Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 550, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by John. And he writes:
I believe you and Ausra would have had quite a bit of experience organizing the church music program in the US, including choirs? Would be great to learn some tips from you guys!
I would enjoy getting some advice from you on keyboard technique and finger accuracy.
V: How should we start, Ausra?
A: Well, I guess, yes, we have some experience organizing church music in America. But concerning choirs, I would say we have more experience organizing church music in Lithuania. Because before leaving to the United States we worked with two choirs in St. Johns church in Vilnius.
V: Yes, and in America we were organists, not…
V: music directors.
V: In Lithuania, if you want to lead the choir and direct the musical life within the parish, within your congregation, you needed to be in charge, not only of the choir, not only of choir rehearsals, but also think about what musical activities you want to do between Sundays.
A: Yes. And if we are talking about our choir groups in Lithuania that we had before going to the states, we had two choirs; one was a choir where mostly professionals sang, or at least people who had some professional musical education. And we sang, well, early music mostly. And I mean really early music, like Renaissance polyphony.
V: We even early sang the earliest surviving polyphonic Requiem which is by Johannes Ockeghem.
A: Yes and we also sang some masses of Jacob Obrecht and other nice Renaissance composers. And of course we did some Bach, Bach’s choral music as well. And it wasn’t very easy to keep this group because we were all, of them basically, almost professionals, or professional. And we asked them to come to church to sing each Sunday for free. But we, well, kept going it for a while, for quite a while. But of course when we left to the states, all this group disappeared. And another choir was the youth group. And they sang sort of easier music, like pop, pop, Christian pop music.
A: With various instruments, with of course keyboards and guitars and I would play my recorder and we had little girl who would play some percussion.
V: It was fun.
A: Yes. And it we had some music that we brought with us from Austria. And actually I created the Lithuanian text for that music, so, we sang those.
V: In general, if we are talking about directing choral life around your congregation, you need to satisfy three, sometimes conflicting sides—yourself, right, musically it has to be pleasing to yourself. If you are not doing the work you are proud of, I think you will not continue to do it after a while.
A: Well, but you know, in this second choir we welcomed everybody who wanted to sing. And not everybody even had to know like good musical pitch.
A: So, and some would sing out of tune. But because in this second choir we had lots of members.
A: So we sang loud enough in order to diminish those who cannot sing well enough.
V: But what I mean is we were able to do both choirs because we really loved early music at that time. We were able to reconcile two different styles, two different even skill set levels, advancement levels of those members because we really loved early music and we understood if we only sang early music with that, the first choir, we would never be able to satisfy what congregation needs and wants.
A: Well, we did hymns too, of course, not...
V: Yes, but for the second mass they wanted some light music, right?
A: Yes, for youth.
V: For youth. By the way, for the second mass right now, they have gospel music, another group, quite well know group in Vilnius. And we’re not in charge anymore of any choral activities in that church. We’re only in charge of organ activities within the university. So, so if John is thinking about leading a musical life, including choral life in his congregation, I think he needs to think about what he wants, what congregation wants, and what his choir members want, also.
A: And what they can.
A: Because you might want to do it but you cannot have ability to do it.
V: And you need to do sometimes, you sometimes have to meet them in the middle. If they want to do one thing and you want to do another thing, maybe you can agree to meet somewhere in the middle, like a compromise. That’s possible, if they’re open for compromises. Sometimes not. Sometimes they’re very direct and very specific about what they want. But I guess even in that situation, if you are forced to do something that you don’t want to do, maybe you have, you can have a corner of musical activity that you enjoy doing in that congregation. And because of the opportunity to rehearse with that ensemble for example, or, I don’t what John enjoys, maybe play organ music right? Maybe he can do something else as well, in addition to that, like a compromise, like a service for the congregation. But maybe I’m over exaggerating. Maybe he would enjoy doing all kinds of musical activities, and maybe that’s not a problem for him, right?
A: Yeah, sure.
V: So then, John was also asking about a couple of other things—advice about keyboard technique and finger accuracy. We could discuss this in another episode, right, because it’s kind of unrelated.
A: Yes, unrelated to the first half of the question.
V: Okay guys. So stay tuned for our next episode and we will discuss the rest of John’s questions. Thanks for listening. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: 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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