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I Need Some Advice


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Hello everyone!

 

I have been lying here silently for a while now and have found the posts and their contributors extremely interesting, so much so I feel compelled to complete my first post and hope that you can all help me out on subject that really is important to me.

 

This does involve a short story, but please stick with me.

 

I have all ways loved the organ from when I first set eye on one at local church aged 7, so I took my piano grades and joint the local choir for a closer look. I started to enjoy the whole church thing and so the whole thing started to snowball. Started lessons aged 9 and by 13 was organist at a local church moving to a larger instrument and building at 15. I even spent my school work experience at Manders workshop!

 

As I grew older I started playing services freelance in my local area and then around London progressing to local choir trips to cathedrals around the country. A promising FRCO candidate it was all going very well until 2006 when I was attacked in the street by some mindless idiot intent of stealing something or other.

 

Said idiot stabbed me once in the lower abdomen in my local high street before running off with nothing. Rushed to hospital with server internal injuries it was unclear if I would make it. I lost so much blood that low blood oxygen levels to my brain had significantly damaged parts of my nervous system.

 

I remember coming round in hospital unable to move, the commands I had been sending my body all my life no longer had the reaction they did before. I was terrifying.

 

Its taken 6 operations and nearly 3 years or re-learning everything to get to where I am today, my brain has no input connections from my body anymore and cannot sense the position of any of my joints so relies on my eyesight to reference body position and balance.

 

So the big question was could I still play...?

 

The answer is a profound YES (amazing) although I have to feel for the pedal notes, something my old tutor always said anyway. I'm certainly not at the standard I was before but i don't care, I seem to be able to move with such freedom when playing when normally I have to concentrate to just walk. And what is more is that improvement can be seen by practice, which is obviously important and the organ is amazing therapy for coordination and balance.

 

I have a new job and at 35 am so thankful for life and feel like I'm living all over again! I'm determined that this time I going to make more of my talent but I'm finding it difficult.

 

I'm now back at work as a field IT engineer in and around central London and find getting practice instruments impossible, my local church is also less than accommodating. I would love a central London church where I could sneak in for a 45 minutes or so during the day when I get a chance and things are quiet. I have been attending any lunchtime recitals I can get to and have found them very enjoyable.

 

Should I find a new tutor with a bit of understanding who can get me going again?

 

I'm really struggling to kick myself back off again but I know I can do it.

 

This board has been an inspiration to me and has kept me going and its great to be back in the position where I can now play the instrument I love.

 

Sorry I've gone on for so long!

 

If you can offer any advice or help I would love to hear from you all.

 

Many Thanks

 

R

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Guest Roffensis

You poor thing, but you remain positive. That's good, and very important. Don't ask "can you do" so and so, do it. Determination and a strong will will see you through, and if you never make a Fernando Germani, so what? how many of us do :( .The important thing is to keep going, and practice, practice, practice. Enjoy it.

 

Your teacher was quite right....feel for the pedals, no peeking down. Its banned.

 

 

With all the luck in the world, (even if I don't think you need it!)

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Thank you for feeling able to share this with us. I would like to say it is a great priviledge to think that what some of us have said has helped and encouraged you, and I hope we can continue to do this. Perhaps some of our London based members can offer practical support. I would love to, but the trip would be rather too long.

 

Very best wishes

 

AJS

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I have the utmost admiration for anyone who is able to face physical disability with determination and positivism. It is great that you have recovered something of your playing ability. Long may you improve!

 

Should you find a new tutor? Most certainly, but I think you would need to choose with care. If your feet are no longer responding to your brain signals you will need someone who is able to take this fully on board and, hopefully, assist you in discovering techniques to mitigate the problem. I doubt whether there are too many FRCO neurologists around, but maybe some board member with knowledge of the London area will be able to give some practical pointers.

 

In the meanwhile, don't forget that there is a wealth of really excellent and worthwhile music for manuals only which does not deserve the slightly apologetic air with which one often feels it is aired. I do think we organists are often too firmly welded to our pedalboards and tend to forget how wearying incessant pedal 16' tone can be. I'm not sure I appreciated it myself until I attended a recital at which nearly half the programme was for manuals only. It was like breath of fresh air!

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I have the utmost admiration for anyone who is able to face physical disability with determination and positivism. It is great that you have recovered something of your playing ability. Long may you improve!

 

Should you find a new tutor? Most certainly, but I think you would need to choose with care. If your feet are no longer responding to your brain signals you will need someone who is able to take this fully on board and, hopefully, assist you in discovering techniques to mitigate the problem. I doubt whether there are too many FRCO neurologists around, but maybe some board member with knowledge of the London area will be able to give some practical pointers.

 

In the meanwhile, don't forget that there is a wealth of really excellent and worthwhile music for manuals only which does not deserve the slightly apologetic air with which one often feels it is aired. I do think we organists are often too firmly welded to our pedalboards and tend to forget how wearying incessant pedal 16' tone can be. I'm not sure I appreciated it myself until I attended a recital at which nearly half the programme was for manuals only. It was like breath of fresh air!

 

Thank you Vox Humana and everyone who has posted so far,

 

It's not the physical act of pedaling that is the problem, I just I get no feedback of limb position. It's hard to know where to move next when you don't know where you are!

 

Walking etc requires vision, mainly peripheral to reference points around me. I'm rubbish in the dark!

 

Again it's all going to be re-learning and practice, where, when and how to go about it is the most pressing problem.

 

Regards

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Dear Darky, that's a wonderful testimony that you just shared and I wish you every encouragement. I remember once someone telling me of someone who lost a couple of fingers yet still managed to be a concert recitalist.

