Jump to content


Photo

In the beginning....


  • Please log in to reply
91 replies to this topic

#1 Misterioso

Misterioso

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5616 posts
  • Member: 13351
    Joined: 18-July 07
  • Outer Hebrides

Posted 26 December 2017 - 12:55

I'm just peeking in here nervously to ask a couple of questions, if I may. We are to likely to lose our Church organist next year, and I'm wondering if it would be difficult / impossible for a G5-6 pianist to learn to play it. I know nothing about organ (yet) but know one or two people (themselves Church organists) who might be willing to give me some basic instruction / guidance.

 

Question 2 is about music - a first easyvolume or two I might look into purchasing?

 

Thank you in advance for any help. 

 

Edit: I have actually set up a small music group to play for services in said organist's occasional absences. It works, but I can't help feeling that people might prefer 'the real thing'. Grateful for any feedback about this.


  • 0

#2 sbhoa

sbhoa

    Maestro

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 22870 posts
  • Member: 24
    Joined: 31-October 03
  • Tameside

Posted 26 December 2017 - 13:13

I'm no organist but played the organ at church until it broke and occasionally at other churches.

I never had the time or passion to be more than a manuals only player.

It's a different technique and there were a few 'tricks' I used on the organ that I don't need on piano. They may or may not have been good practice so perhaps I shouldn't share any I can think of. 

You can get manuals only music or you may find that some piano music you already have will work for voluntaries. For simple voluntaries I confess that I often used (and still do on piano) hymn tunes and worship songs including those known and not known by the congregation. 


  • 0

#3 Latin pianist

Latin pianist

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3247 posts
  • Member: 711500
    Joined: 01-April 13

Posted 26 December 2017 - 13:17

Has it got one or two( or more) manuals? Firstly, you can play an organ without using pedals. You can achieve smoothness with you fingers. If you ask your organist, he/she can show you which stops to use for soft or loud playing. Some organs have a foot swell pedal with which you can vary volume.
You can get books of hymns for piano at different levels from Kevin Mayhew. You can play voluntaries from manual only music. I use the Cloister albums a lot. Once you get started, you'll probably want to learn to use pedals, but I'm sure playing at all will be much appreciated.
  • 1

#4 Kathleen Austen

Kathleen Austen

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 56 posts
  • Member: 895798
    Joined: 12-September 16
  • Medway, Kent

Posted 26 December 2017 - 17:01

I'm just peeking in here nervously to ask a couple of questions, if I may. We are to likely to lose our Church organist next year, and I'm wondering if it would be difficult / impossible for a G5-6 pianist to learn to play it. I know nothing about organ (yet) but know one or two people (themselves Church organists) who might be willing to give me some basic instruction / guidance.

 

Question 2 is about music - a first easyvolume or two I might look into purchasing?

 

Thank you in advance for any help. 

 

Edit: I have actually set up a small music group to play for services in said organist's occasional absences. It works, but I can't help feeling that people might prefer 'the real thing'. Grateful for any feedback about this.

 

I did play piano up to Grade VI (UNISA) when I was a kid (about 30 years ago now!) and not touched a keyboard since. But in the last short 3 years or so that I threw myself into the deep end and just sat at the organ bench and got on with it, I've progressed very quickly up to Grade III (recently passed). I play every Sunday and I can assure you that the congregation is only too pleased to have someone there to give them the 'lead'. So do it! You'll be just fine.

I cheated like crazy in the beginning, because playing SATB if VERY different from playing conventional piano music. So I learnt to convert the base, tenor and alto notes to chords and played just the soprano line (melody line) on the right hand, and chorded the left. I quickly learnt about legato and am only now 'dipping my toes into the water' (so to speak) regarding playing the pedals - you do not have to use them at all if you don't want to - many church organists don't and some organs don't even have pedals wink.png .

Being madly enthusiastic about playing the organ (always was a life dream), I'm delighted for anyone who is interested in trying - so please, just do it! You'll love it, I'm sure. The pleasure you get from playing at services, with the congregation singing along down there below you, is so heartwarming and satisfying. You'll soon get over the initial nerves and soon get passed the panic over all the mistakes. Hopefully, you're parish council/congregation/vicar/priest will be 'generous' to you in the beginning 'terror stages'. I was lucky, and now I'm "not allowed to go on holiday" (just joking), even at only Grade III.

