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!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Organ in Real Life: Using Chimes at Christmas Time

I received a question from Jennifer, asking:

I have been practicing Christmas music, and am wondering how/when/if it's appropriate to use the chimes stop.

I have fond memories growing up of the beautiful Christmas music played by our excellent ward organist.  She often used chimes or bells in the Christmas songs, and I loved it. 

However, the chimes stop on the church organ I use seems to be overly sustained.  The chimes ring for a good 5 or more seconds after being played and released.  To me, it sounds beautiful at first but after a line or so just makes the song sound very muddled.  Not to mention the embarrassingly long ringing that follows at the end of a verse or song.

Do you use chimes?  Does your organ have this same effect?  Can you recommend any techniques for using chimes in Christmas music without having this happen?  I appreciate any advice or wisdom you could give me on this topic!

I, too, love using the chimes around Christmas time, and I hope that these ideas can help you!

The first suggestion I have is to use them sparingly!  Don't use them on every piece, and don't use them on every verse of a hymn.  Figure out where they will be used most effectively, and only use them there.

In Prelude or Postlude Music

Some ideas:

Use them on every-other line, such as in this example:

Introduce your piece with just the melody played on the chimes, as above, but then play your prepared prelude on a more standard registration without chimes.

Perhaps these pieces will also inspire you:

As Congregational Accompaniment

For the introduction, introduce the first phrase of the melody on just the chimes, then switch to a standard registration to finish the introduction.

Similar to above, but play a chime tone, then the introduction on a standard registration. One example is to play La, So, Fa, Mi, Re, Do, La, So, Fa, Mi, Re, Do or a much shortened version of something like this, which I like to play before the introduction to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day":

Another option is to play an interlude between the verses on the chimes.  Make sure it starts while the congregation is still holding the final note of the previous verse, so that they don't try to sing along, and make sure your music director knows it's coming.

As for playing while the congregation is singing, I tend to save that for the final verse of one of the hymns, or even the final chorus of the final verse, and I turn off the chime stop the second the last note is played, or immediately before playing the final note, so that it doesn't continue to ring for a long time afterwards. You'll have to see what works best with your organ through some trial and error. Yes, the chimes will blend together and muddle, but hopefully the congregational singing will cover some of that. It is a special treat, and for the final verse I think it is still okay to use periodically. The congregation generally loves it!

A few things to check

Many of the newer organs have alternate voicings. Sometimes, these other organs have a different sounding chimes/bells stop. You could check to see if this is the case and see if they would sound better or if they would add a nice variety and contrast to the standard chimes on your organ.

Check your artificial acoustics.  Many organs have a switch that can turn on a reverberation that mimics the sound in a large room.  These can make your chimes sound longer than they should.  Make sure this effect is off.

Check to see if the chimes play all four voice parts, or if they only play the top note.  If they play all four, there are a few things you can do.

If the chimes are on the swell instead of the great, you can accompany the congregation on the great, but solo out the melody on the swell with the chimes and a few other stops to provide support for the congregation, or use the melody coupler, which will pull the swell voices only onto the highest note you play.

If the chimes are on the great, consider playing the melody in unison (with both hands) on the final verse with the chimes added and no other parts being played.  This will still provide a nice support for the congregation, but will prevent the chimes from muddling together so much.

I hope this helps!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Preparing Congregations for Worship

I've had the privilege to play the organ in the temple for 2 1/2 months so far, and it has been a wonderful experience. I have the early morning shift, every-other week, which allows me to be home before my kids leave for school. During this time, I've learned a lot about preparing those in attendance for worship, and I was able to implement these principles as I played prelude for our adult session of stake conference on Saturday evening.  I wanted to share my suggestions and experiences with you.

Temple with scaffolding
The picture I took before playing for the second time in the temple

Earlier this year, I attended a class where Mike Carson, former dean of the Utah Valley AGO chapter and current Bonneville District Convener, mentioned being careful not to be "intrusive" with our playing.  At the time, I didn't really understand what he meant, but filed that thought away for the future.

I began playing in the temple the first week of July, and it seems that each time I'm there I learn a little more about effectively preparing those in attendance for worship.  I now know what Mike meant about being careful not to be intrusive.  The purpose of prelude music isn't to call attention to ourselves, and we aren't playing to perform beautiful organ music.  The purpose of prelude music is to prepare those in attendance for worship.  While these following suggestions and applications are specifically intended towards adult congregations, I'm sure they can be adapted or modified for services which include children.

