Monday, December 8, 2008

The Organ

Several weeks ago, my father spilled the beans to our church music director that I play the organ. Being my father and a somewhat over-dramatic person, I think he painted my abilities a bit rosier than would be strictly true. And this led to the music director persuading me to play a piece last Sunday (November 30).

I had forgotten in the time since I had last played an organ, some three years back, just how much I do love playing. The time rehearsing flew, just as it always had, even struggling with an unfamiliar instrument and shoes that aren't really intended as organ shoes. Actually playing in church went in a mediocre fashion, at best, from my own perspective. However, everyone has been asking me if I'll play again soon.

The instrument at this church has quite a storied past, with which we were regaled on that Sunday but which is too detailed to relate here. Rather, I 'll share my own organ history as to just how I ended up attempting to play it.

It was October, 1989, and I was seven years old. In the same week I began piano lessons and singing in the Junior Choir at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Wenonah. During what I think was our third rehearsal, Mrs. Taylor took us up to the attic to view the pipes. Something about that experience caught my fancy as thoroughly as anything has ever done, and I knew immediately that I wanted to play the organ someday. Some time later, Mrs. Taylor mentioned that she had started lessons on the organ when she was fifteen, so I hoped that I would get to do the same. Alas, that didn't happen.

Meanwhile, I found out about Cottey College, went to their junior high science camp, and became convinced that I wanted to attend Cottey when I finished high school. Somewhere along the line Cottey's free music lessons and the presence of the organ only added to my resolve. As soon as I could get the teacher's recommendation out, I had my Cottey application off to Missouri, within the first week of twelfth grade and was accepted by mid-October.

Fast-forward again to the following August (2000). I found the organ and piano teacher (actually there is another piano teacher as well), and arranged my lessons, and at last I could begin! It was very slow going to train my feet to find the pedals, and even slower to learn to read three staves at once. According to My Knight, the transition from one staff to two (violin to piano) is very challenging; I went from two to three and found it probably equally difficult.

I was able to take organ lessons all through the two years at Cottey; I played for the traditional services at Christmas, Founder's Day, and Commencement, gave a recital during my second year, joined Mu Sigma Epsilon (a music honor society), and then went to the University of Delaware. There I was able to take some lessons on the very new organ in a building that was once the Episcopal church in Newark; however, the bureaucracy of the larger university unfortunately limits non-music majors' chances to study instruments, and I was unable to go on. I played a bit when I had a chance in the last few years, but somewhere along the line the organ shoes were lost. I kept it quiet that I even knew how for the entire time we lived in Texas!

Hymns certainly have their own sound on the organ. Anything does. There is no sound like it- and the grandest of all is the immortal Wanamaker organ that I have been privileged to hear every year in Philadelphia. I can't wait to go again.

Maybe I will play again soon.

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