Returning to the Bench

Luke OrganThe experience blog this month is written by Luke Cherry. Luke started playing the piano when he was four years old. Three years ago, he took up the opportunity to practice at St Nicholas Church, Kenilworth and soon after began organ lessons at school. Now aged 16, he plays regularly in school chapel services and at church. He enjoys the vast range of Romantic organ works, especially those of Vierne and Duruflé. 

It is not very common for a musician to admit that they haven’t practised their instrument for nearly 100 days but that has been the case for most organists, including myself. Although I could play the piano at home, it was not anything like playing a real organ. As I didn’t have any access to a pedal board, I was able to do some very focused work on the manual parts of my pieces and a lack of schoolwork as it was supposed to be my GCSE exam period, meant that I could practise for much longer each day. I also lucky enough to be able to continue organ lessons from the piano over ZOOM. Hopefully internet connection interruptions masked some wrong notes!

Going to play the organ is always something that I get excited over but being allowed to sneak in to church in the evening and play again was even better. Even though I had only been away for a little over three months, there were a few things that took a while to get used to during my first practice: mainly, playing on lighter keys and using the pedal board again. It was noticeable from my first practice, that I had partially forgotten how to use my feet and it took a while to get back to using them again and remembering to use correct technique.

I also had to test every pipe of the organ to check for any faults. Aside from a few notes sticking, it was working as normal. As there had been many fluctuations in temperature in the three months, I was amazed at how in-tune the organ was, with only a few stops being out, mainly the mixtures and reeds.

I was delighted to be asked to play at the first church service with congregation after lockdown. The biggest difference for this service was having to wear a mask while playing. I hadn’t previously realised that my hands would be slightly obscured by it. Also, for the first time in 3 months I was playing to an audience. It was less than normal size congregation, only around 40 people, but still added another worry to playing. I played before and after the service and also during communion. There were no hymns as singing is currently banned.

Despite having to wear a mask and put up with some issues with the organ, I have thoroughly enjoyed returning to the console.

If you have taken part in an event, have been learning online, are part of an organ teaching scheme or have any other organ related experience you would like to share with others, drop The Organ Manual a line, we’d love to hear from you!

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