1. Don't compete for volume

While the temple chapel is generally very reverent, there are times when whispers or dialogue become noticeable and distracting.  Instead of increasing the volume of the organ slightly to cover the noise, I've learned that it's much more effective to decrease the volume of the organ.  If the organ is softer than the dialogue, generally the person talking or whispering will become softer or stop talking altogether as they respond to the decreased organ volume.

As soon as I began my prelude Saturday evening, the volume of voices in the chapel increased noticeably.  Instead of opening the expression pedals a little bit more, as has been my habit, I decided to try what works in the temple, and decrease the volume.  The volume of the voices immediately returned to the pre-organ level.

2. Keep it simple, and play the hymns

In the temple, the organists are asked to play the hymns and songs from the Children's Songbook as written, without alternate harmonies or arrangements.  The simple four-part harmonies and chord progressions do not draw undue attention to themselves and allow those listening to pursue their own thoughts and ponderings.

Saturday evening, instead of using my normal prelude books and pieces, I felt that I should use my copy of Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, outlined towards the bottom of the article here, which was published by the Church in 1982 but is now out of print. My registrations were simple and subdued, the arrangements were beautiful in their simplicity, and many portions of the pieces are played in the manuals, using the pedals sparingly as emphasis.  This prevents the pedal drone that many prelude pieces utilize, and which I now think might contribute to more congregational noise.

3. Embrace silence

As I play in the temple, I am not afraid to lift all four voices at the end of phrases as the text directs, or where rests are indicated in the staff.  I allow some silence between hymns as I turn the pages in my binder of music.  Allowing that moment of silence reestablishes a quiet baseline, despite the volume of the music that comes from the organ.

After taking down the volume of the organ Saturday evening and playing a simple yet beautiful piece to begin my prelude, it was during the silence between the first and second piece where I really heard the volume of the congregation decrease. As I continued to play, if the volume started to creep up, I simply allowed for an extra moment of silence at appropriate times in my prelude music, and the congregation readily responded.

4. Do not look around

 During my orientation at the temple, I was asked not to look around as I played, but to focus on the organ and my music.  Following this direction allows me to focus on the Spirit as I contemplate the needs of those in attendance, instead of becoming distracted by the faces of those sitting in the chapel. I've found that I can sense the needs of those in the room best when I follow the Spirit's direction instead of using my eyes.

My husband did not drive with me Saturday evening, as it was taking longer for the the kids to finish eating dinner, bathe and settle down than we had planned.  I didn't allow myself to focus on whether or not he was here yet as I played.  I didn't look to see how full the chapel was getting, or to see how many people I knew that were there.  These visual distractions are just that--distractions.  They get in the way of the Spirit, and prevent the organist from focusing wholly on the prelude.  I was actually surprised when the meeting started to see that my husband had not yet arrived.  I was grateful that I was unaware of that fact until after my prelude had concluded.

5. Play with the Spirit

The hymns are powerful.  There are times when I'm playing in the temple that I feel impressed to play certain hymns, and I know that there is someone there who needs the comfort, strength, or healing power found in that particular hymn.  When I focus on the words and do not allow myself to be distracted with other things, I feel that my playing brings with it a special spiritual effectiveness that is not present if I'm just playing the notes with my thoughts elsewhere.

Before beginning my prelude Saturday evening, I took a moment to let go of the frenzied craziness of the day.  I took a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and allowed peace to enter my heart.  As I played the prelude, I felt the Spirit of the hymns.  I thought of the words of the hymns, and I sought to allow my playing to be an instrument in bringing the Spirit to the meeting. I had such focus, that there were times I completely forgot the room and the environment as I played the beautiful hymns of Zion.

As the chapel and cultural hall filled during my 15 minutes of prelude, I had the most wonderful experience. I was filled with the Spirit, and was able to play my pieces with that Spirit, and without distraction.  A beautiful reverence extended over the entire room, and I felt almost as though I was again playing in the temple as the adults who entered maintained the existing reverence of the room.  When the Stake President stood to begin the meeting, you could have heard a pin drop.  I was given the distinct assurance that those in attendance were prepared to hear the word of the Lord.

