Saturday, December 12, 2009

Encouraging nascent organists

I offer here three insights into encouraging inexperienced pianists to become an organist for divine service. Obviously, they will need orientation on the instrument and practice. Besides this:

1. Help them to find their own resources by showing them websites where things can be ordered.

This week I spoke to someone who has been playing for years, but is still worried about the different settings in LSB (Lutheran Service Book). There are not enough organist liturgy books at church for each one to have one. I said, "buy one" She says: "Like where?"

Seriously, you can have it ordered from CPH in moments. However, it will take some time to reach these outer parts of the universe. Something could be done about that. I have even found a book with all the propers in it, that nobody knew about. So, there, you can practice to your hearts content and feel very comfortable with the music.

2. If they are not "real" organists, like myself, not comfortable with pedals, they can play just manually, forget the feet. It is really asking a lot to play with both hands, both feet. I have tried it. It exceeds my nervous system's capacity to coordinate things. More practice would do it. But how often can you get to church to practice. It is a big commitment for a newbie. Just play with your hands and pick enough bass stops to go with it, for now. People still praise my playing for exuberance. Pedals would be nice, but hey, we're doing what we can. I think it really important to play fast enough and comfortably enough. Don't play the organ morosely, slowly, too softly, though some songs obviously require different interpretations. Get into the hymn. Know it. Know what you are accompanying.

From Amazon, I bought a whole series of books with just manual music. I have so much repertoire now, it has taken the fright right out of having to play. There are so many beautiful pieces to play. I acquired the whole series by C.H. Trevor featuring Old English Organ music . I also bought a book edited by Trevor, that is not just English music. There is also a series of this. I just got the one so far. I have got so much music between my 10 or so books, I'm set. C.H. Trevor is my hero.

Now, I just need to know if CPH is coming out with a hymn prelude series for the LSB. Then I'll get that. Meanwhile, I don't do many special hymn preludes because I don't own any books. There is an older, very acceptable set at the church, owned by someone else. But just like the gal that sweats over the liturgy because she does not have her own book, the trick is: you need to get your own book. That's because many of us don't live close enought to church to just drop by to practice.

3. Get them to try playing just one hymn. See if your shy pianist can play just one hymn on one Sunday. Get them to work up some courage and facility. Work them in gradually. Being an organist is quite stressful and requires all your faculties. You have to be organized, practiced and confident. Until you have done it a number of times you will be sweating. This is normal.

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