 

I can't really advise on books, because I went straight in on playing from the hymnals (with my dubious chord arrangements for quick, easy playing wink.png - if you have Grade V already, you should have no problem in quickly scribbling the relevant chords below notes on the music smile.png )

I was a little more naughty and downloaded MuseScore (freebie) and rewrote the hymn music using chords in the left hand and melody line for the right hand, for every new hymn that I had to learn. I now have quite a tidy little 'repertoire' of such simple arrangements for myself. Now I am progressing onto playing proper SATB (challenging!), but it is becoming easier and easier and I'm gaining more and more confidence along with it woot.gif and loving it!

 

By way of a little Christmas "postlude" for the forum, ... I totally mucked up wacko.png all the Christmas carols/hymns (as far as I was concerned), but people sang along and folks were happy enough to have had someone leading them anyway - irregardless of all the mistakes blush.png and even Hark the Herald Angels Sing got given good voice - mistakes and all! The decrepid old organ I play on also behaved (no cyphers thankfully!) and even the 16' Bourdon pedal got pulled for the last note! clap.gif hurrah.gif - awesome sound! woot.gif


  • 0

#5 elemimele

elemimele

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 782 posts
  • Member: 895612
    Joined: 17-July 16

Posted 26 December 2017 - 18:29

Anything associated with the name of C H Trevor!

And don't worry in the faintest, many good organists have grown from the ranks of pressed pianists. Just look out for a coin at the bottom of your PCC tea-cup; there is no way back out...


  • 1

#6 Misterioso

Misterioso

    Virtuoso

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5616 posts
  • Member: 13351
    Joined: 18-July 07
  • Outer Hebrides

Posted 27 December 2017 - 10:51

Thank you so much for these encouraging replies! (It had occurred to me that I might get laughed out of Viva Organ!)

 

Our Church organ is a recently-refurbished-at-great-expense instrument. It has two manuals and a full set of pedals, and it sounds nice - although loud in our small-ish Church. There is a sign on it saying that the 16' Bourdon is on all the time, because it could not be repaired properly - could be interesting! I think there is a swell pedal too.

 

It's good to know I needn't bother with the pedals, at least for now. I panic about playing in front of anyone, so it will take a good long time just to be able to manage the manuals with any degree of confidence (a good reason for thinking about all this now). Our priest is a lovely man who is very grateful for our music group in the organist's absence, and is only too glad for people to do stuff. I would hope to be able to drive into the town to practise a couple of times a week when no-one else is about, and hopefully build up confidence that way. 

 

Kathleen - I think I shall be using your trick of simplifying arrangements! Is it grade 3 organ or piano that you passed?

 

It's helpful to know that I can get manuals-only music. I've occasionally in the past asked our friendly organist about pieces she has played in services so I could learn them on piano, so I do have at least a little music that might be suitable. I will certainly have a look at the Kevin Mayhew options. 

 

It's quite exciting to have a new challenge for 2018 - and no pressure, at least for the present, since our organist is planning to emigrate and it thankfully takes a good long time.


  • 1

#7 LoneM

LoneM

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 346 posts
  • Member: 894763
    Joined: 24-November 15

Posted 27 December 2017 - 11:18

I was in a similar position some years ago and decided to take up the challenge - I've now been playing for 18 years, not brilliantly but well enough, and really enjoy it. Take heart that is is much easier than on the piano to sound convincing, even in the simplest music, thanks to the organ's sustain and potentially richer sound. You can lead the hymns quite satisfactorily playing only the treble and bass lines (though if you have a SATB choir they may want more), and there is lots of straightforward but attractive manuals-only music for voluntaries.

 

The 5-vol Cloister Album series has already been mentioned. I also use the following:

 

Manual Miscellany for Organ (2 vols, ed. CH Trevor)

Seasonal Choral Preludes for Manuals Only (2 vols, ed. CH Trevor)

Old English Organ Music for Manuals (6 vols, ed Trevor)

The Essential Organist for Manuals: 60 pieces for weddings, funerals and everyday use, (Kevin Mayhew)

For some easy Victorian schmalz try voluntaries by Caleb Simper, all written on 2 staves with optional pedal - it's not great music but a lot of fun!

 

I was able to buy all this music second hand, either from Alba Musick in Glasgow or UsedOrganMusic 

 

When I first started playing for services I was terrified, unable to sleep the night before and physically shaking  at the organ. However I had lots of support from the minister and congregation, and I also discovered that most people don't notice mistakes, even really crashing ones, so long as you keep going without hesitation. I'm relatively blase about it now.

 

Go for it!


