pipe organ Archives - Heidi Bender

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June 20, 2016

June 2016 Lesson: Ending the insanity practice method

June 2016 Organ Lesson: ending the insanity

At the start of my organ lesson on June 11, I shared with Michael how depressed I felt after the previous lesson. That lesson felt like rock bottom.

June 2016 Organ Lesson: ending the insanity

He asked “What did you do about it?”

I told him about taking a break. The break was 11 days off. Then I practiced for 3 days and took another 7 days off. This is the longest break I have taken since I started organ lessons in 2009.

I also decided to practice how he has been telling me practice for years. I’d been doing the insanity approach for the past few years: practicing in the same way, hoping for a different result at my lesson.

This meant I needed to make a sound along while playing. Not just in my head. Not just relying on the metronome to make the sound for me.

He asked “Why did it take so long to actually do what he said?”

This is a very interesting question. I have been paying him for advice as my teacher for over six years. At most (if not all) lessons, he encouraged me to make a sound while I played.

* In the past, I was making the sound in my head and thought it would be the same effect.

* The metronome felt like a suitable replacement.

* I would try it for a day or two, and then revert back into my old habits.

* I didn’t want to admit that I needed to make a sound to be able to play on tempo

* I had tried making a sound on my own (without using the metronome at the same time), only to discover at a lesson that my sound making wasn’t reliable.

* Feeling embarrassed to make sounds in front of Michael at my lessons.

* Maybe a part of me didn’t believe it would work for me

What I did during my practice time

I practiced making a sound aloud along with the metronome. I needed the metronome to keep me honest. I also recorded myself much more often, with and without the metronome.

Instead of practicing 6 pieces, I focused on the 3 hymns and the Bach prelude.

The Difference

Turns out, practicing how Michael said worked! I could play on tempo at my lesson! I played “Angels From the Realms of Glory” very well and it was checked off of my list. I still need to keep working on the other 2 hymns, but I am making progress. Michael could tell a difference.

Given my progress, I had the courage to play “Crown Him With Many Crowns” by memory for Michael. I have been playing this piece for warm up at home. He said it was at 95% and gave me a couple of suggestions for improvement.

Stay Fresh, Refresh Update

Facbook Memory of Nun Bitten WirThen I shared my goal of remembering how to play the pieces I had learned once but I have forgotten how to play. Back in January, a Facebook Memory reminded me of Nun Bitten Wir by Buxtehude.

I have been slowly relearning this piece. I played it for Michael. He said I should work towards polishing and memorizing it.

That way if I am ever at a church or somewhere with an organ, I’d be able to sit down and be able to play something without having music with me.

Michael was also very kind. When I got home I check Nun Bitten Wir with the metronome and I was way off!!!

The morale of this lesson:

If you are doing something and it’s not working, change it up! Resit the insanity method and you also do not need to wait for rock bottom.

September 28, 2015

A Festival of Hymns at Pease Auditorium

A Festival of Hymns at Pease Auditorium

I love hymns and the pipe organ! Yesterday, my mom and and I enjoyed A Festival of Hymns at Pease Auditorium at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

A Festival of Hymns

The festival was the first event for the 2015-2016 season for the Ann Arbor chapter of the American Guild of Organists. The theme of the concert was “Singing the Psalms of the Life”. There was also a choir assembled from volunteer participants that rehearsed a couple of hours before the concert began. Michael Burkhardt was the organist.

This was the first time I was able to go to the Hymn Festival as in past years its conflicted with a vacation. Also, for the first time for my mom traveled to an organ presentation with. We had fun getting there as well. The drive took longer than expected as we were forced to take a scenic route around a parade. Thankfully, we left early and arrived in time to use the bathroom before taking our seats.

A Festival of Hymns at Pease Auditorium

A Festival of Hymns at Pease Auditorium

The program included hymns and a few readings. Each Hymn was a Psalm or based on Psalm. In total the program was about a hour. The organ sounded magnificent from the first note.

