Questions for mature organists
  • Like most people, I’m subject to vanity. The most recent manifestation being a refusal to admit I’m gradually losing my hearing. The impairment first became noticeable with high frequencies, not hearing the tea kettle when I’m out of the kitchen or the ding of the clothes dryer when I’m at the opposite end of the house - sounds my wife hears with ease. Women’s voices, particularly in cell phone conversations, are becoming increasingly indecipherable. (Am I imagining this or do young women, especially here in the East, speak at a much faster pace today than in the past?)

    None of this has been of particular concern for my day-to-day activities and there are even advantages. “What do you mean I was supposed to wash the storm windows Saturday? It’s the first I’ve heard of it.” And it makes tuning out homilies, of which I’m world champion, quite natural. But there are occasions when I really want to hear distinctly, such as when I’m free to attend Mass with my wife at her southern New Hampshire parish. The pastor there is an exceptionally thoughtful homilist.

    As an organist, I’ve been able to cruise along without much difficulty and I’ve never had a complaint about playing too loudly. But I often play in a cathedral sized building with a significant distance separating the high loft from the altar and therefore must strain mightily to hear the introductory words to the Sanctus in the Eucharistic Prayer. When the celebrant is soft spoken, speaks with an accent and fails to fold his hands at the appropriate moment in a clearly visible manner, it can be a guessing game.

    I would prefer to retire before there are moments of embarrassment, so I’m asking if there are any organists out there who’ve had success wearing hearing aids. Do they interfere with an aural relationship with the instrument (a wonderful Hook & Hastings in the setting mentioned above)? Or do you have to turn the hearing aid on and off, depending on whether you’re playing or not? If not, is there a major adjustment involved?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,468
    One of the immediate things you could do without a hearing aid, is have a trustworthy assistant beside you who can cue you on happenings down front. My dad wore hearing aids for years so I have a second-hand acquaintance with them. Getting fitted by someone highly skilled in dealing with your particular problem is critical. Several of my "oldsters" in the choir wear aids and function quite well with them.
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • Don't wear hearing aids in the proximity of a hot mike. Makes for a great, easily heard by others, feedback loop.
  • Darn it, from the title of this thread, I thought this would be like "Colloquium After Midnight" stuff with Dr. Sue Johanson. I need to stop being such a satyr.
  • Randolph,

    May I suggest that you encourage your priests to sing, rather than speak the Preface. That will solve the problem.

  • Chris,

    If the priest sings softly and/or with poor enunciation it unfortunately doesn't solve my problem. And to be honest, even after living in the Boston area since the mid-1960s, I still don't have a solid grasp of the working class accent(s) of most local priests.
  • Randolph,

    You don't need to be able to understand every word, but to discern what the end of the Preface sounds like.

    My pastor, a native speaker of ......Japanese... uses Latin at Mass all the time (it's the EF, so that's normal) , so I have learned to hear his cadence, rather than to make out each word. Eventually, individual words come clearly enough.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,955
    do you think it would help to follow along in the missal?