  • 2

#8 musicalmalc

musicalmalc

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 327 posts
  • Member: 516127
    Joined: 06-September 12

Posted 27 December 2017 - 12:14

Ignore the suggestion (sorry Kathleen) about soloing the melody for now unless it is something the congregation don't know or you want to use it for effect, it is simply adding unnecessary complication.

It is quite normal to just play as laid out in the hymnal with 2 hands on the Great manual (usually coupled to Swell).

Of course that assumes it is a traditional hymn and not a "chorus" or "worship song" where all bets are off and you do what you like to make it work but that's another discussion!

 

When you get around to using pedals it becomes trickier if you are bothered about doing it "properly" as apparently you are supposed to not play the bass note with your left hand if you are playing it with the pedal but to be honest a lot of us cheat on that one and double it up (apologies to the 'proper' organists).

 

You probably already know this but things to consider for hymn playing:

  • be consistent with rests between verses
  • maintain a consistent tempo
  • don't slow don't at the end of each verse
  • don't give "gathering chord" at the start of verses - take the congregation with you
  • try to vary the registration (stops in use) to match the words of each verse (this will take time to get used to)

 

But do have fun !


  • 2

#9 sbhoa

sbhoa

    Maestro

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 22870 posts
  • Member: 24
    Joined: 31-October 03
  • Tameside

Posted 27 December 2017 - 12:33

Is 'Hymn Tunes for the reluctant organist' arranged by Janette Cooper (Oxford University Press) still in print?

I used it a lot when I first started and still do for the occasional challenging tune.

It has a good selection of 'standard' hymn tunes and though it won't cover everything it can be a big help.

The other thing is that you don't have to play all the harmony notes as has been mentioned above.

 

I don't know if it's good practice but if found that it can help to keep more of a legato line if you don't re articulate any repeated notes in the ATB lines. (e.g. adjacent C crotchets become a minim.)


  • 1

#10 musicalmalc

musicalmalc

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 327 posts
  • Member: 516127
    Joined: 06-September 12

Posted 27 December 2017 - 12:46

 

I don't know if it's good practice but if found that it can help to keep more of a legato line if you don't re articulate any repeated notes in the ATB lines. (e.g. adjacent C crotchets become a minim.)

 

Never realised - I think I've been doing this automatically for years without ever having been told lol


  • 0

#11 fsharpminor

fsharpminor

    Maestro

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 17095 posts
  • Member: 7089
    Joined: 07-June 06
  • Heswall, Wirral (originally Keighley, Yorks)

Posted 27 December 2017 - 17:21

Is your church St Peters ? If so I have looked at the spec on NPOR website, and it shouldnt be too difficult to get used to it . I assume you can play hymns with four part harmony on manuals, you dont have to use pedals...http://www.npor.org.....html?RI=N18138


  • 0

#12 elemimele

elemimele

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 782 posts
  • Member: 895612
    Joined: 17-July 16

Posted 27 December 2017 - 17:50

In playing SATB 4-part hymns, you can also miss out the tenor part altogether, and it will be fine, particularly if the congregation isn't vast.

 

Victorian schmaltz; there is vast amounts of this, all quite playable, nearly all written on two staves for manuals, with the option of doubling the pedal part as desired. It's also often written in a way where it can be stopped at short notice when used as a silence-filler/processional. Names include Battison Haynes, Edward Rimbault, Cuthbert Harris, E.H. Turpin, and many others, who produced a lot of music perfectly attuned to the traditional Anglican evensong (I have no idea how appropriate it is to where you are). It has sunk into complete oblivion; its natural habitat was a pile of old boxes round the back of the organ, under some leaky hassocks and props from a decades-old nativity play, usually with some former organist's name beautifully written in copper-plate inside the front cover. Much will have been lost to damp and mildew. In a few hundred years' time, someone will write a PhD about it. Until then, it's lost... but if you've got some boxes round the back of your organ, or you can raid appropriate second-hand shops, you might strike lucky. Some is also available on IMSLP. It's not exactly Bach, but this music deserved a much better fate, and makes for very appropriate voluntaries.


  • 1

#13 Kathleen Austen

Kathleen Austen

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 56 posts
  • Member: 895798
    Joined: 12-September 16
  • Medway, Kent

Posted 28 December 2017 - 00:05

Thank you so much for these encouraging replies! (It had occurred to me that I might get laughed out of Viva Organ!)

 

Our Church organ is a recently-refurbished-at-great-expense instrument. It has two manuals and a full set of pedals, and it sounds nice - although loud in our small-ish Church. There is a sign on it saying that the 16' Bourdon is on all the time, because it could not be repaired properly - could be interesting! I think there is a swell pedal too.