The combination of a well played organ with the choir gave me goosebumps several times during the performance. Mom and I were familiar with some of the hymns and we enjoyed those that were new to us. Mr. Burkhardt is an excellent organist. There was also a young man playing the trumpet for a few of the hymns and a young lady played the oboe with the organ for 1 hymn.


One of the hymns was “From All That Dwell Below the Skies” played to the tune LASST UNS ERFREUEN. I felt proud to be able to lean over and tell my mom that I could play this one! I have learned to play “All Creatures of Our God and King” which is played to the same tune (and in a difference key in my hymnal). Mr. Burkhardt played a more complicated version than what is in my hymnal, but I still felt accomplished knowing I had played this hymn successfully in the past.

Kilala came to the organ bench while I was attempting to play "All Creatures of Our God and King" to the tune of LASST UNS ERFREUEN

Kilala came to the organ bench while I was attempting to play “All Creatures of Our God and King” to the tune of LASST UNS ERFREUEN

I was inspired to practice because of the concert, knowing that some day I will be playing the organ and leading the signing of the choir and congregation. However, my run through of “All Creatures of Our God and King” at home last night did not go well. In the past I was able to play it from memory. Too much time has elapsed and my muscle memory forgotten. I struggled to play it through. I will spend some time remembering it and relearning as I love this tune!

A few weeks ago, Katherine Crosier featured me in her article about Adult Beginners. Read it here.

October 30, 2014

Pipe Organ Spooktacular with P.D.Q. Bach

Martin Ott, Op. 110 installed in First Presbyterian Church, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Martin Ott, Op. 110 installed in First Presbyterian Church, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Martin Ott, Op. 110
First Presbyterian Church, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Last Sunday, my husband and I attended the Pipe Organ Spooktacular put on by the Ypsilanti Pipe Organ Festival. There were 10 organists – all students from the University of Michigan.

The concert was centered around Halloween. The pipes were strung with cob webs and a giant spider (the spider is a bit hard to see in the picture). Also, each organist was dressed up in a costume. Many audience members were also dressed up. The costumes were judged during the intermission with the winner announced at the end. It’s been 5 days and I do not remember who won. I should have taken a picture!

P.D.Q. Bach:

The Toot Suite S. 212° by P.D.Q. Bach was entertaining and received some laughs. This was my first time to see this piece performed. It’s a duet with both players sharing the organ bench. The organists interaction with each other makes the piece fun to watch. And perhaps, the only organ concert I’ve been to where laughing was acceptable! I think many in the audience were already familiar with this piece.

There are 3 movements in Toot Suite S. 212°. Each movement was played by 2 different organists. Given that the organists were all wearing customs this made the performance a bit more amusing to watch.

Toot Suite S. 212° being played by 2 organists in costumes!

Toot Suite S. 212° being played by 2 organists in costumes!

I admit that this was my first time to encounter P.D.Q. Bach. The biography for P.D.Q. Bach seemed a little fishy in the program. The year of birth and death were in reverse order (1807-1742). And there was a story about P.D.Q. being J.S. Bach’s last offspring who was just given initials instead of a name.

I decided to “Google” P.D.Q. Bach. I discovered that P.D.Q. was made up by Peter Schickele. According to this article, Schickele developed a five-decade-long career, performing the “discovered” works of the “only forgotten son” of the Bach family. P.D.Q. means “pretty darn quick”.

Here is a video of Toot Suite S. 212°

The rest of the program:

Pipe Organ Spooktacular Program

Pipe Organ Spooktacular Program

We enjoyed the other pieces in the program too. I’ve thought about playing my organ at home during Trick or Treat on Halloween. However, I do not know how to play any creepy music yet! There were several pieces played that would fit the bill once I learn how to play them.

All of the pieces were well executed and a joy to listen to. The program ended with the well known Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 565) by J.S. Bach.

Have you or will you be attending a Halloween themed organ concert?

Did you already know about P.D.Q Bach?

What’s your favorite creepy sounding organ piece?

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