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Vox Humana

Recitals On Unfamiliar Organs

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At the risk of playing semantics I suggest that this is an unecessarily narrow definition of the word "practice". It is certainly not the one I had in mind. To me practice is the process of ensuring that nothing goes wrong. That includes not just the notes, but also console control and everything else that may be peculiar to the circumstances of a particular venue.

 

Indeed. I spent a year doing lots of lunchtime concerts in the mistaken belief that this would help me get other work. Instead, it just cost an arm and a leg. One thing it did amply demonstrate was that 99% of worthwhile practice was about getting to know the organ, venue, microphone system for talking, etc. It reached the point where I would arrive three hours before, spend an hour improvising and messing about, an hour setting up pistons, then pottering round the church and going for a coffee in town. You can know the notes all you want (or the opposite, if you're one of those people who can get away with murder) but the success or otherwise is going to be determined by how well you've found your way around the organ and made it into a performance.

 

Forgive me if I haven't put that terribly well. Inspector Morse has just died again and I think I need to go and find some tissues. (Nothing to do with the Exeter organ; tissues are not what I require when I hear that.)

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Indeed. I spent a year doing lots of lunchtime concerts in the mistaken belief that this would help me get other work. Instead, it just cost an arm and a leg. One thing it did amply demonstrate was that 99% of worthwhile practice was about getting to know the organ, venue, microphone system for talking, etc. It reached the point where I would arrive three hours before, spend an hour improvising and messing about, an hour setting up pistons, then pottering round the church and going for a coffee in town. You can know the notes all you want (or the opposite, if you're one of those people who can get away with murder) but the success or otherwise is going to be determined by how well you've found your way around the organ and made it into a performance.

 

Forgive me if I haven't put that terribly well. Inspector Morse has just died again and I think I need to go and find some tissues. (Nothing to do with the Exeter organ; tissues are not what I require when I hear that.)

 

 

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

 

Exactly so!

 

The availability of both money and venues is such, that only the smallest handful of people can ever scrape a living, or even a part time income, from being either a recitalist or a church-musician.

 

I always smile, knowing that I did exactly the right thing by keeping music as a hobby, but indulging other interests/aptitudes in the procurement of bread-and butter. With the ever declining fortunes of the Anglican church, I suspect that the situation can only get worse year-by-year.

 

I'm sorry to hear that Inspector Morse died. I never watched a single episode, and was unaware of his demise. I hope the car is still of a piece, and didn't go over a cliff and burst into flames, as American cars always seem to do in films.

 

MM

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Yes. Unfortunately when it comes to getting paid recital engagements it doesn't really matter how good a player you are. The money is going to go to those most likely to draw an audience. In practice that means those who hold a cathedral position and maybe foreign visitors. Except for the lucky few of course. If you want to make a living as a concert organist you probably need to get yourself a good agent.

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I think if you are planning on giving a recital on a foreign instrument the notes need to be learnt well before the recital. You are generally lucky to get more than 4 hours on cathedral organs particularly. Often some of the time you aren't allowed to practice at volume either.

 

I like showing up with all the notes already learnt so I can spend the rest of the time on registrations and just getting used to the subtle differences of each console. I find my life is made easier by turning up with pieces that are fairly easy to register such as French toccatas and Bach. Showing up with Liszt or Howells can create a lot more work on the registration front.

 

Eugene Lavery

Assistant Organist

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Auckland

New Zealand

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I think if you are planning on giving a recital on a foreign instrument the notes need to be learnt well before the recital. You are generally lucky to get more than 4 hours on cathedral organs particularly. Often some of the time you aren't allowed to practice at volume either.

 

I like showing up with all the notes already learnt so I can spend the rest of the time on registrations and just getting used to the subtle differences of each console. I find my life is made easier by turning up with pieces that are fairly easy to register such as French toccatas and Bach. Showing up with Liszt or Howells can create a lot more work on the registration front.

 

Eugene Lavery

Assistant Organist

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Auckland

New Zealand

 

 

Welcome, Eugene.

 

I hope that you have enjoyed playing the rather splendid-looking H&H instrument in the cathedral.

 

I agree with your comments. At Coventry, Salisbury and Winchester cathedrals I was fortunate; on each occasion I was able to practise in the building for a few hours on an evening close to the day of the recital. I also had a couple of hours' rehearsal on the day. However, at Truro Cathedral I was not so fortunate - a bare two hours' practice on the morning of the day of the recital. At least H&H organs (and those by Willis) are fairly easy to handle; they are also generally very comfortable. I assume that the same is true of the instrument in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland?

 

Best wishes for your studies in the new academic year, incidentally.

 

Sean R. Tucker

Sub Organist

The Minster Church of Saint Cuthburga in Wimborne

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Welcome, Eugene.

 

I hope that you have enjoyed playing the rather splendid-looking H&H instrument in the cathedral.

 

I agree with your comments. At Coventry, Salisbury and Winchester cathedrals I was fortunate; on each occasion I was able to practise in the building for a few hours on an evening close to the day of the recital. I also had a couple of hours' rehearsal on the day. However, at Truro Cathedral I was not so fortunate - a bare two hours' practice on the morning of the day of the recital. At least H&H organs (and those by Willis) are fairly easy to handle; they are also generally very comfortable. I assume that the same is true of the instrument in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland?

 

Best wishes for your studies in the new academic year, incidentally.

 

Sean R. Tucker

Sub Organist

The Minster Church of Saint Cuthburga in Wimborne

 

 

Thanks Sean,

 

I have found that quiet practice on a foriegn organ can be useful for getting to know the instrument. Obviously Harriosns are normally the easiest organs to get used too. This can be said for the organ of Auckland Cathedral. Well the console at least! We have issues with the action and delays etc, which can throw some visiting organists.

 

But there is nothing worse than sitting down at a console and never feeling comfortable. You get a sense that everything is out of place by a few centimetres.

 

Anyway, I think if you show up to practice and still have notes to learn you are pretty much doomed from the start.

 

Many thanks for your good wishes regarding my overseas studies. Juilliard will be a great experience I hope.

 

Eugene Lavery

Assistant Organist

Holy Trinity Cathedral

Auckland

New Zealand

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