For the past month I have been preparing for my first official performance on the organ. I've accompanied wards and branches before, but never played a solo in public, not counting prelude and postlude. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to ensure that my technique, notes, and tempo were flawless. I practiced hours each day and felt I was making good progress. Three days before the concert, I left my home organ to practice on my church's organ. That evening I recorded my progress and was unable to play without making major mistakes. When my memory card filled up I was able to once again play the pieces perfectly.
That night, on my facebook page I asked, "How do you get your brain out of the way during performances? I rarely play for anyone other then me and my instructor, and when I need to perform I'm so analytical that I mess everything up. I just want my brain to shut off and let the music come out the way I've practiced it. Any tips (other than playing more in public)?"
Some good advice was shared, including:
"Tell yourself, 'It will be good enough,' and it will!"
"I try to shift the focus off of me. I think about the people who are in the audience and try to play well for them, or the organizer of the event or whoever asked me to play and try to play well for them. It helps me to remember I'm playing for other's enjoyment and not just for my own pride or glory."
I was also referred to the 2008 BYU organ workshop keynote address by Parley L. Belnap called Controlling our Thoughts.
Basically, I needed to tell myself that I had done everything humanly possible to prepare, and whatever happened, happened. As President Monson is fond of saying, "When the time for decision [or in this case, performance] arrives, the time for preparation is past.” I had put in the preparation, and I just needed to trust my efforts and let go so that I could enjoy the ride. I ended up playing my pieces for a branch and a ward prior to the concert, and in both services the pieces went very well and I truly added to the spirit of the meeting. I was playing to worship and enhance worship, it showed, and my congregation sang like I'd never heard them sing before! It was wonderful.
Finally it was time for the concert. There was a mix-up with scheduling so we didn't start for another 35 minutes. It was a lot of fun to listen to and sing with each organist. The pipe organ didn't have any programmable pistons, so we relied on the other organists to change our stops. When it was my turn, I started my hymn a little too fast, in my exuberance to have my turn on the organ, but it went well. When it was time for the final verse, I had a few people changing stops for me--unplanned! I got a little frazzled and not only came in a little late, but totally flubbed the first part of that verse. Surprisingly, it didn't matter! I had a great time, and laughed it off and my husband said that no one even noticed. (I don't know if I believe it, but I bet no one remembers today.)
The audience was appreciative, it was an enjoyable evening, and we played to serve others and to celebrate the Christmas season. Somehow that was enough.