training for a future church musician/organist
  • soli
    Posts: 95
    Praised be our newborn King! I would appreciate your opinions.

    There is a boy in Gr. 7 here who has taken a couple of years of piano. He is naturally talented and sings well. His voice is changed and he is big for his age too. I asked him if he would like to learn to play the organ and he is really excited and interested. I am going to ask the Parish to sponsor some training for him or offer some sort of scholarship available to any youth who is interested in learning to play the organ.

    I could teach him some basics and then see if he could have lessons with a good organist. Could you recommend a good starter resource for such a boy? Either a book or method or any advice. Also, if you know of any good programs for youth (summer choir camps with organ lessons or something like that, if it exists). Or, do you think it would be beneficial for him to attend the colloquium?
    Thank you for your time! Merry Christmas!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,828
    When I was in school, we were using the Gleason method books. I have found that organists either love them or hate them. I don't know where you are located. Are there any church colleges in your area that train church musicians? Sometimes faculty members will take private students, which would give this boy a chance to see if this particular teacher and school are right for him.
  • Is his primary interest in church organ or in repertoire? The latter really needs a professional teacher, and continued piano. But if the former, I would suggest ownership of "The Hymnal 1940" - start on #1 and play only enough times to be comfortable with it, then move on. Well, #1 is very familiar, and quite easy - but the point is to learn hymn playing and sight reading. Don't look up your favorites, or skip any page. Also, since there is no sustain pedal on the organ, legato playing means a completely different approach to fingering - lots of substitutions and 4 over 5 tricks - not just N over 1 (thumb). I personally like keeping something legato throughout a hymn verse - tie inner notes together rather than repeating; separate melody notes - especially when repeating; make phrasing clear in the melody, and maybe some other parts, but consider carrying 1 or 2 parts through a phrasing break. Simply going through the hymnal can help all of this. And it's a good time to experiment with registrations - especially what sounds good, not just copied from a registration manual. IOW get to know the organ, the room, and organ music all at the same time.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,828
    Also, do you have a local chapter of the American Guild of Organists in your city? That's a good place to begin seeking information.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    ancilla, I would have him sing the Propers each week (if possible) and have him start playing through as much of the NOH as he can each day.

    NOH is given here: available here for free
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Is Gleason the blue book? If so, I wholeheartedly endorse it. And start him on the three part hymns from The Parish Organist from Concordia Publishing House. Get him learning them hands only on organ to teach him good technique, then move on to a hymnal. For a hymnal, I recommend The Lutheran Hymnal (the "red hymnal"), as most of their hymn settings have voices moving at once. Only use the metrical hymns, don't try to make him play Ein Feste Burg off the bat! Then you can move on to the more complicated settings in The Hymnal 1940, and later on Bach's chorales. Don't start him on playing chant without an education on singing and then conducting it.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Oh yes, and get him playing for Mass ASAP! That is, teach him an easy harmonization of one hymn, let him work on it until it's really solid, and then ask him to play it in Mass. This will build confidence, enjoyment of his studies, and give valuable experience.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    "Don't start him on playing chant without an education on singing and then conducting "

    On the contrary, this will give him with a sense of modality without overwhelming him (because it is simple music to read), and will also give him with a sense of modal accompaniment in addition to improvisational skills which should be the cornerstone of any Catholic organist's training. Best of all, it is fun and beautiful ! And one becomes familiar with the traditional music of the Church as well. The list goes on. Don't wait until one has had lessons in conducting chant to begin this study.
  • "The technique and art of organ playing", by Clarence Dickinson. Published around 1920 so a good bit of the interpretation is no longer in style, but the exercises are excellent. Available on Amazon.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,828
    Gavin, the "Method of Organ Playing," by Dr. Harold Gleason, is the blue book. I believe his wife, Catherine Crozier Gleason, edited the later editions.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    If there's an AGO chapter in a reasonable distance, see if they're doing any of their programs for teens. These often include organ crawls and food - and help kids see that there are others with similar interests. Pipe Organ Encounter is one of these.
  • soli
    Posts: 95
    Thank you, everyone, for all your helpful comments. I am looking into... all of them:) As far as I can tell the closest chapter of RCCO (Royal Canadian College of Organists) which is associated with AGO is about 3/5 hrs. distance and we don't have any Church music schools handy. However, I am interested in the method books you suggested, and the 3 part hymns from the Parish Organist. Would anyone be able to give me a link to purchase those? I looked it up in Concordia, but didn't seem able to navigate there. I also appreciated your ideas of having him play at Mass soom ("his" hymn) for starters and singing propers. Thank you again!!! Your experience and interest is such a blessing.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 971
    Roger Davis' "The Organist's Manual" is a pretty good starting point for general teaching/etc. I think most teachers in major universities use this now if they are teaching beginning students, mostly because the Gleason is a little deficient in repertoire.
  • soli
    Posts: 95
    Thank you again! It seems that the Davis manual is very much like the Gleason method (I have not seen it yet, just have read reviews) but it does incorporate more repertoire. With many of your other suggestions, we hope to get started soon. May God bless your for your advice!
    Sr. Bernadette, SOLI
  • Funny, no one has mentioned the need to impress upon the student that learning to play the organ may teach him to appreciate better music of the church, which may someday force him to leave the Catholic church in body, if not spirit, to perform this music, leaving the church of his youth to guitars and angry nuns.

    [where'd the angry nuns come from? Must be a hold-over from being SHAKEN as a 1st grader by Sr. Carmella, HHM, Principal]

    Roger Davis' book is wonderful....repertoire and much, much more...NORTON is the publisher.