Welcome to The Latter-day Saint Organist's Resource Blog

The purpose of this blog is to help pianists learn to become true organists. Many individuals believe that if you play the piano you can play the organ, but the instruments differ greatly. While this blog is specifically geared towards members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much of the information shared can be utilized by all. I hope that the information I share here will help you become an effective organist in your ward, stake, or other congregation.

Feel free to browse and search this blog. It was started in January 2010 and while new posts aren't added very often, this blog contains a wealth of information and is a wonderful resource for all organists. If you're a new reader, you can find the first lesson here: Before We Begin: Acquiring the Essentials. Also, please "like" the corresponding facebook page, which is updated more often. A link is provided on the right sidebar, or you can click here.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, June 29, 2018

2018 BYU Organ Workshop

It's that time again! I've spoken many times on this wonderful workshop. If there's any way you can go, I highly recommend attending. It's a life-changing experience! Visit https://organworkshop.byu.edu/ for more information.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

New Hymnal Announced. Can we get one marked for the organ?

I'm sure most, if not all, of my readers are aware that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that they will be producing a new hymnal and children's songbook. I linked to the article on my facebook page.

The church has asked for input via a survey link.

Many of you are aware that Carol Dean created a trial version of the hymnal, meticulously marked for organ, that she worked on perfecting and tweaking until she passed away earlier this month. I have been tasked with furthering her work. With this announcement, can you think how wonderful it would be if the Church would publish an organ version of the hymnal? I can't believe how many members of the church contact me every week requesting Carol's markings, and most of you found out about it through word of mouth! There appears to be a huge need for a hymnal of this type.

I think a hymnal marked for organ, and a simplified hymnal for organists would be a very much needed addition to the church's publications.

If you agree please fill out the above survey and either under the "general difficulties experienced" or "other feedback" fields, state how difficult it is as a pianist to play the organ without markings, or request a hymnal with organ markings.

If enough survey takers request a version of the hymnal with organ markings, the church might make one available!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

In Loving Memory of Carol

Dear Readers,

Carol Dean passed from this life into the next this morning. In 2013 Carol said, "I know there are pipe organs in heaven, because I wouldn't be happy there if there weren't."

Play on, dear friend!

Funeral services will be held this Friday, June 8th at the Pioneer 2nd Ward Chapel, 1220 W. 450 N. Provo, UT, with the viewing at 9:30 a.m. and Funeral Service at 11:00.

If you'd like to share your memories of Carol here, I will pass them on to her family.

Edited to add the obituary:

Obituary for Carol Deanne Peine Dean

Carol Deanne Peine Dean, 70, of Provo, Utah, passed away from ovarian cancer June 5. Born November 4, 1947, in Durango, LaPlata County, Colorado, she was the daughter of M. Milton Peine and Mildred Dean Peine. Growing up in a farm town with five brothers Carol learned how to work hard. Carol loved riding horses and even just being around them.

Carol attended schools in Redmesa, CO, Durango, CO, and Brigham Young University, Provo, UT. At BYU in 1970, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree as an Executive Assistant major in the Business Department. In 1998, she received a Master of Music degree in Organ Performance and Pedagogy. Carol taught organ workshops and group and private organ lessons in Utah Valley for thirty years. Carol was a lifelong devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She fulfilled many callings in the church her favorite being the organist for the Pioneer 2nd ward. Carol was a very talented organist. She played for numerous recitals and musical events for many years. Carol had a very special place in her heart for her organ students and peers.

Carol married Dana D. Dean on November 21, 1970, in the Manti LDS Temple in Manti, UT. They had many adventures together traveling for Dana’s career. They were blessed with eight children. Carol is preceded in death by her sweetheart, Dana; her oldest daughter, Randilyn “Randi”; and two brothers Dean Peine of Weiser, ID and Robert Peine of Pleasant Grove, UT. Carol is survived by her son Dallin (Robyn) of Sandy, UT; son Rhett (Lisa) of Lehi, UT; daughter Danae’ of Snoqualmie, WA; son Robert of Draper, UT; daughter McKenna of Provo, UT; daughter Menolli (Brian) Quick of Saratoga Springs, UT; son Jonathon (Taylor) of Las Vegas, NV; and her Indian-placement daughter Tina (Cornell) Benally of Mesa, AZ. She is also survived by her 19 grandchildren.

Carol’s surviving siblings are Russell (Connie) Peine of Leeds, UT; Craig Peine of Prairieville, LA; and Kirk (Sharon) Peine, of Redmesa, CO. and her two sisters-in law, (Marlene Peine) of Weiser, ID and (Melanie Peine) of Pleasant Grove.

