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#76 sbhoa

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Posted 22 July 2018 - 20:25

Playing a keyboard would throw me off rather too. 


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#77 elemimele

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Posted 22 July 2018 - 21:34

Misterioso, playing a keyboard is different to an organ. Playing anything you haven't used before is hard. Mel2, if you weren't told what to expect, how could you know what to prepare? Both of you got through it. That's all that can be asked. People are probably grateful that someone turned up and did it, and if they aren't, then they should try being an organist. It's not an easy job.

Meanwhile, I attended a (large) church as a congregation member this morning; haven't been there for quite a while. The organist is highly skilled and certainly wouldn't consider what he did as a car-crash. But it was far too loud (for me, at any rate), with loads of improvisation with uncompromising, angry chords at points when quiet contemplation would have made more liturgical sense; at the end of the first hymn he went off into harmony exercises and got through at least 6 different keys in three bars; I was wondering what gymnastics he'd have to use to get back home (which, being skilled, he achieved with a Lefevre-Wely of a modulatory cartwheel). To be honest, I'll probably try to avoid his performances in future because they made me think things that are unkind and not appropriate in a church. He's probably great for others; it all comes down to personal disposition of the audience! Honestly, sometimes less is more.

But what I mean to say is this: if you think you had a car-crash, it's quite possible your congregation are busy saying "had a nice new lady/gent playing the organ/keyboard today. He/she was a bit nervous, but they did alright. Hope they'll come back...". I've never known anyone look down on an organist for starting an accidental extra verse of a hymn. We're all human.


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#78 Misterioso

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Posted 22 July 2018 - 23:16

Thank you, wonderful forumites, for your supportive, encouraging messages. I was beginning to wonder if I should perhaps give up on the whole escapade, but would really like to try and make this work.

 

But you did it and presumably you kept going which is the main thing. Did anyone thank you or say well done? People are usually very grateful to anyone who plays. And most people realise you've got to start somewhere and are very understanding. Actually a portable keyboard is not the best thing to play on. I think you did well to accompany with that. Keep going. It will get easier.

 

Well...I sort of kept going. The minister said thank you afterwards. Will it really get easier? unsure.png

Never mind, misti; constant, persistent humiliation tends to blunt the senses after a while.
I was (at short notice) asked to play a beast of a thing today. A baptism, and IME these things are brief affairs with no hymns, unless they form part of the normal morning service, or Holy Communion.
I arrived well before kick-off, anticipating a chance to refamiliarise with the thing, armed with about 5 mins of music, to find the church chock-full and waiting.
Nightmare. Played the thing I had prepared, and still had 20 mins to fill, so winged it, and like yours, was a car crash.
Even started a superfluous verse in the last hymn. biggrin.png

My beautifully prepared final voluntary was played solo because all the congregation had **gg**ed off. C'est la vie. Crept away feeling guilty for accepting the fee (x2 the amount I requested -at the insistence of vicar).

Hope this gives you some comfort. Can't send a hug because my phone won't do it.

 

Thanks, mel2 - you made me laugh re the persistent humiliation blunting the senses! I must admit, I did actually start a superfluous verse in the church band on one occasion. Must have been most disconcerting for you to arrive to a chock-full church when you'd been hoping for a quick practice beforehand. I think I would have turned round at the church door!

 

Misterioso, playing a keyboard is different to an organ. Playing anything you haven't used before is hard. Mel2, if you weren't told what to expect, how could you know what to prepare? Both of you got through it. That's all that can be asked. People are probably grateful that someone turned up and did it, and if they aren't, then they should try being an organist. It's not an easy job.

Meanwhile, I attended a (large) church as a congregation member this morning; haven't been there for quite a while. The organist is highly skilled and certainly wouldn't consider what he did as a car-crash. But it was far too loud (for me, at any rate), with loads of improvisation with uncompromising, angry chords at points when quiet contemplation would have made more liturgical sense; at the end of the first hymn he went off into harmony exercises and got through at least 6 different keys in three bars; I was wondering what gymnastics he'd have to use to get back home (which, being skilled, he achieved with a Lefevre-Wely of a modulatory cartwheel). To be honest, I'll probably try to avoid his performances in future because they made me think things that are unkind and not appropriate in a church. He's probably great for others; it all comes down to personal disposition of the audience! Honestly, sometimes less is more.

But what I mean to say is this: if you think you had a car-crash, it's quite possible your congregation are busy saying "had a nice new lady/gent playing the organ/keyboard today. He/she was a bit nervous, but they did alright. Hope they'll come back...". I've never known anyone look down on an organist for starting an accidental extra verse of a hymn. We're all human.

 

Yes, it is different to an organ, but I can't pretend I was completely unfamiliar with it. I had it at home for a few days beforehand to practise on. Someone left the stand for it at another church 30 miles away at the Butt of Lewis, so I played it balanced on OH's workmate.

