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#106 TweedleDee

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Posted 09 April 2019 - 19:34

The loudness and acoustic in general depends a lot on the shape and materials used in the church building.  As is common in the states, our church is wood with a carpeted floor in the loft and nave (unfortunately!).  I really have to crank up the volume to get it to the congregation downstairs.  And yes, I notice a big difference between an empty and full church.  My Priest would often tell me to crank it halfway through the service when we first got it installed and I've never had a complaint that it's too loud (which seems to be unusual from what I hear.)  It's electric, but we also have a little 3-rank pipe organ I use for quieter preludes, choir, and communion music.

 

As an aside, I have to tell you that my wife and I had a wonderful vacation 2 years ago in Scotland to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We didn't get up as far north as you live, but we made it to the Isle of Skye.  Sadly, I didn't get a chance to try out any organs while visiting the country.  We visited the big church next to the Sterling castle while they were having some sort of open house.  They told me it housed the largest organ in Scotland.  I had no idea.  Probably the highlight from an organ perspective, however, was to visit St. Paul's in Edinburgh on a Sunday morning and hearing the organ and choir play.  That was really great.


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#107 Misterioso

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 17:23

It's a while since I posted in this thread, but I have been steadily working away, and yesterday evening played for my first Evensong service - on my own! Terrified doesn't really come near, and I felt strongly tempted to quit the whole venture mid-service. I made plenty of mistakes (some covered up, others blatantly obvious), and it took me a while to stop shaking - but I have been asked to play again!  :o

As is often the case for Evensong services, it was a very small congregation, but they were all so grateful to have someone play for them rather than sing to a tape. I feel quite humbled.

I've decided to skip G2 organ. I can do without the stress and financial outlay just as my SAD is kicking in, and will also need to learn more hymns and incidental music for before and after services.

 

:)


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#108 elemimele

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 18:33

Congratulations! And probably wise about the exam; the problem that any developing church organist faces is that learning hymns is far from trivial, certainly if you want to play them well. You've got a regular influx of new stuff to learn, and trying to perfect exam pieces on the side is a big burden. It's a frustration of organ that the organist wants to learn nice pieces, but has to have access to an organ to do so; and organs come with churches who need organists to play for services, which takes so much time that there's no time left to learn the nice pieces... a delicate balancing act!

The terror of playing for a small congregation for evensong is very tangible, and the amount of work is exactly the same whether the congregation is 5 or 500 - and the gratitude is even bigger when it's only 5. Finding real musicians to support a small congregation is difficult. You've done a good thing.

I hope the SAD stays not too awful, and hope you get a lot of organ-satisfaction over the coming Winter, before the leaves reappear in the Spring!


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#109 TweedleDee

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Posted 03 October 2019 - 19:18

Congratulations!  It only gets easier.  Did you plan manuals only?  I'm working on getting our parish to hold an Evensong this year.  And if it happens, hopefully more than 3 people show up!


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#110 Misterioso

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 08:47

I've only just seen your post, TweedleDee. Yes, I played manuals only (although on a good day I can manage to drop a pedal at the end of the Lord's Prayer). Hope you manage to get your parish to hold an Evensong - it's such a lovely service.


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#111 Misterioso

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Posted Yesterday, 14:56

Oh help! Three months on and things have changed completely. We have been in interregnum for around 18 months, then finally in November a new incumbent was installed. He is actually a nice man, but comes to our remote charge from the grandeur of York Minster, and is also an ex-organist. I "tried" to play the Lord's Prayer a couple of Sundays ago in the morning service, but it was a complete car crash. (Really!) I can't remember the last time I played so horrendously badly - and yes, it really was as bad as all that. I was feeling well-rested and quite relaxed during the service, and trying not to feel too nervous, but then sat down to play and &%^£%:!(&@!!!

 

To be honest, I'm on the verge of giving up. He is being very prescriptive about hymns, so I will no longer have more or less free choice of what I'm able to play. But - more importantly than that - I don't think I can EVER get over my paralysing performance anxiety, and am only adding to my stress levels and sense of general incompetence when I try....and fail. The real organist says it will get better, but she's been saying that for some time now and I really don't think it will.

 

I'm pretty miserable about it and would be grateful for any wise words about which way to go now.  :(   


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#112 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted Yesterday, 15:18

Sorry to hear. A virtual feel-better hug coming your way.


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#113 mel2

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Posted Yesterday, 15:34

:thereThere:

 

My heart goes out to you. I will not  say we've ALL done it, because I wouldn't presume to suggest others have displayed similar ineptitude to my own, in times of stress. 

I recall a couple of Christmas Eves when tiredness added to insecurity with the Widor Toccata to cause disaster; there was the time when louts weighed in at an evensong at the urban-priority parish where I played and even after they were ejected, my concentration was completely shot with inevitable consequences for the musicality.

 

One wonders why the incumbent forsook the fleshpots of York Minster for your outpost (delightful though I'm sure it is). Perhaps he tired of the formality and precision of cathedral worship? His mind was probably elsewhere when you were disintegrating.

 

Maybe step back a little and do one or 2 hymns when the regular organist is there, and can take over if it all gets too much. Small steps. Quiet, informal occasions. I'm sure the incumbent will understand your nerves and inexperience. He may even offer to send you on an RSCM course for reluctant organists.