While I know that this experience is unique (I have never experienced anything like it), hopefully these suggestions and applications can help you as you strive to prepare your congregation to worship in your respective meetings.  I feel that I was taught these principles as I served in the temple of the Lord, and wanted to share with my readers.

As always, thank you so much for visiting!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Song: Rhosymedre

Today's Sunday Song is Ralph Vaughn Williams' arrangement of Rhosymedre, played by Leslie Ryan on the organ of All Saints Church Oystermouth Swansea. In the LDS hymnal, this hymn tune is set to the text of "Our Father, by Whose Name."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Song: Praise the Lord with Drums and Cymbals

Praise the Lord with Drums and Cymbals (Festliche Musik alla Händel) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert performed on the 62 rank A. E. Schlueter pipe organ of Briarlake Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia by staff organist, Jason Payne.

Oops! There were three verses?

Today in our worship service, the congregation was singing along, ready to begin the final verse of the hymn, but the organist was done, and not looking at the music director.  After what seemed like a long time, but was only a few seconds, the music director realized that the organist wasn't planning on another verse, so she sat down.

Has this ever happened to you?  I know as a beginning organist, when I was so worried about playing the right notes that I couldn't follow the verses very well (especially on hymns with a chorus, or with a music director who followed the organ's entrances), I was terrified that I would stop playing the hymn a verse early, or begin playing an extra verse that wasn't there.  Fortunately, changing registration after every verse, and writing those changes in at the end of the hymn can help a beginning organist feel more secure that this won't happen to them.  Also, it's important to watch the music director until you are sure the hymn is over!

While this experience has never happened to me, thank goodness, there have been times in my playing when I was watching the music director very nervously, wondering if the chorus I was playing was the final verse, or if I needed to play one more.

Today's experience made me curious: Has this ever happened to you?  What's the most embarrassing playing experience you've had?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Song: Olympic Fanfare and Theme

Organist Sean Jackson of http://www.seanjacksonmusic.com plays a slightly abridged version of John Williams' Olympic Fanfare and Theme in celebration of the 30th Olympic Summer Games, London 2012. The audio includes some percussion from the score which Dr. Jackson added using Logic Pro and EWQL Symphonic Orchestral samples.


Monday, July 30, 2012

BYU Organ Workshop

Every year about this time, Brigham Young University puts on an Organ Workshop that is absolutely amazing!  This year's workshop begins this afternoon from 3:00-7:00 p.m. with a preworkshop seminar: “A Survey of Latter-day Saint Hymnody: 1835 to the Present” with Douglas Bush.

If you haven't preregistered, it's not too late! You can register tomorrow morning from 8:00-9:00 a.m. in the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU for only $290 for four full days of organ instruction.

I attended the workshop the past two years, and I can tell you that it's worth every penny! This year the participants will also have the opportunity to play a Temple Square organ on Wednesday evening.

If you can't make it this year, start saving so that you can attend next summer. It will expand your view as to what the organ can do, and it could quite possibly change your life for the better.

If you happen to be in or around Provo, UT this week, there are a few activities that are open to all:
  • Monday, July 30: Pre-Workshop Seminar -A Survey of Latter-day Saint Hymnody: 1835 to the Present, Dr. Douglas Bush, 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., Madsen Recital Hall, BYU
  • Tuesday, July 31: Organ Recital - Dr. Don Cook, 7:30 p.m., new BYU Multi-Stake Building, 900 E 300 N, Provo
  • Thursday, August 2: Hymn Sing: Celebrating 175 Years of Latter-day Saint Hymnody, Dr. Douglas Bush, 7:30 p.m., De Jong Concert Hall, BYU

Unfortunately, for multiple reasons I am unable to attend the workshop this year. I'm still hoping to attend the Hymn Sing on Thursday evening, and highly recommend it. My first hymn sing with a trained organist was one of the most spiritually exhilarating experiences of my life!  I had no idea how effectively a trained organist could capture and share the spirit of the hymns.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Song: Octaves by Demessieux

For today's Sunday Song, Paul Jacobs plays Octaves by Jeanne Demessieux. This video was taken at his November 16, 2011 performance at Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Song: Lead Kindly Light

Today's Sunday Song is Robert Hebble's Lead, Kindly Light.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summertime Crazies

It has been far too long since I've posted on this blog!

