Last Tuesday I met Michael for a lesson. Since my previous lesson, Michael has become the organist at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. This church does not have a pipe organ.
They are using an Allen electronic organ from the 1990’s. That’s about 20 years newer than my Saville organ that I practice on at home. This means is sounds more like a pipe organ than my organ, but you can still tell that it is not a pipe organ.
This organ has three manuals (keyboards). As a result the music rack is a bit higher than what I am used to and bit more of a stretch to reach the top manual.
The Theme of my lesson emerged as Muscle Memory.
“Crown Him with Many Crowns” – Woe
I started out with “Crown Him with Many Crowns” as I was sure that I would get a passing mark! Much to my dismay, I had issues with it. I have been playing 1 wrong note the ENTIRE time I have been learning this hymn. I was not able to correct it in tempo on the spot. This was due to muscle memory. I played it wrong so many times, that it was hard for my muscles to do something different. I also had a problem with not playing the hymn legato enough for the acoustics of the church. I did not earn a passing mark and will work out the issues before my next lesson.
“At The Name of Jesus” – Triumph
“At The Name of Jesus went well”! I only had to play it twice and Michael was pleased with it. I had fixed the syncopation (muscle memory) issues since my previous lesson. I have been assigned “By Gracious Powers” to replace it. Another hymn that I am not familiar with.
“In the Spirit’s Tether” – Triumph
“In the Spirit’s Tether” was the new hymn assigned last month. I played it through once. Michael said “not bad”. We didn’t spend any time picking it apart as it was clear that I need to spend more time with it (in other words, learn the muscle memory). And I need to be able to play it faster.
“Berceuse” – Woe
“Berceuse” was next. I played it from start to end without stopping. Then we picked it apart. I had some trouble finding the swell pedal on this organ as my muscle memory is set based on the location on my swell pedal at home. There are some minor issues that I need to correct. There are 2 measures in particular that I have struggled with since the beginning. I need to make a focus on them and learn the correct muscle memory to play them perfectly the first time. I can do it now, after I play them over and over again (about 10 times). No audience wants to hear that!
“Prelude and Fugue in F Major” – Woe
The Prelude and Fugue in F Major was last. I’ve created a major problem for myself with the page turns!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At home I developed a habit of slowing down or completely stopping to turn the page. When Michael turned the page for me, I was not able to play the top of the next page in tempo. That is a serious muscle memory issue!!! I will need to avoid page turning to correct this. Since my lesson, I’ve printed a version of this piece that I can arrange to have the prelude on 1 page and the fugue on 1 page.
Has muscle memory ever been a struggle for you? Share your story in the comments below.
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