19 April 2007

organ practice

After the near debacle of the Palm Sunday and Easter, where I escaped narrowly from playing badly in front of packed churches, I have increased my practice of the organ. And I made an offer to my MD.

He is often late coming to Mass, as he plays at a service for another church nearby. My offer was to learn a few basic hymns to play in case for these times. He accepted, and I have also begun to practice on the organ at Church, to familiarize myself with that instrument.

Playing a pipe organ is a thrill I think everyone should experience. I have done it before, only in practice, on the Casavant Freres organ at my other church. To sit down in front of one of those vast collection of pipes, to pull out the stops and hear this magnificent, huge sound coming out, and to think, "Wow, that's me!" is both a gratifying and humbling experience. It is no wonder the organ is called "The King of Instruments." One can understand Tertullian's rapture at the sound of the ancient hydralis:

"Behold the marvelous art of Archimedes, I allude to the Hydraulic Organ; so many members, so many parts, so many joints, so many sound conduits, so much tonal effect, so many combinations, so many pipes, and all at one touch."

Unfortunately, I still stink, but there are some hymns out there so easy even I can play them. There is another problem with the particular instrument which can be a bit disconcerting. The organ I am to play is a electro-pneumatic organ (if you need a definition, I advise you to look up Audsley's two volume work on the construction of organs. It's in there somewhere, with pictures) and therefore there is a slight delay between me pressing a key and the pipes sounding. I knew this before I played. What I didn't understand was the delay is cumulative, and gets worse as time goes on. I tried to play one of Bach's fugues in G minor (I've been working on it for about a year, and have about half of it down. ) and the effect got worse and worse, until I was playing about two notes ahead of the sound and it threw me off completely. The MD told me to just focus on the playing and ignore the sound. But how do you lead a choir like that?

At any rate, the whole experience has given me an even greater respect for those who can play. So from this hack to all you real players: give yourself a pat on the back. I have no intention to be your competition, only someone who admires you all the more, because I have an inkling what it's like.

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