 

It's good to know I needn't bother with the pedals, at least for now. I panic about playing in front of anyone, so it will take a good long time just to be able to manage the manuals with any degree of confidence (a good reason for thinking about all this now). Our priest is a lovely man who is very grateful for our music group in the organist's absence, and is only too glad for people to do stuff. I would hope to be able to drive into the town to practise a couple of times a week when no-one else is about, and hopefully build up confidence that way. 

 

Kathleen - I think I shall be using your trick of simplifying arrangements! Is it grade 3 organ or piano that you passed?

 

It's helpful to know that I can get manuals-only music. I've occasionally in the past asked our friendly organist about pieces she has played in services so I could learn them on piano, so I do have at least a little music that might be suitable. I will certainly have a look at the Kevin Mayhew options. 

 

It's quite exciting to have a new challenge for 2018 - and no pressure, at least for the present, since our organist is planning to emigrate and it thankfully takes a good long time.

 

It was my ABRSM Grade III that I recently passed on the organ (piano was up to Grade VI (UNISA) - over 30 years ago)


  • 0

#14 Vox Humana

Vox Humana

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1119 posts
  • Member: 58391
    Joined: 09-March 09

Posted 28 December 2017 - 00:15

I don't know if it's good practice but if found that it can help to keep more of a legato line if you don't re articulate any repeated notes in the ATB lines. (e.g. adjacent C crotchets become a minim.)

 

It depends who you talk to. There's a well-known teacher who won't have any truck with this, but 100 years ago (when, on the whole, hymns were not played as fast as they are today) this was the accepted method of playing hymns and many organists do still play this way. The logic is that the default touch on the organ is legato and you can't "re-strike" a repeated note without breaking that legato. One can debate the rights and wrongs until the cows come home. Everyone finds their own style in the end. Personally, in any given hymn tune I am likely to use a mixture of articulation and legato (including tying repeated notes) depending on various factors, the most important of which is rhythmical communication.


  • 0

#15 Kathleen Austen

Kathleen Austen

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 56 posts
  • Member: 895798
    Joined: 12-September 16
  • Medway, Kent

Posted 28 December 2017 - 00:28

Ignore the suggestion (sorry Kathleen) about soloing the melody for now unless it is something the congregation don't know or you want to use it for effect, it is simply adding unnecessary complication.

It is quite normal to just play as laid out in the hymnal with 2 hands on the Great manual (usually coupled to Swell).

Of course that assumes it is a traditional hymn and not a "chorus" or "worship song" where all bets are off and you do what you like to make it work but that's another discussion!

 

When you get around to using pedals it becomes trickier if you are bothered about doing it "properly" as apparently you are supposed to not play the bass note with your left hand if you are playing it with the pedal but to be honest a lot of us cheat on that one and double it up (apologies to the 'proper' organists).

 

You probably already know this but things to consider for hymn playing:

  • be consistent with rests between verses
  • maintain a consistent tempo
  • don't slow don't at the end of each verse
  • don't give "gathering chord" at the start of verses - take the congregation with you
  • try to vary the registration (stops in use) to match the words of each verse (this will take time to get used to)

 

But do have fun !

 

Blushing furiously blush.png about my 'bad' little trick of just playing the melody line with the right hand and chords with the left hand. I am not an 'organist' per se. Just a 'wanna-be little church organist for folk who only want a little 'lead'. They're not into 'interesting things', or 'fire-works' ...

Yes, it was and to an extent still is, for small congregations that are reluctant to sing, or don't know many of the hymns I'm given to play. The congregation attending the 11 o'clock service at the current parish I play at is mostly 'oldies' and I was tentatively requested right at the beginning of my time there, not to 'over-power' them, so to speak, so I try to observe that. Mind you, the organ is small anyway and doesn't have many stops that could rattle the windows. One really has to pull everything to get some drama. There is no call for that, so I just do what needs to be done - the basics - and "play" when I get home again.

It's taking me quite a while to get round to playing SATB properly. For me, it's proving quite challenging and rather than every single time I play, making a total hash of things, I fell into the habit of 'melody line with chords'. It helped for me to "get up and running" quickly and after I changed parishes, the habit sort of stuck sad.png. Typically, it is not easy to get out of bad habits, but I am trying and one by one, with the hymns that I'm more familiar with now, I am slowly forcing myself to play more and more SATB, properly.

Please forgive my enthusiasm in responding to Misterioso earlier and even suggesting using such an 'un-technique' sad.png 


  • 0