It seems like every summer I enter a time warp when my kids stay home from school for summer vacation.  We have been incredibly busy with life.

As I've shared before, this blog has a great archive of resources for perusal.  Hopefully you will find what you need there.

I have some exciting news for my readers.  Many of the organ pictures on this website are of an Allen 282-C:

This is an organ I purchased about six years ago, and it was just wonderful for my needs.  However, it is about as old as I am, if not older, and the sound quality isn't nearly as good as what is currently available.  I'm so happy to announce that I recently purchased a used Ahlborn SL-300.  It's smaller and fits in my home better.  Plus, it's a 3-manual organ with internal speakers, and it's not even as old as my marriage, so the sound is so much better.

Here is the only picture I have of them together.  The Ahlborn was being delivered, and the Allen was purchased very quickly, so it left almost as soon as the new one was here:

Here's the Ahlborn right after delivery:

In other news, a lot has been going on in my life. Just on the organ front, I'll be serving as the secretary in my chapter of the American Guild of Organists for the next two years.  I was introduced to Wayne Leopold's Learning the Organ and Learning the Basics method books, and am going to start teaching the organ to children.  My oldest four got their first lessons today.  Also, I began playing the organ in my local LDS Temple, and will be playing there two or three times a month.

I'm hoping to start posting regularly again soon, fingers crossed!

Thanks for visiting!

Edited 7/22 to add:  I was also released as Stake Music Chairman today after 4 1/2 years of service.  I couldn't post that until it was official.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Song: To My Mother

Happy Mother's Day to all of my readers who are mothers or have a mother heart.

Today's Sunday Song is To My Mother, played by the composer on a 3-manual Austin organ in the Church of the Epiphany in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday Song: Tiento Partido de Mano Derecha

Tiento Partido de Mano Derecha, or Tiento For the Right Hand, by 17th century Spanish Composer Pablo Bruna, played by Ron McKean on a Spanish-style pipe organ built by Manuel Rosales at Mission San José in Fremont CA. Towards the beginning of the video, you will see how tracker action works.

As a bonus, here he is playing Tiento Partido de Mano Izquierda, Tiento For the Left Hand:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Song: Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah

Michael Howarth, age 16, playing at the October 2001 Night of Organists in Henderson Nevada.  Does anyone know the arranger?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Glory to God on High 3rd Verse

For our stake Easter Musical Fireside, I wanted to have those in attendance sing the final verse of Glory to God on High in unison.  I would have loved to play a free harmonization during that verse, but my lack of time prevented it.  Instead, I made just a few simple modifications to the hymn and it worked very well on that final verse. 

I wanted to share it with you.

Glory to God on High
Here it is!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Don't miss my comments over on facebook

I have a facebook page, where I comment on things that I don't post on the blog. Don't miss what's happening over there! Tonight I shared some links to pieces that can be used as free harmonizations:
The LDS Organist Blog on facebook.

Sunday Song: Let Us Break Bread Together

Dale Wood's arrangement of Let Us Break Bread Together is played by David Christensen at Eden Lutheran Church in Riverside, CA on a Moller pipe organ with Allen additions.

Friday, April 20, 2012

There is such a thing as a free lunch!

If you live in or are visiting Utah, mark your calendars for April 21, 2012 (TOMORROW!) from 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

The Utah Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists is presenting Super Saturday, Training for the Church Organist (a free event with lunch included). The event will be held at the Harris Fine Arts building on the BYU campus in Provo, UT. This year's keynote speaker is Tabernacle Organist Clay Christiansen. Clay will also be presiding over a hymn playing masterclass and doing an organ music demonstration. There will also be many classes for beginning, intermediate, and advanced organists.

Workshop instructors will include Tabernacle Organist, Clay Christiansen, BYU organ faculty, and other AGO organ specialists. These classes include:

Organ Essentials I, Manual Technique
Organ Essentials II, Pedal Technique
Organ Essentials III, Registration
Advanced Registration
Preludes From Hymns
Hymn Master Class
Hymn Playing Protocol
New In Print Music
Theory for Organists
Organ Arrangements from Piano Choir Music
Organ Lab Instruction
Inside a Pipe Organ
Service Playing: Worship or Performance
Pianist to Organist & Other Organ Resources
Understanding Hymn Text
Performing with Confidence
30 minute recital: Parker Ludwig

It will be a great day of workshops, and best of all, everything (including lunch) is free! If you live close enough to come, I highly recommend it.  I'll be helping in the organ lab during the first hour of classes, and playing for the master class the second hour. 

