3 April 2007

Dodge a Bullet to Step Into a Cannon

In my last post I mentioned how the choir really managed to dodge a bullet. That bullet was me, so to speak, although I was also taking one for the team. Here's how:

The MD plays for two churches on Sunday: ours, and the United down the road. He plays for the United first, then makes a beeline for us. The Sunday before last he calls me over and asks me a favour. "I may not be on time to play the processional next week," he said. "Could you do it?"

I am not a good organist- I told him such, and asked if he could have the other organist for our church just stay a few minutes longer. It turns out he couldn't, because that organist also plays for two churches, and he took off immediately after his Masses here. I was "it".

"I'll try," I said.

I spent the week practicing "All Glory Praise and Honour". I got okay with it, but I kept making random mistakes. To you who play, you know the problem- if I am consistent in my errors, I can target the problem- but random errors are a lack of general proficiency. Worse, I have a tendency to try and correct the error before moving on, which is nothing short of disaster for accompaniment playing. Worst of all, I had no chance to familiarize myself with the church organ, so I would be playing an unfamiliar instrument, without a warm up.

The day came, and as I looked out from the choir loft I felt my apprehension turn into a fair panic. Sweat rolled. I will confess, when I play my organ at home, in my heart I am often miles away, at the console of some great pipe organ, my notes echoing through some vast, beautiful cathedral. I have been curious about trying to play for a Mass, one day. I thought the time to start would be on a summer's Sunday, when half the church is on vacation. But I never had any intention of making my debut on Palm Sunday, before a standing room only Church. My pulse was getting out of hand. If I used my heartbeat to help pace my playing, I would go beyond Allegro, straight past Presto, and into Come un Pipistrello del inferno. I fumbled over the keys, trying to warm up, while silently praying to Sts. Gregory, Cecelia, the Choirs of Angels, and ultimately, St Jude, "Get him here! please. Pretty please. with sugar."

And he showed up. I let out an explosive breath and whacked my head on the ledge over the organ in my haste to get up and way for the Master.

I went down into the Church proper and took part in the Mass (I was sick and my voice was shot, so no choir work for me) and I already spoke of the music. I went up afterwards to find out the music for the rest of Holy Week, when the MD called me over. "Bear," he said to me. "Most likely I will be late next week..." I protested, but again, me or nothing.

Palm Sunday was bad... I dodged a bullet, but this is EASTER! I'm staring at the muzzle of a cannon! I'm playing "That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright". Right now, I'm asking for prayers. Either that the United Minister cuts the service short, or that I become a better organist in a hurry, and that my performance anxiety comes under control. Or some better solution appear.

Well, that's it. Gotta go practice. And finish off that bottle of TUMS.

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