Attention All Organists: a way to improve your playing… Guaranteed!

Would you like a surefire way to improve your organ playing? Check out this repost from The Organ Is Praise. I wholeheartedly endorse what the author has to say. This is good stuff! I will even go so far as to offer a 100% money back guarantee if it doesn’t work for you!!!

I have a suggestion that will greatly help your playing: Forgive someone!

Yes, forgive someone. In fact, forgive everyone! Forgive the ward members who talk over your preludes, the church leaders that have openly censured you from the pulpit, the people who have sent you hate mail, the people who can barely play who were chosen for special meetings over you and the people who chose them, the visiting authority who walked into your practice time and spent the next 15 minutes yelling at you, the student who didn’t practice and everyone else who has ever trespassed against you. Forgive them all, no matter how great or small or silly the insult, and do it now.

All of the things in the previous paragraph have happened to me and, quite frankly, they hurt at time they occurred. Some of them hurt for years afterwards.  One day, however, I woke up and realized that I was carrying too much baggage around. I went to the Lord and told him that this was over. It didn’t matter how much I hurt or how justified I thought I was in how I felt. It was time to end the hurt and move on.

Why do I say that this will help your playing? It is because, as church musicians, we must have the Spirit of the Lord with us as we serve others. Bitterness is spiritual poison. It keeps the Spirit away and finally destroys the soul.

Why am I talking about this? It’s because, in my many years of church service, I’ve met too many great organists who, due to pride or offense taken, have hung an “out of order” sign around their necks and stopped serving. The number of people I have met who have made that choice is, unfortunately, way more than one or two. Service to the Lord and his church are the hallmarks of a great LDS organist. Without it, we are no longer great.

Just before I met my dear wife another young man was actively courting her. She wanted nothing more to do with him after he told her that he had deliberately flunked a class because the professor had offended him. She realized that he did not understand that by this behavior he was only hurting himself.

So, please – forgive someone today! You’ll be glad you did. Also, please forgive yourself.

Thanks, Harold!

Appreciating Music the Way God Appreciates Music

I was asked to speak about “Appreciating Music the Way God Appreciates Music” in church today. Since my initial desires to be an organist stemmed from a less than God-like desire (See A Defining Moment) I decided to share some examples of others in my life who have given me what I consider glimpses of God-like appreciation of music.

•••

Mom

My mother enjoyed music and desired to give her children the opportunity to explore this wonderful gift. One way she did this was to insist that all seven of us had at least one year of piano instruction. After one year we could choose if we wanted to continue with piano, switch to another instrument or stop music lessons altogether. It seems to me that in this aspect of parenting she reflected God’s desire to have us, His children, discover and develop our talents.

Dad

My father appreciated music also. But in a much different way.

As I was growing up our family moved about every two years. In all the homes that we lived in Dad let Mom decorate, furnish and arrange the house as she pleased. She was given free reign….mostly. All Dad asked was that he be allowed to choose where to place his two music speakers. Now these were not little iPod-sized units. They were not even microwave-sized units. These were 1960’s-jumbo-sized-stereo-floor-speakers. Dad liked his music. Mom liked having a living room. Dad explained to her the beauty of true stereo sound. Mom was deaf in one ear. It never really worked out well. The thing that is amazing to me though is what would happen when I wanted to play the piano and Dad was listening to his music in the same room. Without hesitation he would turn off his music and enthusiastically assure me that he would rather listen to me play. Wow! Who would want to listen to a kid practice piano? To me, that was truly a God-like way to look at music.

Sue and the Choir Director

My friend, Sue, enjoys a great musical talent. She can sing alto. Strong. On key. Even when no one else around her does. Not everyone in her ward choir has that ability. Though it may seem a small thing, her unique talent kept the ward choir together when one sweet sister’s enthusiastic off-key offerings threatened to disintegrate the alto section. After complaints from a few of the women in the choir, a wise choir director strategically placed Sue so as to run interference between this devoted, tone deaf sister and the rest of the alto section, thus allowing all to sing their hearts out in praise the best they could. I think if God had been the choir director He would have done the same.

Richard Elliott

As you probably know, the organ not only has a place for your hands, but also has pedals so your feet can play music too. Mormon Tabernacle Organist Richard Elliott is a wonderful musician and has recently become known for his amazing footwork at the organ.

Several years ago he had some shoulder problems and had to keep his hands off the organ keys for a few months. After recovering, Richard was talking with some friends who asked how his shoulder was doing. He cheerfully explained that all seemed well. His arm was finally out of the sling and he was glad to have mobility again.

“Rick, what did you do during those months you couldn’t use your hands?” a fellow organist inquired.

“Improved my pedal technique!” was his quick response.

I love Richard Elliott’s example of making the best of life’s circumstances.

•••

Adam S. Bennion, a general authority in the 1950’s is credited with saying that: “What we need in this church is better music and more of it, and better speaking and less of it.”

In keeping with that bit of counsel I stopped speaking and concluded my talk with a musical number. Though formally known as Richard Elliott’s arrangement of “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth” I offered it as my testimony that God lives and cares very deeply about each of us and the way music affects our lives.