Hope to see you there!

If you don't live close to Provo, UT, check the AGO website to find a chapter near you:
The American Guild of Organists is a wonderful resource for organists, and if you aren't already, I recommend that you become involved in your local chapter.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Song: Toccata for the Morning of Easter

Happy Easter!

Today's Sunday Song is "Toccata for the Morning of Easter" by Gilbert M. Martin.

View last year's Easter Sunday Song here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'm featured on Pedal Points today

An acquaintance of mine has recently started an online forum for LDS organists. She regularly features organists and adds them to her "Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists." Today I'm being featured along with another organist. Feel free to link over and learn more about me!

After reading, you can fill out your own SALSA Questionnaire.

Read SALSA: Jack and Jennifer over at Pedal Points.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Don't psych yourself out

I had the opportunity to play this beautiful, small pipe organ on Friday evening:

Knowing that the organ differed from my practice organ, I went to the chapel Wednesday morning, where I was able to play my piece for the first time on that organ. It went fairly well, but there were a couple of pedal notes that I wasn't playing consistently. Here's why. This is the flat pedal board on the pipe organ:

And this is the concave radiating AGO pedal board on my organ that I'm used to:

Now, it's an adjustment to play on a flat pedal board, but not a huge one. The middle notes are all pretty much the same, but the extreme highs and lows aren't. For the most part, I was playing the pedals just fine. There were two spots in my piece where I struggled. I jump down to the low D at one point, and at another I jump up to middle C.

After leaving the chapel that day, I concentrated my practice on cleaning up my left hand technique and working on finding corner chromatics for my pedal notes (bumping against a sharp to find the right natural note).

Friday morning I played my piece perfectly, over and over again. My left hand was clean, my hands had great non-legato technique, and I was finding my pedal notes from the sharps. I knew that I'd be just fine, but wanted to run through the piece on the pipe organ again, just to make sure. That was a mistake!

Friday evening I arrived early and played through my piece on the pipe organ again, missing those same pedal notes that I thought I finally had down. I was frustrated, and my confidence crumbled. All through the potluck dinner, I just knew that I would struggle with playing the pedals properly.

Finally, when the recital began (I was scheduled to play in the middle) I realized that I needed to feel confident, or I would just crash and burn. I tried to feel excited about this opportunity, and to feel confident in my preparation. I knew that a wrong pedal note is not the end of the world, and I also knew that my feet knew what to do if I just trusted them. I tried to turn my attitude around. I immersed myself in Bach and tried to let the music wash over me.

When it was my turn to play, I was nervous, but really wanted to convey the beautiful message of my simple piece. It began well, but as I approached the difficult spots, I began to focus solely on my feet. A couple of times my left hand just forgot to play! I remember thinking, "Really?"

When all was said and done, my feet played the piece pretty much perfectly, yet my hands had turned to mush! I felt that I did have the spirit of the music in my soul and hope that at least that message came through my train wreck of a performance. I was so disappointed, but at least I had changed my attitude and was able to continue the piece without grinding to a stop in the middle.

Why did this happen?

A while back I posted on getting the brain out of the way. That advice always works for me. If I approach the organ with confidence, knowing that I'm prepared, it comes through in my playing. Unfortunately, I didn't feel comfortable on the organ Friday night, and it definitely showed, to my great embarrassment.

Afterwards, everyone was kind, and I'll chalk it up to a learning experience. After all, it was only the second official recital I've ever played for...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Song: Bach's Sinfonia from Cantata No. 29

In honor of Bach's birthday, today's Sunday Song is his Sinfonia from Cantata No. 29, played by Paul Jacobs, Chair of the Organ Department at Julliard School of Music, on the 273 rank Fratelli Ruffatti organ at the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest post: Making organ slippers

On this blog I've shared the importance of proper organ shoes many times. The heel on the shoe facilitates playing notes with the heel and straddling natural keys. The heel also guards against the organist developing a "march fracture," which is also known as fatigue fracture or stress fracture of metatarsal bone. While worth the price, organ shoes can be somewhat expensive.

