SALSA—Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists
Douglas 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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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.