Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Practice, practice, practice

When I switch to the piano, it always seems to catch the ear of the congregation. I think that's one reason that so many people commented on this past Sunday's prelude. Since it's my first instrument, I always enjoy the opportunity to play some of the classical repertoire during the service from time to time.

By popular demand (or at least thanks to a few quite vocal requests), I'll be playing the Beethoven variations again as the prelude on July 4th. The more I think about it, the more excited I am to have the luxury of revisiting and polishing the performance. After all, one of the frustrations of a church musician is the lack of practice time. Every week there are 4 or 5 new hymns, a prelude, postlude, and offertory (in addition to the repeated liturgy). That much polished performance repertoire could represent as much as half a semester for most college students.

So in addition to trying to balance musical styles, volumes, registrations, a church musician is always trying to balance the difficulty of the service music. A virtuosic prelude gets paired with a simpler postlude; a newly learned offertory is played the same week as a more familiar prelude. For me, summer means a bit of a chance to catch up, to explore new repertoire, and to keep planning and learning.

John Lennon famously said that life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. Similarly, church music is what you play while you're struggling to learn and plan for the week ahead! I just hope and work to enhance the worship service, remembering that it's not a recital, and that next week is just around the corner so I'd better get back to practicing.

1 comment:

  1. Kathleen JohnsonJune 11, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Amen, amen, amen. Your comments are so true and only another organist would understand what you mean. I would like to add that choosing what to play takes as much time as the practice.

    It is hard to keep up with learning new repertoire and actually, the listeners enjoy hearing a repeated prelude etc. I remember, as a child, sitting in the congregation and listening to a familiar prelude, offertory, postlude and always enjoying the familiarity. I keep reminding myself that repetition is good and actually with the given time for practice, is a necessity. So, we organists, over the years build up our repertoire of pieces that we use for the season and to keep from getting bored, learn a new one.

    I also like to use the piano on occasion. It also is my first instrument and I relax and enjoy the playing of it. Because so many new churches aren't even putting in organs, there is a whole new repertoire of piano music being composed for worship services - some bad but also some very good. But, that is the same with organ music - some bad but also some very good.