Monday, February 18, 2013

Lenten Organ Recital at FCC of Ann Arbor - 2/15/2013

The first recital in the 2013 Lenten organ recital series presented by the Ann Arbor chapter of the American Guild of Organists was last Friday. The recitals are at noon every Friday from Ash Wednesday until Easter at the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor
First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor
I arrived about 10 minutes early. Much to my surprise there were only about 10 in the audience, excluding the organists and organizers. However, by the end of the concert there were closer to 20 in attendance. 
There was a sign on the front sidewalk advertising for the free concert. I wondered if any of those coming in late stopped in because they heard the organ music and the sign on the sidewalk advertising the free concert or if they planned to come and were late.

Morgan Byrd, a third year undergraduate student at the University of Michigan studying organ, started the recital with Bach's Prelude and Fugue in D Major (BWV 532). This exciting piece is about 10 lengths in length and Morgan played it all from memory! An impressive feat given the intricacies of this piece which includes some fancy footwork. 

The remainder of the concert was performed by Renate McLaughlin. She is a Master of Music (Church Music) student at the University of Michigan. Renate explained a little bit about the pieces she would play. She started with "Kryie" composed by Jean Langlais. Then she played 4 chorale preludes back to back before introducing the last piece, "Duo" from Messe pour les couvents  by Francois Couperin. 

I am looking forward to the remaining recitals and encourage you to attend organ recitals in your area! The Prelude and Fugue in D Major was amazing to hear live. Take 10 minutes and watch Diane Bish's performance.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Facing anxiety (February 2013 Lesson)

Last Saturday at my lesson I was reminded that when I feel anxious, that anxiety transfers to my playing and can be heard by all. Even after 3 years of lessons, I still feel intimidated when I sit on the organ bench of a pipe organ at the beginning of a lesson. The pipe organ is much more grand and awesome than the old electronic instrument I practice on at home. And Michael (my teacher) is there too watching and listening ready to critique or give approval of my performance. 

I began this lesson with the hymn "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee" as I was confident in my ability to play it. What I didn't consider was my anxiety level. It was uneven and rushed and wrong notes were played! This hymn should bring peace and my initial attempt was quite the opposite. After a few attempts, I calmed down and was able to play it successfully. 

Michael and I had the anxiety talk again. I should be relaxed from the start. How do we conquer anxiety? 

In this video, "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee", is played by Frederick Swann.

At the 30 second mark of this video of the camera pans over the audience of several hundred.  Just the thought of playing for this many people provokes anxiety. 
With more practice and patience, I will gain confidence reducing the anxiety, at least that is what I am telling myself. The first step is making it through a lesson without anxiety.

Have you ever had to overcome public performance anxiety? How did you do it?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tracking with a NeuYear calendar

In early January, I announced my intention to schedule practice time. I haven't done any advance scheduling yet but I started tracking my practice sessions with a NeuYear calendar. After I practice, I record the time of day and length in that day's box. The calender is poster size and displays every day of the year. Encouragement is also included at the top: "2013 SEIZE THE YEAR". 
NeuYear Calendar
My goal is to practice everyday for at least 15 minutes. I have practiced the last 17 days! Previously, I did not practice when I felt too busy or tired or distracted. These 15 minutes segments will add about a hour onto my weekly total. And sometimes the 15 minutes turns into 30 minutes...

What could you improve by tracking your efforts?