It's encouraging to think that less can sometimes be more. I will bear that in mind, and hope that people are kind.

 

Maybe beta-blockers next time?unsure.png


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#79 Vox Humana

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Posted 23 July 2018 - 01:09

No, don't give up.  I'd bet money that people appreciated your efforts.

For ten years or so I gave lessons to an adult who came to me because he had been dragooned by his local Methodist church into playing the organ because "there's no one else to do it." He was 59 years old and his only qualification was scraping through grade 3 piano when he was a kid. A life at sea had put that properly to bed. He could barely play at all. On top of that, his current day job was as an electrical engineer in the local dockyard which entailed seriously physical work which had left him with nerve damage to both hands, but the left one in particular, which meant that he could never quite control where his left thumb was going to go. It had a habit of wobbling uncontrollably in thin air and was apt to land on random notes instead of the one intended. He had also developed the habit of pedalling the bass line an octave below the written notes, left foot only - I was quite surprised to find someone still doing this in the twenty-first century! To be frank, I think any summary assessment would have dismissed his playing as dreadful. Yet he was determined to learn. A prime motivation was his strong Christian faith - he felt it was his duty to do the best he possibly could for the church. He never did quite master his nervous problems, but the rigour of his daily practising regime frankly put me to shame. Every day he'd spend an hour on Hanon exercises, scales and arpeggios and then at least another hour on the pieces we were studying. It was very hard work for both of us, but through his sheer grit and determination he did all the grades up to grade 5 and got a merit for every one, even though his accuracy was unpredictable at best. I think the ABRSM examiners could see the amount of sheer effort he had put in. Although this man's neurological problems meant that he never could play totally accurately - something which would make more sniffy organists scoff - he knew he was doing his best and his congregations appreciated this too, both in his original Methodist church and subsequently when he moved to a neighbouring Anglican Church. I think his faith protected him from the worst embarrassment, but the appreciation and support he received from congregation members was possibly more important. It took time, but he did come to realise that, for all its technical faults, his playing really was greatly appreciated. Don't give up!


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#80 Aquarelle

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Posted 28 July 2018 - 16:50

No, certainly don't give up  misterioso. You are certainly doing a much better job than you think you are and I can assure you (from my attempts as a   fifteen year old many year- ago)  to accompany the Sunday School it does get easier! It really does and then you really enjoy doing it!


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#81 Misterioso

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Posted 28 July 2018 - 17:17

Vox Humana and Aquarelle, thank you for your encouraging words. That is a really inspirational story, VH.

 

Does anyone has any wise words about organ exams? I'd like to do one as I think it might help my confidence issues if I go about it in the right way. Preparing for exams also has a good effect of how diligent I am at practising! I have had a look at some of the music for G1-3, and am quite surprised at the standard. They seem rather harder than the equivalent grades in piano, with pedals needed at G3, occasional changes of register, and using the Swell manual as well as the Great. A G2 piece I am looking at (Veni, veni Emmanual from Hymn Miniatures) also requires switching from Swell to Great and back again, and at the end uses the Swell in the left hand and then a bar later in the right, and all the time while switching time signature from 6/8 to 5/8 to 4/8 to 8/8 etc. I'm actually finding the Swell manual quite difficult to manage because (a) it is physically higher, and hurts my damaged shoulders, and (b) because it has a completely different feel to the Great,with the keys being less klunky and depressing much less. Is that normal? 


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#82 SingingPython

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Posted 28 July 2018 - 19:32

That's the sort of thing that varies enormously from one organ to another, as far as I understand it.  But common for the two manuals to feel different.

 

I volunteered my son to play for a service last weekend - we were staying at my mother's rural cottage and she'd alerted me in advance that it was a week they actually had a service at their church.  They usually have to resort to itunes and a speaker system for their hymns now.  When you can help play a real instrument in such a setting you will always be appreciated no matter what happens.


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#83 elemimele

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Posted 28 July 2018 - 20:05

also unfortunately many (most) organs lack an adjustable bench, and all organs lack any adjustment of the distance between the pedals and the manuals, and the disposition of the manuals, so if you're not the physique that the organ-builder had in mind, it can get very uncomfortable and precarious trying to reach the right bits. I have no idea how people play organs with huge numbers of manuals; the most I've played is three, and I found it uncomfortable. Even two can be bad if they're badly placed.

Yes, the two manuals often feel very different. On the organ on which I had lessons, the Great had a very pleasant definite feel to it; you knew exactly when you'd pressed a key (I almost wrote it had a positive response but in the context that would have been painful...). The Swell was sort of squidgy (definitely less clunky, but the Great's "clunk" was a very satisfactory one), which felt quite unnerving. It was a good organ, so I shouldn't criticise, but it didn't feel nice. I think the entire organ has since been rebuilt and I haven't played it in many decades (sadly).

