Tag Archives: Ward Organist

At the Organ Bench—finding the right position

A question from Crystal:

I was recently called as a ward organist in my new ward and have a problem. I need to find a height where I can see the music director besides sitting on books. Perhaps it’s where the organ is placed in the chapel or where the music director stands. Any thoughts?

Thanks for the question. I appreciate that you are trying to be so accommodating in your new ward. I am generally in favor of organists empowering and showing respect for their music directors. However, in this case, I suggest that the music director be the one respect your needs, and change position in order to be seen. That may mean finding a small raised platform for the director, changing his/her location by a foot or two, or, if your quarters are tight, you might even need to use a strategically placed mirror at the organ console in order to see your director’s signals. (Moving your organ console is generally not advised!)

In my opinion, it is the music director’s job to put him/herself in a position to be seen by both the congregation and the accompanist. Your job is to position yourself properly at the organ. If you are properly positioned to play and cannot see the music director, it is better to ask the music director to move than to compromise the quality of the music because of poor bench position.

Not sure of proper position? Here’s a good explanation from The New LDS Organist:

When you sit at the organ, consider your position relative to the pedals first. Center your body on the bench slightly left of the center of the pedal. On most organs, this means to center on the pedal note D. Move your body forward so that you can easily push down the expression pedal with your right foot. Then, move the bench forward enough so that you are well supported in this position. Realize that your bench will be closer to the organ than what you are accustomed to at the piano. If possible, adjust the height of the bench so that your toes and heels gently rest on the pedalboard.

Bench height can sometimes be adjusted by turning a handle that is generally found on the side of the bench, near the top.bench

Other organ benches require blocks to be placed under the sides of the bench to raise the height (shown on bench below). These blocks are standard building equipment that can be ordered through your local building Facilities Management.


Hope this addresses your concerns, Crystal. Thanks for reading and participating in the blog.

Happy organing!

Nevada SALSA: Delightfully Lemmon

SALSA—Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists

PreludesSACDouglas Lemmon made his church organist debut at age 15. He’s written several organ, piano and choral books. One of my favorites is Preludes SAC—a great late beginner/early intermediate organ collection. Great stuff! (Thank you, Douglas, for providing the LDS organist with arrangements that are accessible (aka degree-in-music-not-required) and sound great!)

He also published a book about JJ McClellan, Tabernacle Organist called “Sweet Is The Work.” (I haven’t read that one, but I’m sure it’s good too.) Douglas and his wife Kathleen reside in Henderson, Nevada, where he teaches private and group organ lessons.

Take a moment to get acquainted with Douglas—our newest member of the Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists, who claims that playing the organ is easy—then go to Questionnaire and tell us your story!

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Douglas Lemmon—Nevada

What was the first musical calling you received? How was that experience? Before the “block-program” in the church, I was the Junior Sunday School pianist at age 12, then the Sunday School organist and ward organist at 15. Stake Organist at 17. I loved the Junior Sunday School book and its music. Playing the hymns has been a great experience through the years.

How long have you been playing the organ?  I began piano lessons at age 6. Organ lessons began at about 12. I barely reached the pedals. My parents purchased a Baldwin organ for our home when I was 15. I think they got tired of taking me to the church every couple of days. I was always interested in the organ and was always watching the Tabernacle Organists in their noon recitals and conference. They were and are the inspiration that taught me much more than most of my teachers.

Do you play other instruments? Piano and organ are the only instruments today. I tried flute, guitar and percussion, but stayed with the keyboard instruments.

What is your favorite hymn?  There are about 341 hymns in the hymn book. Each has something special for any specific occasion. I love them all, but especially love the hymns of the restoration.

What about a favorite prelude or postlude piece? I love playing arrangements of the hymns. I have many arrangements in my books I’ve written, and love playing any of the Darwin Wolford and Robert Manookin arrangements.

What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I love yard work and puttering!

What is one of the challenges you face as an LDS organist? I’ve never faced any challenge as an LDS organist. My students are taught to play appropriate music for the service and I think in the church that can be a challenge for organists. I’ve been playing for such a long time that I’ve seen many bishops and stake presidents come and go. I always meet with the new ones and ask them for their suggestions. None have ever told me to only play hymns. I think that would be a challenge for me, but it hasn’t happened because I play appropriate literature for the occasion. Somewhere I try to include Bach!

What is one of the blessings you have received through accepting the call to serve as an organist?  I’ve met many wonderful people in and out of the church as an organist. I’ve also learned that the Spirit can be strong. An organists needs to listen to those promptings.

Is there anything else you would like to share about you or your experience as an organist? Even though I’ve played for many years, there is still much to learn. I practice the organ and piano daily and encourage those holding an organist position in the church to do that also.

Organ playing is easy. Many musicians dodge playing the organ because they think it’s too difficult, especially playing pedals. I’ve maintained that playing pedals is the easiest part of organ playing. The manual technique is more difficult which will come with practice.

Want more of Douglas? Check out his website at douglaspublishingcompany.com.

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Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Douglas!
Are you or someone you know ready to join SALSA? Just go to the SALSA questionnaire, fill it out and submit. No cost, no obligation, no contract and no fine print. Just a wonderful opportunity for lds organists to get acquainted!
btw If you accepted the call to sit on that organ bench, you are awesome!  If you think you’re not, please see The Calling.

. . .

A New Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiates 3:1

Since I began studying the organ, regular practice has been the norm. Some days it took effort to get myself to the church organ, but I was so enamored with the instrument that my motivation seldom waned. With increased involvement in my local AGO chapter, I got to be quite the organ geek, spending way too much time with my ‘friends’ Rodgers, Wicks, Bigelow and Allen.

During this organ-intense period of my life a fellow ward organist mentioned as she slid on the bench one Sunday morning, “I haven’t had time to practice at all this week. I haven’t even thought about the organ.”

What?!? How can you not have for the organ? What else is there that could possibly be more important?

Well, I think I’ve come up with a few things recently. Not only have I significantly decreased my organ playing time the past couple months, but if this organ blog were a garden, all the fruit, flowers, and pretty things would have shriveled and died from neglect and be overrun by nasty weeds by now. But that’s okay. It’s just a blog. (No offense, WordPress people. It may be your life, but it’s not mine.)

My organistic ventures may be limping along at the moment, but my family is blooming beautifully. A happy, handsome son returning home from his two year missionary service and a daughter giving birth to a beautiful little angel (my first grandchild!) have put me in the ranks of “I haven’t had time to practice at all this week.”

It’s great. I’m loving it!!

I’ll get back to the organ. But for now…

This is the day which the Lord hath made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

A note to Linda, Mark, Douglas, Mike and Jacqueline—I have received, read, and enjoyed your SALSA responses. Thank you so much! And I will be sharing them soon. Promise!

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