Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pre-Candidate Recital at U of M

On Friday, June 15, 2012 I attended Nancy J. Deacon's pre-candidate recital at the University of Michigan. U of M has several pipe organs on campus. This performance was on the Marilyn Mason Organ at Blanche Anderson Moore Hall which is located in the basement of the E.V. Moore Building. Andrew Langlands was the cantor.

I do not know what degree Nancy J. Deacon is a candidate for. The program did not provide any background information on Nancy and I did not stick around for the refreshments afterward to ask questions.

For the recital Nancy played three different versions of "Gloria":

Gloria from Messe pour les convents (1690) by Francois Couperin (1668-1733)
Gloria from Messe pour les paroisses (1689) by Francois Couperin (1668-1733)
Gloria from Livre D'Orgue (1699) by Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703)

Nancy talked about each piece before she played and I learned that Gloria was (and perhaps still is) used during Roman Catholic Mass. The latin text of the Gloria was provided in the program as for each piece, the cantor would sing a few words (broken into couplets) of the Gloria and Nancy followed on the organ. This alternating pattern repeated for each of the 9 couplets.

The singing by Andrew and Nancy on the organ was well executed. However, by the end of the program, all three pieces seemed similar in style and I felt like I could not easily distinguish the differences between them. I could see in the program that the couplet names varied. And perhaps the breaking point for each couplet varied from piece to piece.

I also admit that I was a little distracted by my surroundings. Much to my surprise the organ hall was in the basement! The walls were made of cement (or similar material) and the floor was covered in square green tiles. I felt like I was sitting on a pew in a drained swimming pool! It is likely that the materials were chosen for their acoustic properties. Their appeared to be seating for about 100 and I estimate that there were about 45-50 people in attendance. Below is a picture of the hall and pipe organ.

The Marilyn Mason Organ

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 2012 Lesson

Last Saturday, I met with Michael Gartz for another organ lesson. Before my lesson started Michael played through a few of the pieces that he would play during service the following day. This would have been the perfect opportunity for me to take a few pictures of the church and pipe organ. I didn't think of this until after I was home. But as always, I enjoyed listening to him play!

This lesson was like many others. I played pieces and Michael provided instruction and pointed out issues. The most profound problem was my continued inability to keep a consistent tempo. This is depressing, but I will not give up!

I need to change the way I think about sixteenth notes. When I encounter them in a slower piece I play them much faster than they should be. I don't really have an explanation for why I think this, but it is evident when I play. I don't always hear the issue myself though and sometimes I think I have corrected the issue between lessons but really have not.

In the Bach piece, which I have been working on for over a year, I do not play the sixteenths consistently, especially in the difficult sections. This means that some are played at the correct rate of speed but others are too short or held too long. The result is the piece sounds jerky when I play it. Nobody wants to listen to jerky organ music! The world doesn't need another bad organist.

Until my next lesson, I will be using the metronome as I practice to help me correct the tempo issue. If you have any suggestions please post a comment!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

One Hour

I have one hour of time. I must decide how to spend that hour. Not deciding is the same as deciding to do nothing. Here are some things that I could do in a hour:
  • Play organ
  • Open and read the Experiencing God workbook
  • Read a book
  • Learn more about the features of my new smart phone
  • Put away laundry
  • Clean something
  • Check tire pressure
  • Go for a walk
  • Pray
  • Take nap
  • Start a Words with Friends game with each of my Facebook friends.
The list could go on and on. I have many choices. If we are intentional about how we spend our time we will get more accomplished and come closer to reaching our goals. I decided to spend part of the hour writing this post and will spend the reminder of the hour at the organ.

Are you deliberate with your time? 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

10 hours of practice update

At the end of March 2012, I set a goal to practice 10 hours per week. For the week ending 6/2/12, I practiced for 7 hours. This is the closest I have come to the 10 hour goal so far. For tracking, I am using calendar weeks. The lowest number of hours for a week, occurred when I had Shingles.

A couple of weeks after setting the goal, I read a post on Jon Acuff's blog about practicing your dream more than you promote it. He suggests that we practice 10 hours for every 1 hour of promotion. It was a great reminder of how important practice is when it comes to reaching our goals/dreams.

My blog could be categorized as promotion, since the idea of the blog is to share about my progress and experiences of becoming an organist (any other random things of my life). Maybe someday I will also become a writer although I suppose that am I writer since I am writing this blog! For now though, I want my ratio of organ practice to blog writing to be about 10:1.

I've wondered how much better my organ playing would be now, if I had set a specific practice goal early on. 

What goals do you need to set?