Sandra Dee Thomas

Sandra Dee Thomas has posted about her journey towards making an affordable alternative to organ shoes, which is a very novel idea. Now that she has perfected her pattern, she has graciously agreed to write a guest post for the blog. As Sandra says, "Shoes are best if you have the money. However, if you don't, or have tried the shoes and do not like them, the Organ Slippers are an alternative. They are a blend of both socks and shoes."

Thanks for sharing your efforts with us, Sandra!

(To view the pictures larger, just click on them.)

Organ Slippers
How to make them
By Sandra Dee Thomas

Making Organ Slippers

1 skein of medium weight yarn (your choice of color)
Crochet hook: size E/4 or 3.50 mm
1 10.5"x13.5" sheet of Ultra Stiff Plastic Canvas
1 yarn needle
1 small bag of cotton balls or 3" strips of an old towel for stuffing heel form
1 pair of inexpensive shoe inserts for a guide in shoe sizing (trace out your size)

If you can single and double crochet, you can easily make them. Everything is single crochet until you reach the second-to-the-last row in the top of the shoe (7th row). The 8th row is then double crocheted to make room for the adjusting string or shoe lace.

The key is to make sure they are snug on your feet so they do not shift.
By simply following the shape of the insole the slipper should fit just fine.

Making the Main slipper:
  1. Begin at the heel
    1. Chain 8 stitches.
    2. Turn and single crochet back through the first row of stitches.
    3. Increase one more stitch at the end of the row. Chain one and go back.
    4. Continue going back and forth, increasing one stitch at the end off each row until you reach 12 stitches.
    Figure 3
  2. Stop increasing the stitches in the rows. Crochet back and forth until you reach the ball of the foot.
  3. Step 2
  4. Beginning at one end of the last row, crochet back, pick up an extra stitch at the beginning of the second-to-the-last row, reverse. Continue in like manner until you have reached just past the joint of the foot.
  5. Step 3
  6. Next, single crochet continuously all around the slipper, reducing stitches at the front as necessary for fit to form the sides of the slipper.
  7. Step 4
  8. Double crochet the next row. Single crochet one more row. Tie off. Make a string (125-150 single crochet) and loop it through the double crochet.
  9. Turn the slipper over and begin making the pocket for the heel. At this point you may want to stop and make the heel form so you can better shape the pocket to the heel form insert.

Heel Form Insert
Heel Form Insert 1
Heel form Insert 2
Heel Form 3

Heel Pocket

  1. Measure 3 1/2" from the back of the heel or tie the slipper onto your foot placing the crochet hook on the front edge of the ball of your heel. Hold. Insert the hook into one edge and start single crocheting around the back edge of the slipper.
  2. Figure 1
  3. At this point, it would be a good idea to place the heel form on the slipper with the widest side next to the slipper so that you can have a guide as to how far toward the heel you need to make the pocket wall. Starting at where you first inserted the hook, you should go one row beyond 2 1/2".
  4. Continue around the back of the slipper until you have made a "horse shoe" shape. Chain one and reverse back, building a wall that is one row over the top of the heel form. At this point, crochet down one edge of the wall and across the middle of the slipper to connect the two sides of the wall with a single row of crochet. Tie off. Cut yarn.
  5. Figures 2-4
  6. To close the heel pocket, insert the hook into one back edge of the heel pocket wall as shown in figure 4. Using the form as a guide, crochet back and forth to cover the form.
  7. Closing 1 Closing 2
    You are done! Now make the other one.

Sandra has also been working on a portable (silent) pedal board which can be used with pianos and small keyboards, and has promised to share that tutorial in the future. Thanks again, Sandra!

If you would like a .pdf copy of this information, you can email Sandra at SandraDeeSilva at yahoo dot com.

I welcome guest posts from my readers. If you have something you'd like to share, please contact me at ldsorganistblog at gmail dot com.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Song: The Kerry Dance

I hope your Saint Patrick's Day was plenty green!

Today's Sunday Song is Chris Lawton playing The Kerry Dance on a 4-manual, 20-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ that was originally built in 1930 for the Paramount cinema in Manchester city centre. It is now installed in the ballroom at Stockport town hall in the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Write in those fingerings!