 

I'm a medical doctor myself; whilst not a neurologist I do know there are a few medical organists around so you might hit lucky. As your condition and story is so unusual you might even consider whether there are any research programs at somewhere like the Institute of Neurology in central London where you might find someone interested in studying your adaptation to the organ. As you obviously reached a higher standard than probably many of us on this board if you were thinking FRCOs you already have gone a long way. I presume your difficulty is with finger joint position sense as well as feet, otherwise you could learn music by heart and play accurately just by looking down the whole time. Purists might say, no cheating, but for goodness sake if it means you play the right notes well and make great music, who cares?

 

Good tip on the manuals only music - plus don't forget the repertoire for pedals only too!

 

Does choice of shoe help? Maybe rubber soles being less slippery keep your sense of where you feet are once you have located their position. Maybe playing in socks, being generally harder work, even slightly painful, but allowing your toes to curl around notes, might allow touch sensation, assuming you have retained that, to tell you where your toes are.

 

Thinking a bit more elaborate, if you merely have a laptop and digital camera you could even mount the camera above the pedals either to one side or just behind the bench pointing down onto the pedals, then you will have on the musicdesk the exact position of where your feet are.

 

Do report back to us on how you get on - there are a number of notable blind organists but we really must hear about players with other disabilities who have triumphed too!

 

Contrabombarde

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Does choice of shoe help? Maybe rubber soles being less slippery keep your sense of where you feet are once you have located their position. Maybe playing in socks, being generally harder work, even slightly painful, but allowing your toes to curl around notes, might allow touch sensation, assuming you have retained that, to tell you where your toes are.

 

Contrabombarde

 

Contrabombarde you are right with the socks, this greatly improves things.

 

Feeling for gap between E&F or B&C and working from there seems to work, you can't go too wrong.

 

It's just practice and I may just have to be a little strict with myself and keep at it.

 

Regards

 

R

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Your teacher was quite right....feel for the pedals, no peeking down. Its banned.

 

Sorry, I disagree.

 

I have yet to meet an organist who never looks at their hands. I find it illogical that feet should be treated differently. In any case, I have a number of friends who are cathedral organists and I have observed them looking at their feet from time to time. If it is a choice between playing an incorrect note or looking, personally I would look every time.

 

I cannot offer any advice regarding teachers, I am afraid, but I join with others here in their good wishes. I was saddened and shocked to read your story; I hope that things improve for you from here onwards.

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Sorry, I disagree.

 

I have yet to meet an organist who never looks at their hands. I find it illogical that feet should be treated differently. In any case, I have a number of friends who are cathedral organists and I have observed them looking at their feet from time to time. If it is a choice between playing an incorrect note or looking, personally I would look every time.

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I completely agree - yesterday I had to look down most carefully as the organ on which I was playing (A BRAND-NEW Viscount prestige 40) had the most stupid toe piston layout imaginable - the midi sustain piston (which operates as a sustain for the piano effect) was placed right next door to the 'tutti' piston. I wonder who was the stupid idiot who designed THAT?

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I have known Fr Philip at St Magnus since he was first ordained Deacon in the parish in which I live about 25 years ago. He is a very good and pastorally sensitive priest, as well as being an accomplished organist himself. Do go and talk to him and, if you like, mention my name by way of introduction.

 

Peter Wright at Southwark cathedral is one of the nicest and most caring people I have ever met in the organ world as well as being a superb teacher and performer. Even if he doesn't have any vacancies for students himself at the moment he may well be able to offer advice and point you in the right direction. I think I have written before, somewhere on this Board, how important it is to find a teacher with whom you can quickly form a good raport with mutual respect & understanding

 

I have the greatest admiration for anyone who can overcome difficulties in order to achieve their ambitions and I wish you all the best.

 

Malcolm

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I have known Fr Philip at St Magnus since he was first ordained Deacon in the parish in which I live about 25 years ago. He is a very good and pastorally sensitive priest, as well as being an accomplished organist himself. Do go and talk to him and, if you like, mention my name by way of introduction.

 

Many thanks Malcolm I will seek out Fr Philip as you're not alone in recommending him, this church is right in my work patch and if I'm going to get any free time, it's going to be here.

 

Peter Wright at Southwark cathedral is one of the nicest and most caring people I have ever met in the organ world as well as being a superb teacher and performer. Even if he doesn't have any vacancies for students himself at the moment he may well be able to offer advice and point you in the right direction.

 

If possible I generally hide here for lunchtime recitals if not too busy so I should be able to find Peter as well.

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Wow a BIG Thank you to everyone who has replied so far :)

 

I have some great leads.

 

Thank you for taking the time, I genuinely feel a little excited by it all and can't wait to speak with some of the people you have suggested and get going.

 

This is a subject I've sat on for a bit too long i guess, I will let you all know how it goes!

 

R

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What a shocking story. You have my every sympathy, though I'm afriad I can offer you little advice regarding practice facilities. If you continue to face your problems with the courage and determination I read in your story, though, I am am sure you will find a way. Every good wish to you.

 

Regards

 

John

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  • 2 weeks later...

Glad to hear the socks idea seemed to work. Meanwhile I've heard back from a couple of medical colleagues on a doctors' forum and it was suggested that maybe you should start off with those pieces that you were most intimately familiar and confident with before your assault. Can you drive, that requires considerable hand and foot coordination and knowledge of ankle joint position. Do you listen to music whilst walking, given your need to find cues when walking.

 

As for practising, it would be dishonouring to the rules and founder of these forums to promote electrinic organs, but I would hope to get away with mentioning that they do tend to have much lighter pedal actions than those on pipe organs, even those with electric action, so extended sock practice is perfectly comfortable. And if you feel embarressed to play in public but want the experience of playing different organs, then the Hauptwerk system springs to mind, with its flexibility for allowing you to play a wide range of digitally recorded instruments as though you were playing the real thing.

 

Contrabombarde

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