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Friday, June 8, 2018 at the Provo Central Stake Center, 450 North 1220 West, Provo, Utah. Friends may call from 9:30-10:45 a.m. prior to services. Interment, Provo City Cemetery.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Anxiety and Nerves

I recently received a question from S.D.:

I just finished playing for my 3rd Stake Conference this weekend. I had practiced everyday for over three months.  I knew the songs well and felt much more confident in my pedaling.  

I was pretty calm on Saturday Night's meeting but on Sunday, I felt more anxiety at the amount of people and of course hands and legs stiffen with anxiety and I really had to concentrate to keep things going.  I was able to cover okay, yet I was so disappointed because I had prepared so well.

When I received the call the size of the crowd was the biggest intimidation to me.  I have played the piano for years and accompanied a lot of groups, yet the organ is new, I have felt less in control of sounds and adjustments, therefore, I am nervous of making mistakes and that brings about the anxiety.

Have you ever experienced this or have any suggestions on how to work it out? This past two weeks I have been listening to talks on overcoming fear and having faith and done all I could think of to prepare.  I know I did okay, but I was wiped out when I was finished just dealing with my stress.  I hope to learn a little more on how other organists might prepare to overcome this type of fear or stress, so I can deal better with the next conference.
Have any of you felt this way? I certainly have! I'll share some ideas here on what I do to work through anxiety, but I'd love to hear from my readers as well!

What you're experiencing is very normal, unfortunately. There are several things that I've used to try to get past those nerves! Here they are, not in any particular order:

  • Recognize that your body doesn't know the difference between fear and excitement. When you start to feel those nerves kicking in, tell yourself that you're really excited to be able to play: Either because you have a really cool registration, or you can't wait for the congregation to be able to be united as one voice, etc. Try to turn that potentially scary emotion into a positive one.

  • Play in front of people more often. This is a difficult one, as in our church playing the organ is something we can't really do unless we're called. You can get involved in your local chapter of the American Guild of Organists, or see if you can be a volunteer temple organist on a regular or semi-regular basis (if your local temple has organists, and is close enough for you to serve there). Playing in the temple every other week helped me more than anything else!

  • When your brain starts playing head-games with you, shut it down by saying, "I don't care!" I learned this one from tabernacle organist Andrew Unsworth. "I don't care!" saved me when I took my CAGO exam.

  • Cut yourself some slack. It doesn't have to be perfect! There was only one perfect person to walk the earth, and it's not you. Making mistakes is okay! Figure out what you're the most nervous about, and see what you can do to circumvent that issue. It can be simplifying your first hymn introduction by beginning with the melody in octaves, or with just the melody stepping into the other parts.

  • Shrug off mistakes. Mistakes happen, but don't let them derail you. Don't give them any room in your brain. Always look forwards, never backwards when you're playing.

  • Worrying about your upcoming "performance" will make your anxiety grow. Now that you've learned some great coping techniques, try not to stress as the date comes nearer. I know that's hard to do! Also, don't just prepare for that one huge event, play and learn other pieces, too, and intersperse them as you practice to take some of the pressure off. 

  • Trust your preparation. I'm sure you're heard the saying, “When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past.” Well, when the time to play the organ has arrived, your preparation is over. TRUST YOURSELF.
The Inner Game of Music is a great resource. I read it a long time ago, so I don't remember much about it, but it's definitely worth a read.

So, my faithful readers:  What do you do when your nerves kick up? Do you have any great suggestions to share?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday Song: Organ Registration: Your Own Orchestra (1972)

Okay, once again this isn't a true Sunday Song. Here's another oldie but goodie organ resource from the LDS Church. It was actually a filmstrip--do you remember those?  I loved it when I was chosen to advance the frames!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Song: Organ Fundamentals Training Video

Okay, so this isn't really a Sunday Song, but it is an old training video from 1972 with Tabernacle organist Alexander Shriner providing the introduction. The information shared is still very valuable. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Guiding Congregations Through Unfamiliar Hymns

I think we've all been there, at least once. We receive the hymn list for Sunday, and at least one of them is a hymn that no one will recognize! Or perhaps there's a great hymn that you want to introduce to your congregation. How can you, as an organist, guide your congregation confidently through a hymn that they've never sung before?

In the "Using the Hymnbook" section of the Hymnal, we are encouraged to sing unfamiliar hymns:
In addition to using hymns already known and loved, members are encouraged to become acquainted with new or less familiar hymns. Try to achieve a good balance between familiar favorites and less well-known hymns.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you, as organist, streamline this process for your congregation.

