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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist



February 11, 2012

Whatever happened to the singing pinkie?

evelyn @ 8:55 pm

This post ought to begin with a sound file, but you’ll just have to imagine it: the first few bars of Beethoven’s piano sonata Op.27 no.2, the ‘Moonlight Sonata’. Those beautiful, slow, atmospheric arpeggios leading up to the entry of that most minimal but telling of themes, brought in on G sharp with the right-hand pinkie (for non-Scots, the pinkie is the little finger). As one plays, the exact amount of weight given to the pinkie has to be calculated to bring it singing out over the much stronger thumb and other fingers. This is what piano-playing is all about.

When I taught piano, many years ago, I used to say airily to any pianist thinking of taking up the organ, ‘Oh, it’s just like getting into a different car. You soon get used to the controls.’ Then I gave up piano teaching, and indeed playing, and for some years concentrated on the organ, delighting in the fact that weight of fingers, hand or arm was no longer an issue.

More recently, however, the local undertaker introduced one of those horrid electronic pianos into his funeral parlour. The organ sound was so limited that I decided to use the thing as a piano except for the hymns. And to start off, for old times’ sake, I brought out the Moonlight Sonata, only to discover that my right-hand pinkie refused point-blank to sing, while the other fingers were quite desperate to make as much noise as possible. My piano touch had gone. Completely.

This post ought to finish with a sound file, but you’ll just have to imagine it.

On second thoughts, don’t.

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