Saturday, October 18, 2008

2. October 18, 2008

Making Music

During the summer I played several solo organ recitals, one of which was at First Parish Church in Brunswick. When I was asked to do this last fall I was flabbergasted: “Me? Play on THAT organ at THAT church! You can’t be serious!”

Shortly after moving to Maine in 1993 I began studying organ with Ray Cornils, Director of Music at First Parish. For my audition I played Bach’s Little Prelude in F Major. I certainly could have played something a bit more advanced and I don’t know why I didn’t. I do remember being extremely nervous: Ray and I are exactly the same age and he is quite the organ figure in Maine. At the time I was a nobody.

I continue to take the occasional lesson with Ray: these periodic events encourage me to tackle new and difficult music. Yet throughout all these years of studying with him I have been completely intimidated by that organ, an 1880’s 2 manual tracker built by Hutchings and Plaisted. I have always depended on him to choose registrations for me and have frequently told him to “Take something off! It’s too loud!” I claimed the organ was “unforgiving,” with every mistake filling the vast space of the church sanctuary.

So the prospect of actually playing a recital there terrified me. But for some reason at this stage of the game I am willing to take on these professional challenges, and most of the time I’m glad I do.

I spent the better part of two days with this organ and it grew on me. As I tried out the individual stops I became aware of its beauty and power. I fell in love with the expressive swell pedal. And slowly I began to feel comfortable and know that yes, I could make music on this instrument.

On the day of the recital the usual butterflies were present. I arrived early and calmly climbed the long staircase to the organ loft. Slowly I began to warm-up, reacquainting myself with all the sounds of this amazing instrument. My stop-puller Steve arrived to review the registration changes with me, and then, it was time to start… I was clearheaded and focused and played well. I made music.

That’s what it’s all about, for me.

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