You can find yourself so busy that you haven’t the time to practise and improve your playing.
Here are a few tips that should help make Sundays easier on the church organ. These tips should also help you to become better organized, find more time, play better and be able to sleep on a Saturday night!
Easy music played well is more impressive to listen to than difficult music played badly.
Use your limited time wisely
Don’t spend valuable time practising pieces that are too difficult for your standard, when you could be practising something that you can play, with just a few weeks practice. That also applies to the choir’s music.
Get the hymns in advance
Make sure that the Vicar, Priest or Pastor gives you the hymns in advance (if you do not choose them together). There’s no shame in saying if a hymn is too difficult to play – especially if you have a lot of music to prepare.
Check the number of verses
Also, verses are often omitted on grounds of gender so make sure there are no surprises and you aren’t playing one more verse than the congregation is singing – very embarrassing!
Agree on a signal for chorus’s
If the vicar gets carried away on a chorus and wants to go around again, have a signal agreed to aid communication.
Get those pedals involved!
It really is much easier to play hymns if you learn to use the pedals. Again, don’t play just with the left foot if you have a full pedal board, use both feet and heels, inside soles and toes.
Using the stops
Registration should be organized into one stop changes … that is, be able to make dynamic and tonal changes by just the pull or push of one stop and of course a change of manual will do the same.
I remember one very nervous lady organist who was so confused at times that she would sometimes accidentally switch the organ off in the middle of a hymn or piece! Prepare your stops in advance, especially on electronic organs where there are a lot of bells and whistles!
To sum up
Preparation is the key to help make Sundays easier on the church organ. Don’t be too ambitious by playing music that is too hard for your standard. Also, if you are a sensitive person, try not to allow other people to intimidate you – being a bit thick skinned is an advantage as a church organist.
However, I think that most organists are sensitive folk – and those of modest ability can find it difficult to cope with such a huge responsibility.
If you are stuck for something to play, take a good hymn tune (or similar) and turn it into a voluntary:
Easy pieces well phrased sound good!
More like this in 12 Pieces on three staves.