Pringles Pipe Organ

This repost from pringles.gawker.com is clear evidence that some people have too much time on their hands…

It’s not every day that one finds oneself in the presence of both an apocalyptic piano and a working pipe organ made entirely out of Pringles® potato crisps cans. But that’s exactly what you’ll find in the Brooklyn studio where mixed-media artist collective, Fall On Your Sword (FOYS), took on the challenge of using the cans to create works of art with hot glue guns blazing.
Will Bates (cofounder of Fall On Your Sword), Sarah Bereza (an artist and the self-proclaimed “catchall for anything visual” at FOYS), and Ryan Price (the resident audio post mixer) discussed the creative process behind their final masterpiece: a massive pipe organ that will be displayed and played at Gawker’s fourth annual Silent Disco in New York City. Because the best part is, it actually works. Guests will be able to play duets and jam out on this instrumental work of art during the event.

A Working Work of Art

Apparently, a functional pipe organ is the obvious artistic choice when deciding what to make out of the cans. “It happened in about a minute I think. One of us just said ‘we should make an organ!'” As Sarah put it, “we were sort of like, duh. The shapes just sort of make sense.”

Raw Materials in Three Flavors

Sarah was tasked with building the physical organ, which she created with the help of an iPad sketch and many boxes of Original, Sour Cream and Onion, and new Tortilla Pringles® potato crisps cans. “It kind of felt like back when I was a kid, building a fort or stacking blocks. The canisters are just asking to be glued together and cut at angles.” Deciding to let the cans shine in all their classic glory was easy: “I toyed with the idea of painting the cans, but there’s something Warholian about seeing all the guys with their little mustaches, so I wanted to do something with a pop art feeling. And that’s why I used more of the red cans in the end. They’re so iconic.”

Yes, You Can Actually
Play the Pringles Organ

FOYS is known for its interactive pieces, or, as Will describes them, “art that reacts like a musical instrument.” Will and Ryan built ten keys below the organ’s pipes by connecting the cans to springs. Pushing a key triggers a tone, causing air generated by hidden fans within the tubes to flow out of the pipes at the top of the organ. “We want the piece to feel like a real instrument, so the tones will be based on manipulated recordings of organ tones and resonances played through the cans themselves. Participants can make up their own tune, and have their own unique experience with the piece.”

You Don’t Just Eat ‘Em…
But Sometimes You Do

Building a giant organ out of Pringles® potato crisps cans is hard work, so a fair amount of crisps (“you really don’t want to count,” Sarah admitted) were used as creative fuel for hungry artists. “I was just sitting on the floor, going for it. I was into the Original flavor because they’re nostalgic for me,” Sarah recalls.

FOYS had a plan to avoid wasting the six garbage bags full of uneaten crisps: “We kept a bunch of the crisps on hand so that we could record the sound of the crisps rustling. This recording will be processed and serve as a percussive accompaniment to the organ tone.”

Seriously, I think it’s an amazing project, put together by some very creative and talented individuals. Wish I could see it in person. Way to go!

Washington SALSA: Linda Wells

SALSA—Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists

Linda Wells from Longview Washington loves playing the organ. So far in her 63 years of life she has served as organist in three different wards. And that’s fine, but more would be even better because, as she says, “Ward Organist is my favorite calling.”

Take a moment to get acquainted with Linda, our newest member of the Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists, then go to Questionnaire and tell us your story!

. . .

Linda Wells—Washington

What was the first musical calling you received? When I was still in high school, I was called to be the pianist in Primary. (Primary was during the weekdays back then.) I was very nervous and hadn’t taken piano lessons, only organ. I made it through however.

When did you start playing the organ?  I always wanted to play a musical instrument. My sister and brother were given the chance to play the piano and accordian but they both bombed out. I don’t think my mom and dad wanted to risk the time and money on me. Finally, close to my 15th birthday, my dad said I would get the chance to take organ lessons. My mom and I shared the same birthday. We were getting an organ for our birthdays. I never did figure out if I would get the lower and upper manual. I got to take lessons for three years and I loved the lessons. I dove right in and really enjoyed it. I’m so thankful that my parents let me take lessons.

Do you play any other instruments?  Let’s see. I play AT the piano. I’ll play in Relief Society if the regular pianist is absent. I dabble at the harmonica. I can play a comb with tissue paper on it. I can play the kazoo.

Which instrument do you prefer? I think, yep I know, I prefer the organ.

What is your favorite hymn?  Did You Think to Pray

What is your favorite prelude or postlude piece?  I like to play The Lord is My Shepherd. This is the prelude. For postlude I like to play Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing. I like that one because I can play it by heart.

What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I enjoy playing with my grandchildren and helping out in the kindergarten class where my son teaches and going to movies with my family.

What is one of the challenges you face as an LDS organist? I have never been taught how to use all of the pulls and knobs on the big organ at church to make various sounds. I just play what sounds best to me.

What is one of the blessings you have received through accepting the call to serve as an organist? This is the third ward where I’ve been the organist. I’ve learned how to play for the congregation without getting nervous. I know if I pray before I practice and play on Sundays, I do a much better job. Heavenly Father has called me to this position for a reason and He trusts me to do my best. As long as I try to do my best, He will bless me with more ability. I can only hope and pray that I’ll always be able to play.

. . .

Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Linda!
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.

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