As a beginning organist, I would practice for hours every week, trying to learn the hymns for Sunday properly. Once I finally felt confident with my technique and tempo, there were too many times when I would be playing a hymn, only to have my fingers become lost. Mid-hymn, I would find myself at the site of a figurative train wreck.

I never understood what had happened. I knew the music. I had rehearsed it for hours and hours with the metronome, methodically increasing the tempo incrementally until I finally arrived at the desired metronome marking. Why were there random inexplicable times when my fingers just forgot everything I had worked so hard to teach them?

For a long, long time, I didn't understand what was happening. I didn't know how to prevent this random occurrence. Finally, it hit me: I never wrote in my fingerings. Most of the time when I played the hymn, I used the fingerings I had practiced. However, at times my fingers chose a different path, and that's when I got in trouble. When I began writing in my fingerings, this "anomaly" stopped happening.

So much of playing the organ is muscle memory. When I'm learning a new piece, I start at a painfully slow tempo, teaching my fingers where they need to go. I spend a lot of practice time at very slow tempos, with the metronome beating the eighth- or sixteenth-note, increasing the metronome one-quarter or one-half of a beat at a time. After numerous repetitions at this lower tempo, the muscle memory sets in, and I can then increase the tempo much more quickly.

There have been times when I wasn't given much notice to learn a piece. One time I chose to just try to practice it near tempo. While I was able to muddle through the performance, it wasn't well played. Another time, I decided to put in the requisite time at a slow tempo, taught my fingers the proper way to play, and although I didn't have time to slowly work it up to tempo, I was still able to play the piece at tempo much more cleanly that when I tried to skip this step.

As I progressed on the organ, I began playing without adding fingerings. I was getting much better, and felt that I no longer needed this step. I was able to play pieces well without this "crutch." Then I attended the BYU Organ Workshop in August, where Linda Margetts and Doug Bush (among others) both stressed the important need for writing in fingerings, even if it's just "skeletal" fingerings, and to erase and change them as needed. It gave me pause, and I thought a lot about what had been said. I started writing in fingerings again--at the very least I wrote in starting fingerings and fingerings in key phrases.

During the Christmas season, I pulled out a couple of pieces I played the year before, when I was meticulous about writing in fingerings. I quickly re-learned the pieces, as the fingerings were still retained, somewhat, in the muscle memory of my fingers and feet and I played them after just a few practice sessions.

Now that I'm preparing for Easter, I pulled out the pieces I played last year, when I "knew better" and they are immaculate. I didn't write in any fingerings or pedaling. As I try to play through them, I struggle because although my brain knows these pieces, my fingers and feet are lost. I don't know where my fingers were when I began them, how I fingered some difficult spots, and now I'm starting from scratch with them, which is immensely frustrating. It will take quite a bit of time to get them performance ready again.

If only I had written in the fingerings for this free accompaniment last year! Writing in fingerings is important for the first performance, but it's essential for subsequent performances after a lapse of time.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Song: Holy, Holy, Holy!

Holy, Holy, Holy! (Nicaea), arranged by Jason D. Payne and performed on the 62 rank Reuter/A.E. Schlueter Organ of Briarlake Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Organ lights

I have an older organ in my home, which is wonderful, as it makes practicing with six kids a possibility. Unfortunately, this organ does not have any type of light for my music. I've wanted an organ light for some time, but they are very pricey. Most cost upwards of $100, and many cost over $400. I needed a much less expensive solution.

One day last year, while browsing Ikea's website, I found their picture lighting. When I saw the LED RIBBA lighting picture, I thought that it looked a lot like the organ lights I've seen online. All it needs is a base:

The best part about it was the price: $24.99.

The catch: these lights are only available at Ikea and cannot be ordered online. As there's an Ikea near me, my children gave this light to me for Christmas! I had hoped it would clip onto my organ, but it didn't work--it needed to be taller. My husband promised me a stand, but he's been really busy. Finally, last night I just clipped it to an extra board I had in my garage and propped it up on my organ.

I love it! The light it gives off is a very warm light, and it's very lightweight so I'm not worried about it falling on me, despite the archaic way I'm currently using it. All of a sudden I can really see my music, and it's wonderful!

