One of my friends recommended me to play organ (we are involved in the same music projects) so I agreed to do it, not really knowing anything about playing an Allen organ with the swell and great stops and pedals. Why not? How hard can it possibly be?
I've only ever played a Hammond B-3 organ, with a few organ lessons taken back as a tweener. Long time ago.
When I agreed to play at church two years ago, I received a quick 10 minute crash course with the wise advice "just use settings 4 and 5, depending on the singer!" and was left to my own devices. I had no idea about stops or anything. It was all programmed for me! I finally got the hang of the organ (and the pedals), the sounds were blending nicely and I thought I was doing well ..... until now.
So I arrived at the Cathedral for my lesson and was led up to the choir loft, which was a lot, LOT higher than other choir lofts I been in. The organ pipes are huge, see this photo (scroll down to the Organ Opus 1409 photo, and click to enlarge). I was led to the stately organ, which was immediately next to the balcony railing with a plain view over the pews down below.
I'm scared of heights. As in scared sh*tless of heights. I could feel it in my legs.
I tried not to look down below the entire time I was at my lesson. I cleared my throat several times and tried not to look like I was backing away from the railing (don't look down, remember! Even though you can see e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g down below, don't look down!!) I pretended like it was magnificent being up in the choir loft.
[It felt egregious.]
Miraculously, at some point during the lesson I forgot about the heights issue during a pleasant chat with the teacher about stop families and sounds. We tried out different stop combinations on the organ. Then I played an introduction of a song for the teacher so she could hear me play (I mentioned the teacher previously in this post - she knows her stuff). After playing five measures of music and not one measure more, she told me to:
1. Clip my recently grown out lovely fingernails (which were not chipped or split for the first time ever.) Sorry, gone.
2. Buy some organ shoes. Plain flats or playing in sock feet would not do.
3. Stop "rolling" the chords (like a pianist would in a composition written for, say, the Romantic period). Listen for the simultaneous attacks!
4. Stop extending my hands (again, like a pianist would). Organists have to be precise - the hands and fingers have to be curved and molded into position to play chords. Approach it like an organist would!
5. Play the composition in the exact style as it was meant to have been played centuries ago (even if the tempo is already draggy and the cantor slows it down even more? Yikes!)
6. Play only on the Great keyboard. Not the Swell keyboard, which I have been doing the last two years as the sound seems to fit the cantors' voices and congregation better. Nope.
I did appreciate the constructive feedback though, and I have a new appreciation for organists now.
Keep it faux or real people! I have another lesson coming up on Saturday. Still a student, and still scared sh*tless of heights!