Welcome to The LDS Organist 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.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

A new approach to organ technique


I mentioned in an earlier article a bit of my history as a flute player. Unfortunately, I just don't have any motivation to play that instrument anymore, although I do dust if off once a year or so. However, I am very appreciative of the time I spent as a flute player. I learned how to become a musician through my education as a flautist.

As an organist, I've focused solely on hymns and hymn arrangements. I've had no need to delve any deeper into organ literature. While I've dabbled with a little Bach, that has been the extent of my practicing.

A month ago I decided I wanted to learn a piece of literature for an informal recital. After scouring the free sheet music pages on the Internet, I decided to learn Marco Enrico Bossi's "Entrée Pontificale." (This piece will be the Sunday Song on July 11th.)

This piece is a beautiful piece that's often used for weddings, as I found out later. It has multiple melodic lines and has amazing harmonies. As I sat at the organ, figuring out fingerings, I had an epiphany--even though this piece has no words, it still needs to breathe. At that moment, I remembered some advice I received from David Chamberlin, accomplished organist, organ builder, and composer:
Interesting organ playing is not a matter of legato or non-legato, it's the artistic application of both with infinite variations in between. The trick is to create the illusion of 'real' instruments (like violins, flutes, oboes, trumpets, whatever, or singers) playing all those wonderful melodic lines. Playing with a blanket non-legato is no better, and maybe worse, than playing with a perfect, unbroken, 'wall-to-wall' legato. I think that goes for hymn playing as well as for Bach and most organ music. That's my opinion, and it's based more on practice than on academic study.
I drew upon my background as flautist and band conductor and treated each melodic line individually, choosing where I would breathe if I were playing the piece on my flute, or where I would have the instrumentalists in my band breathe.

Suddenly, Bossi's piece makes a lot more sense. Instead of endless sustained melodies, each line breathes independently of the other lines.

While legato technique is an essential technique to learn, drawing upon other thoughts and ideas is also essential when it comes to adding interest to pieces of music.

You can visit David Chamberlin's website here: http://www.chamberlinmusic.com/

1 comment:

  1. That's a very interesting idea... thanks for the post. I'll have to think about that one.