Friday, March 30, 2012

Blog Updates and Practice Goals

Thank you to those that are reading my blog. I want to let you know that my goal is to add a new blog post about once a week which likely be done on Saturday or Sunday.

Another goal I set recently is to practice the organ 10 hours a week. I started tracking my practice time only to realize that I am not practicing as much as I thought I was. In order to reach my goal I will need to become much more intentional with making time to practice. I'll provide updates on my progress from time to time.

What goals are you working on?

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Sometimes, while playing a piece during a lesson, I suddenly stop and hold a chord and ask Michael "Does that sound right?" To me, the sound resulting from these notes being played sounds wrong. I feel like I must be pushing a wrong pedal or key. In reality, these notes are being played correctly and are dissonant.

Dissonance is when the combination of 2 or more notes sound off or wrong. Dissonance has it purposes and will usually resolve pleasantly. During my last lesson, Michael explained that I need to trust the composer when I hear dissonance as the composer intentionally included it. If I were to keep playing, instead of freezing I would hear the resolution. 

This conversation reminded me of problems in life. Our problems are like dissonance. Just as dissonant notes sound wrong, our problems can be (and usually are) troubling (otherwise they would not be problems). God, the composer of our lives, can be trusted to help resolve our problems (in His way, of course).  Sometimes, we make up our own notes, instead of playing those that God intended for us, which can lead to even more problems.

It would seem fitting to end this post with a trust Bible verse. I have been a Christian since a young age, but I'm struggling to remember a trust God verse at the moment. Instead of copying/pasting a random verse, feel free to insert your favorite "trust" Bible verse here or visit Bible Gateway and search on trust.

My mom likes this verse: Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.     Proverbs 3:5-6

What is your favorite trust verse?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday's Lenten recital

The parking garage near the First Congregational Church was full. This week, instead of going to other parking garage I decided to be patient and wait for an open spot. After seeing several people leave and the garage status remaining at "full" I was getting anxious that I would be late again this week. I would have backed out but another car was behind me, so I had little choice but to just wait. Within a few minutes the garage allowed entry, I received a ticket, and found a great parking spot on level 2.

This week's organists were Steven Flick (recently retired) and Gail Jennings. Steven started the program with 3 pieces. Then mid way through 3 men sang and the program concluded with Gail playing 4 pieces. Gail's final piece was Spirituals for Organ in Jazz Styles by Joe Utterback (b. 1944). I typically do not enjoy jazz music and had not associated jazz with the organ but I did enjoy these pieces (she played 3) and was very impressed with Gail. She is currently organist at Bethlehem United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor, has a piano studio, performs recitals with her husband (violinist Andrew Jennings), and is a member of the Ceciliana Chamber Players.

The weather on Friday was beautiful and I enjoyed the 2 block walk to the church. The recital was not as well attended as in previous weeks, perhaps, due to the exceptionally warm weather. The door of the church remained open during the recital which was a bit distracting during the performances as the traffic on State St. could be heard.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Three Days - Three pipe organ concerts

In the past 52 hours I have attended 3 organ concerts!

First, last Friday during my lunch break, I went back to First Congregational Church for their Lenten organ recital. The parking garage near the church was full so parked in another garage which was about a 10 minute walk from the church.  I arrived at the church after the performance started and also there were not any programs left. Therefore,  I do not know the name of any of the pieces played or the performers. I did snap a few pictures of the organ. This picture shows the organ pipes and the console. There are many more pipes which are not visible.

Pipe organ at First Congregational Church, Ann Arbor, MI

On Friday evening, I attended an organ concert at Pease Auditorium on the campus of Eastern Michigan University with organist Bruce Neswick.  The program was titled "American Music on an American Organ". Bruce is an excellent organist masterfully played through the program.  I didn't take any pictures but if you follow the link to Pease Auditorium you will be able to see the stage and pipes. My impression is that the organ could be lowered through the stage floor when not in use.

My favorite piece of the performance was improvisations of the hymn All Creatures of Our God and King. This hymn is amazing! Bruce played it through several times changing the key and also playing the melody on the pedals. It was indeed wonderful to hear performed live. I was familiar with the hymn tune but not the words. Yesterday, I found this hymn in my hymnal and the words themselves are also fantastic.

Today, I was present at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Tecumseh, MI for an organ concert with organists from the University of Michigan. This program was "Happy Birthday, Dear Johann" and all pieces were composed by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750).  Professor James Kibbie introduced each piece and the organist playing the piece (he played a few of the pieces himself). James Kibbie has recorded every work of Bach which can be downloaded for free.

I learned today that Bach titled two pieces Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 and BWV 538. (BWV is the cataloging system for Bach's pieces). BWV 565 is the famous piece that most will recognize. Professor Kibbie's performance of it was impressive. The concert ended with another organist playing the BWV 538 piece.

The pipe organ at St. Peter's Episcopal Church is in the balcony.
View of pipe organ in balcony from the main level

The console (not visible from the main level)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lenten Recital Series

Last Friday, I went to an organ recital at the First Congregational Church in downtown Ann Arbor. Each Friday, during Lent there is an organ recital at noon presented by the Ann Arbor chapter of the American Guild of Organists. This church is a short distance from my work place which means I can easily attend when my work schedule allows.

The First Congregational Church was built in the 1800's. I enjoy visiting these older churches and appreciated the architecture. The pipe organ is from 1985. There are not many pictures of it on the church's website. If permitted, I will take a few pictures of the console at next Friday's recital.

The recital was preformed by the Men's Schola Cantorum, and organists Thomas Strode and Naki Sung Kripfgans. The Men's Schola Cantorum began the program with Lent Prose. Thomas Strode than played 3 selections from The Stations of the Cross, Op. 29 composed by Marcel Dupré. He continued with Prelude and Fugue in A minor (BWV 543) - J.S. Bach.

Next, the Men's Schola Cantorum, which consisted of 2 men, sang Audi benigne Conditor. Naki then played a piece with the same name, by Marcel Dupré, on the pipe organ. Naki ended the program with Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor (BWV 582) - J.S. Bach. Watching this piece performed was a marvel as Thomas Strode changed the stops many times throughout the performance. It was dance like how he switched from one side of the console to other to pull stops. On many organs the organist can change which stops are pulled with the push of a button, but this organ did not seem to have those features.

Which stops are pulled determine how the organ will sound. Check out the organ terminology here.  I have so much more to learn myself, not only in how various pipe organs function but also about the music and composers.

I am very much looking forward to next Friday's recital. I hope to see you there!