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!

Monday, May 27, 2013

In Remembrance

Memorial Day Organ Prelude from Matthew Morrison on Vimeo.

Performed by Tom Leonard on the Hazel Wright Organ of the Crystal Cathedral.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Song: Triumphal March

Marko Hakanpää playing Geroge Frederick Broadhead's Triumphal March at the biggest organ in Finland: Lapua Cathedral (85 stops), built by Kangasalan Urkutehdas in 1938.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Song: Improvisation on America (from West-Side-Story)

Improvisation recorded live in concert 27th of April 2013 at the Nathanaelchurch in Berlin-Schöneberg.
At the Schuke-Pipe organ: Maria Scharwieß.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Seeking a Calling vs. Hiding Under a Bushel

I love to play for worship services!  Choosing effective prelude that prepares the congregation for worship, deciding how best to reflect the text of the hymns, and choosing registration that will support the congregation, but also reflects the hymn are things that I love to do.  There's a beautiful science and spirit about preparing adequately to accompany worship services.  It's my passion and I love it!

That said, I am not currently serving as ward organist, have not held that calling for over six years, and have only served in that capacity for a cumulative total of three years in my (almost) 20 years as an organist. As stake music chairman, I did accompany some stake meetings, taking care to also ask others to play as well.  (I'm a big believer in spreading the opportunities throughout the stake members as much as possible.)  I also took this opportunity to focus on my personal development through taking organ lessons, completing a level of BYU Organ Certification, serving in my local American Guild of Organists chapter, starting this blog to help others learn to play the organ, and preparing for AGO Certification.

However, I really missed having the opportunity to accompany on the organ on a regular basis!

After inquiring through as many sources as possible, I learned that temple organists are considered volunteer temple workers.  All I needed to do to be considered to play the organ in the temple was to meet with my Bishop and have him fill out the form he uses for volunteer temple workers!  I immediately did this, and after the necessary signatures were in place and it was sent to the temple, I was contacted by the supervisor of organists and put on a waiting list.  After almost a year, I was given a shift!  I play every-other week for an hour and a half, and I love it.

I was extended a release from my stake music chairman calling last June, and began playing in the temple the beginning of July.  It's been wonderful, and it has been my only church calling for almost a year.

Although I have longed to play the organ in my ward for years, I've contented myself with thoughts of:

"I shouldn't seek after a calling."
"I have all of this time to learn more about the organ without the stress of learning and preparing multiple hymns, preludes, and postludes each week."
"Those serving as organists in my ward might need this push to develop their talent, while I work on mine without a calling."
"I need to practice seeing the good in those currently serving as organists."
"The Lord knows what he is doing, and I really need to learn patience."
"I appreciate the rare opportunities I have to play more than I ever would if I was currently serving as ward organist."
"I now get to play in the temple and prepare patrons for temple worship, the crowning gift of mortal life. I never would have pursued this position if I were serving as ward organist."

After presenting at Super Saturday last month, and sharing so many great ideas on beautifying hymn accompaniment, I felt like I needed to stop hiding my light under a bushel and had the greatest desire to play the organ for worship services again!

Image Source

This situation leads me to a question I've pondered for years:  As members of the Church it is common understanding that we do not seek after callings; It is also scripture that we should not hide our light under a bushel.  In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where callings are extended from Priesthood leaders to those whom the Lord qualifies, not man, sometimes members with specific skills are not chosen to serve in callings which go along with their chosen field, developed talent, or greatest interests.  While I understand and accept this practice, we have also been told that our candle should not be placed "under a bushel, but on a candlestick; [so that] it giveth light unto all that are in the house."

As trained musicians in the Church, how do we reconcile these two seemingly conflicting beliefs?  What are your thoughts or experiences?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Song: Mother Knows Best

Mother Knows Best, El Capitan Theatre Organ w/ Rob Richards and Alex Zsolt. Filmed January 15, 2011 as part of Pipes and Pops Wurlitzer Weekend.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Making Mistakes

“Perfectionism can be a paralyzing curse; but self satisfaction is intolerable. Humility is a virtue.”
~Miriam Clapp Duncan

Last week on this blog's facebook page I mentioned that I didn't play my organ examples flawlessly in my presentation at Super Saturday.  I know I've mentioned things like this in the past as well.  I thought I'd write an article dedicated to making mistakes today.

By nature I am a huge perfectionist.  One thing I love about music, is that you can be perfect.  A quarter note lasts for one beat.  A metronome marking can be set so that your tempo is exact.  This concept of perfection is one of the many reasons that I ultimately preferred the organ over the flute.  When you play the flute, everything can be subjective, from your embouchure, to your hand position, to where your tongue is in your mouth, to your tone quality.  The organ removes many of these subjective variables, at least as they relate to tone quality!

I used to beat myself up, over and over, when I made mistakes in a worship service.  I remember praying with my whole soul that I would just not make any mistakes, but they'd come anyway, despite the numerous hours I spent practicing.

How frustrating!

I used to think that I had to be perfect!  That if I presented myself as a trained organist, there was no room for error, ever.  I hid my human side, instead presenting an airbrushed image of myself.  I didn't let anyone get to know the real me, because it wasn't who I ultimately wanted to be.

Slowly, things changed. In the first place, this perfection was unattainable, despite my intense practice hours. Then I attended the BYU Organ Workshops and saw that those with significantly more training and experience than me didn't take themselves too seriously.  I vividly remember Linda Margetts, Tabernacle Organist, putting her organ shoes on her hands, moving the organ bench out of the way, getting down on her hand and knees, and playing the pedals with her hands to illustrate a concept.  Learning that these great organists were willing to show a human side gave me permission to show others that I'm human as well.  I learned that I don't have to be unattainably perfect all the time.

I read a quote recently that I want to share here, but despite many attempts, I haven't been able to find it!  The gist of it is as follows:  A music teacher was conversing with his student, who asked, "But what if I make a mistake?"  The music teacher replied, "That is why people come to your recital--to hear your mistakes.  A perfect performance is boring.  Mistakes add a human element to your performance, and that is why people listen."

When I played for BYU Women's Conference last year, I had spent months preparing my hymns, but I knew my nerves would kick in, and I most likely would make some mistakes.  I remember sitting in the huge Marriott Center, pondering and praying during some classes prior to my accompaniment, wondering if, perhaps, I should have just played the hymns straight from the hymnal, instead of utilizing various techniques to help better share the spirit of the hymns I was playing. I knew I could play the standard hymns more consistently than if I changed them up a bit, and really started to second-guess myself and my decisions.

As I was worrying in my mind I had the thought, "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"  I realized that despite my imperfections, the spirit I brought with me and the preparation I made was exactly what was needed in that audience at that time.  Yes, I ultimately did make some mistakes.  But I also touched hearts, and that is the purpose behind all of my efforts.

Now, instead of praying for a perfect performance, I pray that I will have the Spirit with me, and that I will touch the hearts and lives of those who are listening to me play.  I pray that my preparation will be adequate, and that I will prepare those in attendance for worship.

Now, this realization doesn't give me permission to skip my preparation, or to do anything less than my very best.  It just means that it's okay if my very best isn't utter perfection.

I've learned that my lot in life is to do all that I can do, and the Lord will magnify my efforts--not in spite of, but because of my mistakes.

(If you liked this article, you may also be interested in reading Florence's article entitled, Practice Makes Perfect Comfortable)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Today is World Organ Day!

Today is World Organ Day! Click here for a list of concerts that are being held today.

Sacred music regulates the Notre Dame cathedral’s life since its construction and the organ has been there since the beginning. First in the choir only, then hanged in the nave, an organ was built on the gallery in 1401 and became after many restorations and reconstructions, one of the most famous organs in the world: The Great Organ of Notre-Dame de Paris.Thanks to it, Organ music regulates the cathedral life since its early times. It is to pay tribute to this music that during the 850th anniversary, on May 6th 2013 will the World Organ Day 2013 be held.

This global event is completely new. It will consist in more than 850 concerts which will make the repertoire of Notre-Dame de Paris ring out in places of worship and concert halls on the five continents. Due to time differences the concerts will stretch on more than 24 hours, giving this event proportions without precedent.

The concerts are coordinated by Notre-Dame de Paris 2013 association in partnership with several organists associations but independently organized by each place of worship or concert hall. In order to introduce or help the widest audience to rediscover the beauty of organ music, many media-related means will be displayed to give more visibility to this instrument which is sometimes unrecognized by the general public.

Take some time today to share the organ with others.

You may not be able to attend or perform in a recital, but there are other things that you can do to promote and celebrate the king of instruments, the organ. Perhaps you can play your favorite piece for a friend or family member, introduce someone to a new prelude piece, make posts on Facebook concerning World Organ Day, post links to your favorite organ repertoire, or offer to give someone a free organ lesson. There are all kinds of possibilities!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Song: Vierne's Symphonie II

It's past time for a new Sunday Song!

Johann Vexo play Louis Vierne: Symphonie II at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

From the YouTube description:  Johann Vexo is the Organist of the Choir Organ and in this video plays the Great Pipe Organ in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This was recorded as an "extra" while recording a CD of him on the pipe organ in the cathedral. The work is Louis Vierne's Symphonie II in e minor, Opus 20; composed in 1903 and dedicated to Charles Mutin.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Monday is World Organ Day

Monday is World Organ Day. This global event is completely new. It will consist in more than 850 concerts which will make the repertoire of Notre-Dame de Paris ring out in places of worship and concert halls on the five continents. Due to time differences the concerts will stretch on more than 24 hours, giving this event proportions without precedent.

The concerts are coordinated by Notre-Dame de Paris 2013 association in partnership with several organists associations but independently organized by each place of worship or concert hall. In order to introduce or help the widest audience to rediscover the beauty of organ music, many media-related means will be displayed to give more visibility to this instrument which is sometimes unrecognized by the general public.  Click here for more information.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Music in Heaven


At the UVAGO Super Saturday Organ Training Workshop, our keynote speaker, Carol Dean, said, "I know there are pipe organs in heaven, because I wouldn't be happy there if there weren't."  Later, the dean of our chapter reiterated that statement, by saying her late husband is building her pipe organ, and she told him she won't join him there until it is ready for her.  My eighty-year-old grandmother, who has been a ward organist for almost sixty years, missed those statements, but attended the final two classes.  Afterwards, she asked me for organ lessons, because she wants to "be ready." Although she wasn't there for the earlier statements, she echoed their sentiments!

The concept of music in heaven is something that I've had on my mind a lot throughout my life. It is common acceptance in the Christian world that angels sang at Jesus Christ's birth, for how could such a miraculous event be celebrated any other way?

Handel is said to have exclaimed after finishing the Hallelujah chorus, “I did think I did see all Heaven open before me and the great God Himself.”

John Taylor, an early Mormon prophet said:
“We have no idea of the excellence of the music we shall have in heaven. It may be said of that, as one of the Apostles has said in relation to something else—‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive of those things which are prepared for those who love and fear God.’ We have no idea of the excellency, beauty, harmony and symphony of the music in the heavens.”
Can you imagine?  I know many of us, as church musicians, have probably had divine experiences with music.  I know there has been more than one time in my life where I have felt the heavens open and experienced divine music from above.  In fact, in my recent article, I mentioned that "as organists, we have the opportunity to invite people to worship, to help them call upon the choirs of heaven, and help them join their voices in an experience of spiritual outpouring."

This is my goal for every congregation of every denomination.  This is why I created my blog, so that in some small way I can help church organists facilitate this outpouring.

Have you ever experienced a musical communion with heaven?