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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist



August 2, 2019

Wiring the organist brain

evelyn @ 2:49 pm

What happened last Sunday seems a very small thing, but it is significant.  Organists, especially Catholic organists, have to respond automatically to the Liturgy.   Thus, ‘we acclaim’ is the trigger for the Sanctus, ‘the mystery of faith’, the Memorial Acclamation, and so on.  These cues become hard-wired into the organist’s brain (is that the psychologist’s term for it?)

To understand last week’s great achievement, you really have to read my post about my embarrassment when I messed up the Kyrie (in front of the Archbishop, no less). The Kyrie had become wrongly wired because our priest almost always uses one version and I’d completely forgotten that there are three.

Since that dreadful day when I drowned the Archbishop’s solo tenor singing, I’ve been on full red alert whenever he has been to our parish, and rank being rank, in a somewhat lesser state of watchfulness with other visiting clergy.  This summer, our usual substitute priest took over for a fortnight.  On the first Sunday I relaxed when I realised that he was saying the same version of the Kyrie as our own priest, and by the second Sunday – last week, a very hot day – I had, without realising it, switched off the mental alert.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, my subconscious spoke in my ear. ‘Careful’, it said, ‘He’s saying the Confiteor’.  This prayer, of course, introduces one of the alternative Kyrie versions, so for the first time ever, I had been told automatically by my brain not to come in with the Gloria and obliterate the ‘Lord have mercy’, which, not being on the look-out, I could so easily have done,.

I hope this means that the Kyrie mess-up will never occur again, and I’m really rather proud that at my age I can still re-wire my brain to the point of changing an ingrained habit.

This encourages me to think of tackling other habits that could do with changing.  They mainly involve eating …

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