First, Familiarize Yourself

The very first thing you can do, is make that hymn your best friend. Too many times, I've been led by an organist who played the rhythms or notes incorrectly on an unfamiliar hymn, and they didn't know it. Almost every hymn in the LDS hymnal has a MIDI file associated with it on the church's website here. If you enable Adobe Flash Player, you can click the play button and hear it played, notes and rhythms perfect. Otherwise, you can click "Vocals and Music" or "Music" and get a feel for the hymn. Make sure that you get to know the hymn very well.

Second, Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you know how the hymn should sound, practice it until you can play it with complete confidence. The less confident your congregation is, the more confident you need to be. If you make a mistake while playing a well-known and well-loved hymn, such as Joy to the World or Come, Come Ye Saints, your congregation will most likely continue singing with zeal, but if you make a mistake on an unfamiliar hymn, your congregation will not feel comfortable singing out, and many members might stop singing altogether.

Third, Choose an Appropriate Tempo

Read through the hymn. How complicated is the hymn text to read and understand? Does the melody or harmony jump around? Are the notes mainly quarter notes, or are there a number of eighth notes, dotted eighth-sixteenth combinations, or triplets? What is the suggested tempo range?

While it's important to prevent the hymns from dragging, unfamiliar hymns should probably be played at the lower end of the range. Remember that our goal as church musicians is for the hymns to "invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord," as we read in the First Presidency Preface to the Hymnal. The tempo can either help achieve these goals, or work against them.

A hymn such as #4, Truth Eternal, is fairly basic, easy to follow, made up of mostly quarter notes, and could probably be played around 92 without leaving the congregation behind, provided the organist is properly prepared.

However, a hymn like #11, What Was Witnessed in the Heavens? is filled with triplets ornamenting sustained lyrics, and an unfamiliar text. The men carry the melody at times, there is syncopation, and the hymn text has phrases such as, "It was to be preached in power," with the strong beat falling on the bolded words, and "We their footsteps wish to tread." In choosing the tempo, all of these things need to be considered. The tempo needs to be slow enough that the congregation can read and understand the words, while also managing the complicated melodies and harmonies. This hymn is telling a story, and the congregation needs to be able to follow it. The first time(s) the congregation sings this hymn, the tempo should be the lower end of the range.

Fourth, Support with a Solid Registration

While your registration probably doesn't need to be full organ, it does need to adequately support your congregation, so they feel they can safely sing unfamiliar words and notes. Paint the hymn text, but don't choose a registration that will cause the congregation to feel exposed.

Fifth, Introduce the Hymn Well

If you know several weeks in advance that you'll be singing an unfamiliar hymn, work it into some of your later prelude pieces each Sunday prior to singing it, or use it as your first postlude piece the week before. When it's time to sing, the hymn might feel somewhat familiar to the congregation because they've heard it once or twice before. (I've attended other denominations that actually rehearse unfamiliar hymns a few minutes before the service begins.)

Regardless of the length of the hymn, if it is unfamiliar to the congregation it is a very good idea to play it in its entirety as the introduction.

For example, with hymn #4 Truth Eternal, an effective introduction could be to play the melody of the first line in octaves, then play the second line as written.

An introduction for hymn #11 What Was Witnessed in the Heavens? could include doubling the men's melody part up an octave on lines one and two, playing just the melody of line three in octaves, before returning to SATB parts on line four.

Do whatever you reasonably can to introduce the congregation to the hymn, so that they won't be afraid to sing! Your congregation needs to be able to trust you to guide them confidently through the entire hymn, and they need to know what the entire hymn sounds like before being expected to sing it.

Finally, Evaluate, Adjust, and Repeat

After the meeting, evaluate how it went. Did the congregation sing out? Did they seem to lag behind the organ? Could you even hear them singing? Were any verses louder or softer than others?  Why? Did anyone comment that they loved the hymn, or that they didn't like it? Ask someone you trust to give honest feedback as to how it felt to be in the congregation.

What changes do you need to make for next time? What should you continue to do?

When will the next time occur? If there is a hymn that you want to teach your congregation, it is a good idea to schedule it to be sung at least once a quarter.

With the increased focus on keeping the Sabbath day holy, we introduced my congregation to hymn #148 Sabbath Day, and it was a good, spiritual experience. We sang it once a month for two or three months. Over the course of the next two years we sang it on a regular basis, about once a quarter, and it soon became a familiar hymn.

In Conclusion

Have you ever wondered what hymns the 1985 Hymnbook Executive Committee wished we sang more often? I was privileged to be in attendance at a fireside and hymn sing held March 8, 2015, in the Pleasant Grove Utah East Stake Center where the 30th anniversary of the hymnal was celebrated.  You can view this hymn sing on YouTube. It is wonderful to hear their personal experiences with the compilation of our green hymnal: