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Twice recently I have been questioned as to why I feel the need to practise the organ. The first time was by a priest, incredibly, who said that since I played the same sort of stuff every week why did I need to rehearse?

 

The second thought that now I had learned how to play the organ there was no need for me to carry on learning, invoking the "riding a bike" analogy.

 

Do you get similar criticism?

 

Peter

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Twice recently I have been questioned ... Do you get similar criticism?

 

Peter

 

Not really, the nearest I get is people saying 'aren't you lucky?' which can be irritating - the implication is sometimes, if only they'd been born with a gift! Mostly, they mean it kindly and, of course, I am lucky. What this totally disregards is the amount of time I have dedicated to my work. Mind you, most of the time it doesn't feel like work because I really enjoy the music. I would recommend that you don't look on the work you do at the organ so much as 'practising', but more as building up your skills/repertoire. Time spent on a new piece will keep you in trim for the old ones and then it's only a question of memory - do you remember what comes next?

 

A can of worms, that question... I have to say, there are moments (a page-turning fluster or something) when I don't! These moments are an acute embarrassment, but maybe the price I pay for not restricting my repertoire to things I can virtually play from memory.

 

A very good friend, a brilliant mathematician always bemoans the fact that he would love to have played an instrument properly so that he could perform to a high standard now. They way I look at it, in his youth, the choice was his. He dedicated his early life to Maths which clearly fascinated him. I made a different choice - fortunately for us both, there were people around who could encourage these interests.

 

 

P.S.

Oh, I do remember an equivalent! For a period of nearly twenty years I used to play at St.Pancras Parish Chruch once every summer. Over the years we had nearly every possible problem including stuck pistons, mains supply to the organ cut through by installers of a new air-conditioning-system and...the classic....nobody coming to unlock in the morning (this must have happened at least four times). On one of those, the churchwarden's comment when he finally arrived (with less than half an hour to go before the concert) was 'I don't know why you're bothered, you've played this organ before.' The fact that I might have played a hundred organs since, or never tried through those pieces in London, let alone on that organ before, seemed to count for nothing.

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Time spent on a new piece will keep you in trim for the old ones and then it's only a question of memory - do you remember what comes next?

Man, I have difficulty remembering what happened three hours ago, let alone what comes next!

 

I can't say I have ever had this problem. These days I can usually feel confident that in most churches around here at which I might find myself playing a service (something I try to avoid as much as possible) my service accompaniment is going to be appreciated, simply because it will be accurate and rhythmic and therefore, by definition, a novelty. Nobody could give a damn for the voluntaries, of course (unless they interfere with the coffee).

 

What does irritate me are the comments I occasionally get at churches where is organist is competent (a rare event for me since these places mostly have in-house arrangements). These tend to be along the lines of "Our regular organist is very good". Harmless in itself you might think, but the way it's said is unmistakably loaded with meaning - presumably something like, "He doesn't play hymns that fast/slow", "Our organist jazzes up the hymns with lots of twiddles and glissandos". Well, bully for him.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

The problems you report are trivial. In our parish three individuals have convinced the clergy to let them form a "folk group", for want of a better name. They have never had any music lessons, and do not practice. They sing abominably. They say that lessons and practice are contrary to the spirit of church music, which is about the people singing "their" music in the spontaneous praise of God. Any attempt to get it right is a particularly nasty form of elitism. At least these people are getting on a bit now, having been "flower people" in the sixties, so they will soon be able to discuss their ideas with Himself and find out what He thinks. In the meantime the congregation is dropping at over 10% a year, so there could be a church on the market soon, unfortunately with not much of an organ.

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... What does irritate me are the comments I occasionally get at churches where is organist is competent (a rare event for me since these places mostly have in-house arrangements). These tend to be along the lines of "Our regular organist is very good". Harmless in itself you might think, but the way it's said is unmistakably loaded with meaning - presumably something like, "He doesn't play hymns that fast/slow", "Our organist jazzes up the hymns with lots of twiddles and glissandos". Well, bully for him.

 

You could try having one or two suitably withering ripostes to hand for these occasions. How about:

 

"Your flies appear to be undone" (for a man); and:

 

"Did you use the whole jar of foundation cream?" (for a woman). Or, for either gender (and in order to induce a feeling of utter confusion):

 

"Oh my God - is that a panda?"

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Nobody could give a damn for the voluntaries, of course (unless they interfere with the coffee).

Yep, that's about the measure of it. In my own church its got very bad before the 10:00am now, they complain if you play loudly before the service and yet anything less than mf is unlikely to be able to compete. It all goes very suddenly quiet when the vicar comes in to do the notices.

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I think this is not unusual.

 

In fairness, people who do not play a musical instrument do not appreciate the hours of work needed to get to a decent standard, and to stay there, and I suppose there is no reason they should.

 

I was told that Alfred Brendel would practice for around 8 hours a day.

 

I also liked the saying attributed to Rubinstein that if he did not practice one day, he noticed. If he did not practice two days, his wife noticed. If he did not practice for 3 days, then his audience noticed.

 

The perspective of an instrumentalist is mysterious to that of an onlooker. If I am playing a lunchtime concert in a cathedral, I will probably get 2, or if I am lucky, 3 hours rehearsal the night before. I take the view that I will practice every second available to me. I will make sure that I arrive and am ready to go at the first minute, and will try to squeeze an extra 10 minutes at the end if the verger is friendly.

 

I remember driving to Coventry on this basis with my then girlfriend, who took the view that if the cathedral was available to me between 6.00 and 9.00pm, this meant just that ; it was available during those times. If I actually started practicing at 7.00, that was fine, and surely a quick run through for an hour was all that was needed.

 

You may not be surprised, therefore, to learn that she did not stay the course. My wife, naturally, is much more understanding, but even she complains that if my choir has an evening concert, we seem to find it necessary to have a rehearsal in the afternoon, which so interrupts a good afternoon's shopping / day in in London / whatever.

 

M

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In fairness, people who do not play a musical instrument do not appreciate the hours of work needed to get to a decent standard, and to stay there, and I suppose there is no reason they should.

 

I was told that Alfred Brendel would practice for around 8 hours a day.

 

I also liked the saying attributed to Rubinstein that if he did not practice one day, he noticed. If he did not practice two days, his wife noticed. If he did not practice for 3 days, then his audience noticed.

 

 

==========================

 

 

This is absolutely true!

 

It really doesn't matter what is being played and how quickly, but the hands need to be kept in the same sort of state as an athlete's body.

 

I'll give you an example, in practical terms, of what this means.

 

Due to the nature of my life and work, I cannot always find time to practise each and every day. If someone asks me to play a recital or accompany something fairly demanding, then I have to make time. I reckon that it takes a good fortnight of hard, physical work, to get the fingers responding like triathlon racing-snakes. (You know you're getting there when the visiting clergy collapse in pain!)

 

Actually keeping up that level of physical fitness requires a daily routine, just as athletes and racing-drivers work out in the gym each day.

 

It's the only way of atually being in control of the music.

 

Now for the example......

 

A certain person who shall remain nameless.....(OK, it was Marek)....asked me what a particular piece of music sounded like, and without thinking, I said I would play it as a concluding voluntary last Sunday.

 

It was the "Etude Symphonique" by Bossi.....the one with all the flashy pedalling.

 

Well.....my eyes could read, my brain could comprehend and there was nothing wrong with the organ. On the other hand, with the build-up to Christmas, I have not been doing any practise at all.

 

Off we went in fine style....nice slow octaves and all that. Within two pages it was un-cordinated, within three it was starting to resemble Messaien, and the last page was just an absolute bloody travesty!!!!!

 

"I do not like!" Came the terse response, and who can blame him?

 

I went home; tail between my legs, and decided that I really should start practising for Christmas. Out came the Sinfonia arrangement from Bach Cantata 29.......another fumbled tragedy as I tried to play it.

 

"What it is?" He demanded to know. (The English doesn't get an better)

 

"I don't know, but by Christmas it should resemble Bach," was the only possible response.

 

"I am so hope," came the reply.

 

I'm afraid that there are no short-cuts in place of regular practise; not if you wish to avoid the criticism of people who are not afraid to tell you the truth.

 

MM

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Just to develop something that has come out of this thread, I entirely agree that the hard work needed to keep in top performing condition as a musician is directly comparable to the hard work needed to keep at the top level as a sportsman. This is an analogy I often use when trying to explain to non - musicians what it means to be a performer.

 

Whether music is a profession or as a hobby (as in my case) keeping to a high level demands a great deal of time, constantly put in, sometimes when one might rather be doing something else.

 

I also get rather annoyed with well - meaning onlookers who say how 'lucky' I must be to have the joy and gift of music as a hobby. I am tempted to reply that whilst there is a degree of luck or genetics to begin with, there is a great deal of effort to keep it up to a good standard. My brother probably has the innate ability to be a good musician. He just could not be bothered to put in the hours.

 

The one thing I would say, though, is that as I enter my mid - forties, I am so grateful that my musical ability only increases with maturity, and becomes a richer and deeper part of my life. The brain may not be quite so quick to pick up new notes, but the heart and soul certainly reach deeper in to the music behind.