If you don't have an Ikea near you and you need an organ light, I encourage you to check different stores. I know I've seen a similar desk light at my local Target for about $40. There are also a number of LED picture lights online starting at $20.

If you've been looking for an organ light but couldn't justify the cost, and are a little handy or creative when it comes to mounting them, maybe this will help you. I can't wait to practice under my new light today!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Song: Toccata in B minor

Sean Jackson plays Eugène Gigout's Toccata in B minor on the organ at St. John's Episcopal Church, Stamford Connecticut.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Song: Andante Allegro

Bob Swift plays his solo organ transcription of the "Andante Allegro" movement from Handel's Organ Concerto #6 in B Flat (Opus #4, HWV#294). Instrument: 1985 37-rank, 2,444-pipe Moeller)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Song: Bird Songs at Eventide

Bird Songs at Eventide, played by Horace Finch at the Wurlitzer theatre organ of the Empress Ballroom, Blackpool Winter Gardens.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My question for you: Storing music

I have a lot of music in my house. With my collection of flute music and my husband's tuba music from college, some piano music, my husband's vocal music, my ever-growing collection of organ music, and now my children's oboe and French horn music, I've outgrown my piano and organ benches and the space under another padded bench in my music room. I'm tired of having music piled on my organ, and I'd love to bring up all of the music that's currently stored in a huge box in my basement.

I'd like something that's not too bulky and a system that makes it very easy for me to find things. Unfortunately, I have no idea where to start!

So I'm asking you: What have you used and seen? What has worked for you, and what has NOT worked for you?

Thanks for your help! I'd love to feature your responses in a future article.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Song: Marcello's Psalm XIX

Benedetto Marcello's Psalm XIX played by Rodney Jantzi on a Berlin reed organ.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Real Life: Playing Dotted Notes

Schmath asked a question the other day that I wanted to share and answer here:

"When you play a hymn like We Are All Enlisted, with tons of dotted 16ths, do you actually play them as dotted 16ths? It sounds weird to play them correctly because most everyone plays them more like triplets with the first two notes tied."

That is a very good question! My guess is that the majority of ward organists play dotted eighth to sixteenth notes with a triplet feel, and the majority of congregations sing them the same way.

However, I strongly believe that hymns should be played as written. When a hymn contains a dotted eighth to a sixteenth note, I believe the hymn should be played that way.


As Carol Dean says, "[The hymns] have more rhythmic energy that way, and that is what the hymn tune composer intended." I agree with her.

When I practice from the hymnal, I set my metronome to either the sixteenth note or the eighth note, generally at half-tempo, and make sure my rhythm is absolutely precise. I then slowly increase the metronome until I can play the hymn correctly at the proper tempo.

At first it might seem odd to play the hymns with precise rhythm when you and your congregation are used to hearing them with a more relaxed rhythm. However, in most congregations there are at least a few people who are trained musicians, who try to sing the hymns as written, and they will certainly appreciate your efforts. Conversely, in every congregation there are also people who are not musically trained, and they probably won't consciously notice either way. Surprisingly, from my experience, these non-musicians will sing with more enthusiasm if the rhythm is crisp and precise.

Thank you for your question. I hope my answer has helped you and any others who have the same question. Remember, "Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
-- Ephesians 5:18–20

Sunday Song: Jesus Once of Humble Birth

Jesus Once of Humble Birth, arranged by James Kasen, played by Alena Hall. I featured this piece in August of 2010, but my stake choir is doing his arrangement of this piece for stake conference, and I wanted to share this beautiful piece again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Carol Dean's email address

5/2-18 UPDATE: I will now be sending out the hymnals for Carol, so please email ldsorganistblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Carol Dean's email was hacked and not able to be recovered. If you've requested her hymnal recently and haven't heard back, she may not have received your request. Her new email address is carolorg1111 (at) gmail (dot) com.

If you don't have a copy of her hymnal, what are you waiting for? I really love it, and I get no kick-backs of any kind from pushing it on my blog. Carol doesn't even make money on it--she prices it to break even.

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday Song: Ring Out Wild Bells

Happy New Year!

I couldn't find this as an organ solo, so today's organ Sunday Song is accompanied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. :)

Hear last year's New Year's Song here.