The organ in my childhood church was a typical village organ, equipped with a Sw-Gr coupler, and a swell superoctave coupler. Both of them individually made it almost impossible to play, and absolutely impossible to play with any finesse, as the pressure then needed to press a key was truly alarming.


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#84 Vox Humana

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Posted 28 July 2018 - 22:23

... all organs lack any adjustment of the distance between the pedals and the manuals ... I have no idea how people play organs with huge numbers of manuals; the most I've played is three, and I found it uncomfortable. Even two can be bad if they're badly placed.

 

Actually the organ in Washington Cathedral has a pedalboard that can be raised and lowered. Needless to say the bench is adjustable too. Rolls-Royce comfort for the player! I recently read of a new organ that had a similar facility, but I'm afraid I wasn't paying sufficient attention to remember where it is.

As for numbers of manuals I think to a large extent it's a matter of familiarity. When I was young I was lucky enough to play a four-manual organ almost daily for three years. I soon got used to it and have never thought twice about four-manual consoles since. However, if one is pedalling at the same time it's certainly more uncomfortable to play with both hands on the fourth manual than it is with only one  I've only ever played one five-manual organ (St Paul's Cathedral, for a couple of evensongs) and had no call to use the top manual. I did try it very briefly in practice and didn't find it comfortable. However, I don't doubt that organists who regularly play at such consoles soon learn to cope.

Far too many old tracker action organs have poorly designed and/or regulated actions that make them frightfully heavy to play. This has given tracker action an unjustly bad reputation. Many of these actions could be lightened with careful restoration and adjustment by those who really understand what they are about. The modern tracker actions I have played have been delightfully responsive and light. One super organ I know has a tracker action so light that it is positively dangerous. The mere touch of a shirt cuff will play a note. On light actions like this, being able to feel the pull of the action is a wonderful aid to precise articulation because the finger-tips get more intimate "feedback" than they do from non-mechanical actions.


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#85 Cyrilla

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Posted 28 July 2018 - 23:03

Ooooo I think my OH has played the Washington Cathedral one, VH :)

 

He's off playing at Winchester this weekend.

 

:)


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#86 Misterioso

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 03:30

Tracker action? Sorry - I'm afraid this particular novice is lost.unsure.png


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#87 elemimele

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 10:51

Tracker action means mechanical action. The end of the key is linked to a palette in a wind chest by mechanics which include rods that pull things; these are trackers. There may also be short bits of wood that push things, for example the end of the key might push a lever of some sort, or another key when a coupler is in use, and pushing rods are called stickers. There is inevitably some sort of fanning-out thing or set of pivoting axles that can be pushed or pulled by the key at one end, and which pull a rod operating the palette at the other (a roller-board), in order to fan a narrow keyboard out to match a wider windchest.

Many people believe that the ultimate in touch-sensitive action is when the keys pull directly on trackers that pull on a set of axles that operate a second set of trackers pulling downwards directly on the palettes. This "suspended" action is about as simple as a mechanical organ can get. Unfortunately Vox Humana is speaking with the voice of reality: many village organs crammed into wrong-shaped rooms built into a corner between nave and chancel have actions that have to be a bit more contorted, and (probably to make them robust) are heavier in construction and adjustment than is ideal for the player. If a palette is barely held in place by its spring, then it's easier for the player's fingers, but the slightest maladjustment of the action, the slightest bit of dust or dirt, and the palette will no longer return to its place properly and promptly when the key is released.

Personally I find the mechanics of an organ quite interesting, but it's not everyone's cup of tea, and people like me who revel in such things sometimes miss the point of the whole instrument as a creator of music.


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#88 Vox Humana

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 10:53

Action is the mechanism that enables a key to sound the pipes. Tracker action is where the link between the key and the pipes is entirely mechanical - basically, when you press a key a succession of rods and sticks pulls down the pallet under the pipe to let it speak. There's a diagram about halfway down this (rather technical) page that shows how tracker action works. http://www.pykett.or...gan_actions.htm


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#89 mel2

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 13:32

I confess that the mechanics of the things tends to wash over me. I've asked repeatedly about it but glaze over when the explanation comes. (There are some words I have to keep looking up, like 'sententious, immutable (or is it '..ible?'), etc.)
I settled for believing that if you flicked a switch and a light came on, then it couldn't be a tracker. I'll read the link and check but by dusk I will have forgotten it again.
I think you just need to learn to cope with whatever you find yourself in front of. You'll grow the necessary muscles if you play it often enough.
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#90 elemimele

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 16:21

... there's also a wikipedia page if you wan't something with less technical language.

 

I don't like the advantages and disadvantages section, but at least you've got pictures...


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