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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

July 19, 2013

Calling beginner organists! A chance to overcome nerves!

evelyn @ 12:02 pm

(Outside organist, brought in for wedding, surveys aged electronic piano gloomily)

Organist: If you don’t mind my asking, Father, why don’t you buy a proper electronic organ, made for church use? Some of them are actually less expensive than electronic pianos.

Priest: What’s the point? We have no organist.

If you think about it, there is a positive element hidden in that depressing answer: the implication that if there were an organist, he would buy a new instrument.

In just about every congregation, there are a few people who learned piano as children, enough to play easy arrangements of hymns or Mass parts. Many of these people would like to come forward and offer their services, but the main thing holding them back is nervousness about playing for a congregation. Or put more simply, FEAR!

Most organists started as pianists, and have been through this – I well remember the trembling-hands stage, long ago though it was. I also remember the ‘high’ when I first got it right. Playing in church is so rewarding once the nerves have been overcome.

The only real answer to nerves is simply to grit one’s teeth and persevere, but there are ways of making it easier, some of which I’ll mention in later posts. One helping-hand on offer this summer is a short session for inexperienced organists at our Singing Day on Saturday 31 August in Linlithgow (see Events page for more details about the day).

The plan is that two or three organ beginners – or even pianists who are just thinking about it – should each play an easy hymn for everyone else to sing to. The best way to ‘practise’ nerves is to accompany a crowd of sympathetic people who are all on your side. The organ we’ll be using is a small single-manual, and someone else will set the stops. No pedals, except for a volume pedal, which you can ignore if you wish.

To make this work, we need to know in advance who will take this on, and what music they would like to play. They’d be welcome to come and try out the organ in advance of the day, and at the same time look at the new Forth in Praise book of very, very easy hymn arrangements, which is to be launched on 31 August.

If we have no volunteers, then we won’t have the session, but that would be a pity. So if you are interested, or would just like to know more, please get in touch with me directly at massmusic@forthinpraise.co.uk

If you mention it to your priest, I’m sure he would be very encouraging. Even perhaps to the point of promising a new organ …

Well, you never know.

2 Comments »

  1. What a good idea – my diocese ( in England and shall remain nameless) has infrequent music days – what they mean is come and sing; so since I am a pianist who gave up lessons over 45 years ago, and just manages to accompany hyms and Mass settings on the small organ; and with no singing ability whatsoever – always totally out of tune – there is not much point in attending!

    Comment by Gill — July 19, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

  2. I still remember the terror of playing for my first “proper” service in a Methodist chapel in Derbyshire when I was 11 or 12. I’d had piano lessons for a couple of years and it was only a few months since my music teacher had introduced me to the organ. However, after a shaky start I soon gained confidence. To all those considering taking up the organ I say “go for it”. You’ll soon learn to love the sound of a proper pipe organ.
    I now play the organ for Moncur Memorial Church, Stronsay, Orkney UK. The current (electronic!) instrument, a Viscount, is now 27 years old and is showing its age. At long last I have persuaded the kirk authorities that a new instrument should be purchased and fund-raising has begun. Such a pity that the Presbyterian service (aka “hymn sandwich”) seems to pay so little attention to music and many congregations consider it to be an “optional extra”.

    Comment by Bruce Fletcher — August 13, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

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