous about my ability of getting everything right tomorrow. I haven't practiced for 2 weeks and I am very tired. What is your advice on how I should proceed with my practice in the remaining hours of today? It is 4:05 pm here in Eastern Canada now.
And I wrote to her: Thanks May! It's 11:31 PM here in Vilnius and going to bed. So I'm keeping this message short:
Go to sleep first. No use of practicing when you're exhausted. Then if you have time to practice BWV 659 do that. If not, play tomorrow several verses of the same hymn tune instead on different registration.
1. Principal 8'
2. Cornet in the soprano, alto and tenor on the flutes in the left hand. Pedal with 16' and 8'.
3. Principals 8' and 4'
Off to bed now.
Hope this helps,
And she wrote to me her answer:
May: Thanks Vidas for replying to my email late in the night. My biological clock was also like in your time zone when I composed this email yesterday :) I did practice until 10 pm last night. Good that I didn't feel as tired this morning. We didn't have that many people attending the morning service because of a winter storm in our area. I did play BWV 659 as a postlude in a very relaxed manner for I saw and I thought many people had left. Actually many did stay and listen to my playing. I was not aware of their presence until they applauded at the end. This turned out to be my best performance of BWV 659 and it was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps psychology plays a significant role in terms of the result of a performance. It is also the biggest obstacle to overcome. How could I perform in public without being nervous? That always the biggest issue.
Thanks again Vidas for your advice.
V: So, Ausra, I already gave her advice. Now it’s your turn. About probably performing in public without being nervous.
A: Well, when I was young, especially back in the high school, I would really get performance anxiety. At one point, I thought I need to give up at all performance in public, because made me feel too nervous. But as the time went by, I realized that it’s not good to think before recital, “Oh, I wish that less people would come, that this person wouldn’t show up, and oh, I wouldn’t survive if that would come to my recital.” That’s not the right way of thinking.
V: Mm hm.
A: And of what I’m thinking now, I’m thinking how many hours I spent preparing for this recital, and actually that I want people to come, and I want people to listen. Because we are not playing just for ourselves, we actually are playing for our public. And you need to learn to enjoy to play for public, because this is your final goal as a musician.
V: As an artist.
A: Yes, as an artist.
V: Probably musicians can practice in their practice rooms and at home, but artists really need to show their art.
A: True. And you will need to learn to enjoy it.
V: And the way to enjoy it is to do it more often.
A: That’s right.
V: Because 20, for the first maybe 10 times it will be a very stressful experience, but after the 10th performance, you will get a breakthrough some sort. Maybe it will not become very easy, but you will start feeling a change in how you feel during performance after the 10th, after every 10th performance, I would say.
A: Yes, because look. Even a piece like this was BWV 659, which I’m actually also working on now. Of course, it’s not a hard piece, but it’s not an easy piece. It’s not sight-readable piece, you know.
V: Not really.
A: Yes. So let’s say it’s sort of a middle, somewhere in the middle. You still need to put a lot of time in order to learn this piece well.
V: At least a few weeks.
A: That’s right. And if you are holding this attitude that, “Oh, I wish people would leave, nobody would listen,” then why would you learn it?
V: But it’s nice that she sort of deceived herself, trying to talk to herself that nobody will stay, and therefore she doesn’t have to be nervous. And then when people did stay and applauded at the end, she was already done. And it turned out the best performance of this piece for her.
A: So maybe she can apply this feeling that she had during this performance during another performance.
A: To have this sense of calmness. That might help, too - and look, people applauded. They really liked it, they appreciated it. So it needs to give you some pleasure actually, to be admired and to be applauded and to be respected.
V: Yes. And record yourself. I think that is another dimension of stress, right? Because if you record yourself, you know you cannot stop. The clock is ticking, and you cannot fix your mistakes while you’re playing. And at first, it’s really stressful, but again, after 10 recordings of your playing, it will become easier. And again, you will discover something new about yourself, about the piece, about the instrument that you’re playing. It’s worth doing that. And if you have recording, submit to our Secrets of Organ Playing Contest.
A: Yes, Vidas always promotes it.
V: Yes, because it quadruples your results. People who participate can testify this. Ah, wonderful. Hope this helps. The main takeaway is of course to do it more often.
A: Yes, of course that’s a very good suggestion. I think this is the best advice. And be happy if people come to listen to your performance. That’s the best thing, the best way to share your talent.
V: It’s a privilege actually, yes? Think about how many thousands of musicians, probably, would give up so many things in order to have this opportunity to play in public. And church organists have this built-in opportunity to play in public every Sunday.
A: That’s right.
V: When you do this, let’s say, every day, that is sometimes very difficult to bear over time. But if you do this every week once a week, then this routine is bearable and can be quite enjoyable, I think. You can have enough time to prepare, and plan ahead. Perhaps practice, not only for one Sunday in advance, but several Sundays in advance. Ok guys. Thanks for listening and applying our tips in your practice. They really work. 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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