 

Just think of Nish Kumar at the charity do, and reflect that nothing was thrown at you and your Lord's Prayer did not go viral. (As I always feared a less-than-perfect wedding would do in these days of smartphones)


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#114 Nine and a Half Fingers

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Posted Yesterday, 15:48

I'm an organist of no great ability ("pianist" really - no great ability there either!) and play in rural churches to generally small congregations but once or twice many hundreds at funerals. Intimidating, but I'm used to it now as long as the repertoire isn't too challenging. What helps me is to remember what you wrote earlier : but they were all so grateful to have someone play for them. I've had many instances of playing what I thought were mistake riddled hymns only to be told how wonderful they sounded. I am however very reticent when it comes to weddings. Too much recording equipment and occasionally ridiculous requests for music to be played on an ageing church organ.

 

Good luck!


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#115 elemimele

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Posted Yesterday, 18:34

Oh Misterioso, that's not easy. The bit that nine-and-a-half-fingers wrote in bold is worth underlining too. Organists are very rare. Ones who are prepared to turn up regularly are even rarer. Ones who turn up regularly, attempt to do the right thing, don't pick fights with the incumbent and don't get arrested for running a cannabis farm are utterly gold-dust, even if they have their shaky moments when it comes to playing. Everyone is probably really grateful, even when it all goes musically wrong.

As to it all going wrong, just learning a handful of hymns is actually a lot of work, so don't overdo it. If at all possible, I'd say keep communicating with the priest, and be honest about what you can and can't do. It's best to be friendly and open. You can say you're not trying to tell him how to do his job, or dictate the church music, but you're still new and limited in what you can manage, so he'll have to be a bit gentle with what he expects. If you don't want to do big events, politely refuse them. It can be very hard (I remember being threatened with a 'good hiding' from a well-meaning organist when I refused to do a voluntary for a huge Christmas service as a teenager. In retrospect I'd have fallen to pieces completely, it would have been a catastrophe to end all catastrophes). But if you feel you'd like to stick to playing for small evensongs with the ten regulars, then do so. Those ten will really appreciate you, and you're saving the main organist from having to come out on wet Sunday evenings/afternoons to do the job, so you're actually being very useful.

Try to get the flower-arrangers to conceal you behind something big and floral too.

How do you help your pupils with performance anxiety?

Playing complex hymns and bits and pieces makes it harder too; the easier it is, the less likely it is to go wrong.

Do you do your practice when no one is around? Could you fight nerves by doing it when there are people around (people cleaning, doing flowers, whatever)?

The most musically-competent organists aren't necessarily the best; I've never quite understood the mentality of a local organist who tore up the priest's list of hymns and sprinkled it on him like confetti from the West end balcony as he processed out underneath...


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#116 Misterioso

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Posted Yesterday, 23:46

Thanks so much for these replies. It really helps to know that others have been there.

 

The regular organist plays for another church in the evenings, and lately the new incumbent has been playing for Evensong, although he says he's willing to let me have a turn if I want to. But I feel as though I have lost a lot of ground now. Despite his nice-ness, he is one of the problems, because knowing he's an ex-organist actually makes me much, much more nervous, and was in fact the reason for the other Sunday's car-crash. Even doing one hymn these days fills me with dread before the service, so I haven't played a hymn at Church for a while. I make them as simple as I can so I can (hopefully) get through it under duress, but it's so frustrating that I can get through these things well enough when I'm practising the day before, but I can't do them when it comes to the crunch. Quite honestly, in my current (fairly depressed) state, I don't think I would be good enough for an RSCM course for organists - even reluctant ones - much as the idea appeals to me. 

 

Elemimele, I'm horrified that you were threatened with a "good hiding" for refusing to play something that you felt at the time you couldn't do justice to. I don't feel I can do justice to anything just now, but I will mull it all over (ie worry about it) until I eventually reach a decision. I don't need to be concealed behind flowers as the organ is in a loft at the back of the Church, and people have to look round to see me at all, and then they would only see the top of my head, so I haven't even got the excuse that people are looking at me. Even telling myself that I am playing to the converted and I'm amongst friends doesn't help. I've had beta blockers and hypnotherapy before to get me through exams, but I can't afford to go to the mainland every week for a session! I actually think my performance anxiety has deteriorated since the last time I took an exam. I remember the steward taking me through to the exam room, giving my name, and saying "flute, Grade 6". My only thought was "What! Grade 6? What am I doing here?" And now it's worse than that.

 

I'm really not sure I can crack this particular nut. Everyone says they've been there, but even our regular organist admits that although she still gets nervous (even after years and years of playing) she has never been as nervous as me. I think I will give it one more Sunday. I will play the Lord's Prayer next week, and if I can't do it then, it's time to stop. I will be sad, but don't feel I can keep putting myself under this pressure.

 

I'm really hugely grateful for all these replies as they give me a different angle to view things from, and that's valuable. But I don't think I will ever be a performer - and I do wonder sometimes if God is trying to tell me something! 


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#117 elemimele

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Posted Today, 07:19

... all I'd add is, if you do give up, don't beat yourself up about it. In the grand scheme of things, it won't cause the Church in the Northern Hemisphere to crumble, and there are many other ways to be a good human. Yes, I do see what you mean about the incumbent making it hard, him being a very good organist. In my professional life, I don't find it hard doing talks and teaching for non-experts, but the moment there's someone listening who knows more about it than I do, I start to panic, and then I start to say stupid things, and panic more...

How on earth is the incumbent doing the music for Evensong, is he legging it back and forth from the front of the church to the back?


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