 

I have so many friends for whom sport was the centre of their life in their twenties, who now find that it is simply drifting away from them through the passing of the years leaving nothing in its place.

 

I can't do the accent, but in a masterclass, Paul Tortelier said much the same thing ;

 

'Appy ze artist who lives long ...

Because 'e is wise ... and 'e is young'

 

You get the idea.

 

M

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Just to develop something that has come out of this thread, I entirely agree that the hard work needed to keep in top performing condition as a musician is directly comparable to the hard work needed to keep at the top level as a sportsman. This is an analogy I often use when trying to explain to non - musicians what it means to be a performer.

 

Whether music is a profession or as a hobby (as in my case) keeping to a high level demands a great deal of time, constantly put in, sometimes when one might rather be doing something else.

How true. As a jobbing accompanist I have sometimes encountered choir directors who do not appreciate this either, but at least they can be trained.

 

I know an FRCO is supposed theoretically be able to sight-read things like the Duruflé Requiem, but come on! I got the score just three weeks before the performance, never having played it before. I can't remember the last time I worked so hard!

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How true. As a jobbing accompanist I have sometimes encountered choir directors who do not appreciate this either, but at least they can be trained.

 

I know an FRCO is supposed theoretically be able to sight-read things like the Duruflé Requiem, but come on! I got the score just three weeks before the performance, never having played it before. I can't remember the last time I worked so hard!

 

'Off topic.............but................the last perfomance of this I sang in nearly had the organist committed to an institution for those of a nervous disposition - the pedal action on the organ failed early on leaving him with manuals only. He almost had to be extracted from the organ loft at the end of the concert and has not been quite the same since.

 

AJJ

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And, talking of "ouch" reminds me that another similarity between organ practice and sports training is the danger of inflicting upon yourself a permanent physical injury - a sore point for me - literally. :o

Preach it, brother! I have had Bach Trio Sonatas leave me with a mild groin strain. I think there are more enjoyable ways to achieve the same effect!!

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Preach it, brother! I have had Bach Trio Sonatas leave me with a mild groin strain. I think there are more enjoyable ways to achieve the same effect!!

Please explain. I don't know what you're talking about. :o

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During a particularly busy period of my medical studies I went about a couple of months without touching a note. I got a nasty shock one day whilst visiting a country church and enquiring about the organ therein; I was invited to have a go, and the resulting embarressment gave me a lesson I have never forgotton. Happily my fingers and feet rapidly found themselves again once I found an instrument I could regularly practice on.

 

Having recently been away for a month then had a recital scheduled a week after my return, I probably spent a couple of hours a day during that week just on the recital pieces to ensure I was competent again for the concert.

 

Now settled into a new job around 300 miles from the nearest organ (I'm currently writing from somewhere in the jungle in central Africa, oh the wonders of satellite internet systems), and only being able to visit that organ (Kampala cathedral) once every three months, I am going to give serious thought to how to maintain my skills with such limited practice opportunities. Any tips from fellow organists who have had to face a similar problem?

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How true. As a jobbing accompanist I have sometimes encountered choir directors who do not appreciate this either, but at least they can be trained.

 

I know an FRCO is supposed theoretically be able to sight-read things like the Duruflé Requiem, but come on! I got the score just three weeks before the performance, never having played it before. I can't remember the last time I worked so hard!

 

 

================

 

 

Snap!

 

I had much the same warning, and even now, (twenty years later), whenever I hear the Durufle Requiem, my right eye starts to twitch like Herbert Lomm's in "The Pink Panther."

 

It really is the stuff of mental breakdowns.

 

MM

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QUOTE(mrbouffant @ Nov 22 2007, 06:10 PM)

Preach it, brother! I have had Bach Trio Sonatas leave me with a mild groin strain. I think there are more enjoyable ways to achieve the same effect!!

Please explain. I don't know what you're talking about. ;)

 

Playing the Dupré G minor Prelude (& Fugue)????? :rolleyes:

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I was organist for 22 years at a church where frankly nobody noticed (or cared?) if I played well or badly. After I left last Easter and went freelance I suddenly found I had to do a lot more practice before I felt comfortable playing anywhere! Probably it's too easy, especially in winter, not to practise too long in a cold church.

 

Interesting though about voluntaries - at one village church where I do one Sunday morning a month they more or less treat the voluntary as musical wallpaper - no change there then. But in the other town church where I now play 2/3 Sunday mornings a month they all stay and listen to the voluntary afterwards, and generally applaud too (unless it lasts more than about 4/5 minutes when the coffee wins out). But this is such a new experience. I wonder how many others have experienced this? It's been the exception for me and it doesn't half make me practise, especially as I make no great claims to be anything other than a reasonably competent player for services!

 

Ron

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But in the other town church where I now play 2/3 Sunday mornings a month they all stay and listen to the voluntary afterwards, and generally applaud too (unless it lasts more than about 4/5 minutes when the coffee wins out). But this is such a new experience. I wonder how many others have experienced this? It's been the exception for me and it doesn't half make me practise......

 

 

==============================

 

 

Well of course, with young 'Bwyan' (now Brian since he got his false tooth in), lurking around after mass to listen to the organ, I have to be on my best behaviour and not play wrong notes. If I make mistakes, he knows that something isn't right, and whinces audibly.

 

The only exception was when I tried to draw the upperwork for the grand finale of something or other, and whilst the Mixture drew correctly, the Sesquialtera didn't; the resulting sound not unlike a calliope.

 

"Bwyan" first whinced, then snorted and finally collapsed in a fit of the giggles, as if it were the funniest thing he'd ever heard.

 

It's odd to think that my junior critic really does listen, and keeps me on my toes. I think it makes a difference when even one person genuinely appreciates the music, and young Brian certainly does.

 

MM

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==============================

Well of course, with young 'Bwyan' (now Brian since he got his false tooth in), lurking around after mass to listen to the organ, I have to be on my best behaviour and not play wrong notes. If I make mistakes, he knows that something isn't right, and whinces audibly.

 

The only exception was when I tried to draw the upperwork for the grand finale of something or other, and whilst the Mixture drew correctly, the Sesquialtera didn't; the resulting sound not unlike a calliope.

 

"Bwyan" first whinced, then snorted and finally collapsed in a fit of the giggles, as if it were the funniest thing he'd ever heard.

 

It's odd to think that my junior critic really does listen, and keeps me on my toes. I think it makes a difference when even one person genuinely appreciates the music, and young Brian certainly does.

 

MM

 

Yes as you say MM, it does make a big difference when even one person listens; mind when one punter came up recently and said 'What was that you just played?' I did just wonder...

 

Ron.

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My voluntaries get listened to each Sunday evening, even when they last 10 or 15 minutes! :rolleyes: (St Anne P&F, Jongen Sonata Eroica, etc) and there's applause, which I'm never sure how to, or whether to, acknowledge - after all it's not a concert... There is sometimes one key-jangling exception to the general appreciation of the voluntaries, but we won't go there... :rolleyes:

Coffee is served on the gallery, occasionally two or three people head up there and listen with their coffee. The only exception is at the carol service where even I don't really hear the voluntary through the noise of the post service chat, etc! :unsure:

 

 

P.

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My voluntaries get listened to each Sunday evening, even when they last 10 or 15 minutes! :rolleyes: (St Anne P&F, Jongen Sonata Eroica, etc) and there's applause, which I'm never sure how to, or whether to, acknowledge - after all it's not a concert... There is sometimes one key-jangling exception to the general appreciation of the voluntaries, but we won't go there... :rolleyes:

Coffee is served on the gallery, occasionally two or three people head up there and listen with their coffee. The only exception is at the carol service where even I don't really hear the voluntary through the noise of the post service chat, etc! :unsure:

P.

 

Great to hear that they keep that tradition going at St. P., Paul. I really used to appreciate it - it made the time taken in rehearsal of the voluntaries seem worthwhile. Imagine my surprise when, having left your place, in my first Sunday in my new job I had barely begun the post-service voluntary when the congregation all started talking and somebody got the Ewbank out and started hoovering the carpet right behind the organ console!! :angry:

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Twice recently I have been questioned as to why I feel the need to practise the organ. The first time was by a priest, incredibly, who said that since I played the same sort of stuff every week why did I need to rehearse?

 

The second thought that now I had learned how to play the organ there was no need for me to carry on learning, invoking the "riding a bike" analogy.

 

Do you get similar criticism?

 

Peter

 

I feel for you, Peter. In a way, this is one of the worst things you can say to an organist. Set against indifference of this sort, even outright hostility is preferable, either about the music or your playing of it (not desirable, but preferable!)

 

As musicians who have to play each week we are only too aware of the need to keep both the music and ourselves re-vitalised, which can be an uphill struggle sometimes.

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Guest Barry Williams
Twice recently I have been questioned as to why I feel the need to practise the organ. The first time was by a priest, incredibly, who said that since I played the same sort of stuff every week why did I need to rehearse?

 

The second thought that now I had learned how to play the organ there was no need for me to carry on learning, invoking the "riding a bike" analogy.

 

Do you get similar criticism?

 

Peter

 

Sorry ! Duplicate posting

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