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Looking for Pipe Organ/General advice - lessons, registrants, resources, performance

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  • Looking for Pipe Organ/General advice - lessons, registrants, resources, performance

    So, I've got a few questions for you all - need some advice. Apologies as I'm not sure if this is the best place to post this or not, it has to do with some pipe organs but may be too general. Moderators feel free to move this if needed.
    A bit of a backstory to this one so bear with me a moment. TLDR - scroll to the five questions at the bottom.

    I am attending an organ workshop next week that one of the universities in our state does the first week in August each year. BYU here in Utah has an annual event that is apparently well-attended even from folks out of state. I've been wanting to go for years and had purchased a ticket back in 2020, but then the world shut down and all that, so I didn't get to go. They did virtual workshops but that just sounded lame so I didn't do that. But this year I am going and it's next week (took the whole week off) and I'm beyond excited.

    I will have a rare (at least for me) opportunity to play several pipe organs throughout the week. Let me preface by saying I've only ever played one pipe organ in my life which was at an LDS (Mormon) Tabernacle in Paris, Idaho on a trip with my grandparents - all the other organs I've played on over the years have been digital. I don't know much about that particular pipe organ as this was about 12 years ago (I was only 14 at the time) so I didn't really think to ask or look into the details. Haha. I honestly don't remember much about it as it was such a blur, but I remember it was an amazing experience at the time. I have a few pics that I'll have to dig up and share and I'll post them here when I can.

    Anyway, on Monday for the workshop I paid for a private lesson from an organist by the name of Joseph Peeples, who is one of the organists for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (called the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square now - but I know out there most people know them by their former name). My lesson will be on the below organ, which is apparently an Austin Organ, and appears to be a pipe organ, though I was unclear on that - the console wasn't original to it from what this page says; I'd be curious to know what the console was originally, anyone recognize it?

    I'm honestly a tad nervous though because I haven't had a lesson in 10 years, especially from a "distinguished" organist. When I was taking organ lessons for a few years, it was from my piano teacher - she has her Master's in piano performance and played the organ, but that wasn't what she went to school for so I don't feel that I got as much out of the lessons as if she were a dedicated organ teacher. Not to say I didn't learn anything, don't get me wrong. If I had continued taking lessons I would have probably eventually found a different teacher, but I stopped taking lessons when my health got bad in high school. Though I've still played and tried to learn on my own over the years, especially now that my health is in good shape, I'm afraid most of my instruction is quite the opposite of formal. I want to make a good impression but also want to learn as much as I can from Joseph in the 50 minutes I have with him!

    Though I have to admit the more exciting portion will be on Wednesday when we take a field trip to downtown Salt Lake City and I will have the opportunity to play on one of these three pipe organs (links to pages about them if you want to read more - my church has some nicely documented history on each of these organs). I will find out Friday from BYU which organ I will get to play:
    Assembly Hall Organ (Sipe)
    • Number of Pipes: 3,489
    • Number of Voices: 49
    • Number of Ranks: 65
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    Conference Center Organ (Schoenstein)
    • Number of Pipes: 7,708
    • Number of Voices: 103
    • Number of Ranks: 130
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    Tabernacle Organ (Multiple organ makers, last worked on by Schoenstein)
    • Number of Pipes: 11,623
    • Number of Voices: 147
    • Number of Ranks: 206
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    Alright so TLDR, here's my questions:
    1. Has anyone had experience with "formal" organ instruction and if so, any recommendations of what to take to a lesson with a "distinguished" organist? I planned on taking a bunch of songs I've been working on of course. Any other advice?
    2. When I play one of these amazing organs, I will have a registrant for time-sake - has anyone ever played with a registrant choosing your stops, and what's that like? I've never had someone pick my stops for me so I'm not sure how I feel about that or what that will be like.
    3. Does anyone know a good resource that I can know where to start with an organ this size? Even the basics I'd never thought about before: which manual is which when there are five?? I've never played an organ with more than two! I know with three, the Great is the middle manual because the Choir is usually the bottom one, I think that's the same with four as well...? I guess I can probably Google it now that I think about it...
    4. I'll only get like 5 minutes on Wednesday so it's a big choice of what song (or possibly songs if I have enough time) I pick to play. I have a few songs in mind that I think would be amazing, but what do you pick to play on an organ like any of these?!!? What do you think between the following that I've narrowed it down to (you can probably find recordings online if you want to listen to these)? I can't decide between:
      1. The Star-Spangled Banner - arrangement by Virgil Fox (this one's a bit short, but definitely loud and incredible)
      2. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - arrangement by E. Power Biggs (this one is a bit mellow - I feel like organs like these three need something more grandiose)
      3. Christ the Lord is Risen Today - arrangement by James Kasen (I know it's not even close to Easter, but it's a great arrangement)
    5. Lastly, just for fun - I'm curious which of the three you would pick to play if you had to choose. We were asked to pick our order of preference which they will try to accommodate, so I picked Tabernacle, Conference Center, Assembly Hall. Would be interested to hear if anyone has different order of choices!
    And before you ask - they apparently will let us record audio/video but we're not supposed to share it publicly - which I think means on social media, not sure what they define as publicly. Hopefully I'll at least get some pics though that I can share.

    Thanks in advance for any advice/thoughts in regards to the above though!
    Last edited by Ymerejliaf; 07-27-2022, 08:33 PM. Reason: Adding pictures

  • #2
    This sounds super cool!
    -For the lesson, just bring your organ shoes and one or two pieces to go over with them, a pencil and eraser. Write down everything they say on your score so you can remember it later. I’m sure it will be a good experience!
    -You’ll probably have a short conversation with the registrant about the piece and they will direct you to what manuals to play on. If you don’t know, then ask them.
    -If the organ you’re playing on is more baroque style, then the choir or positive will be on the bottom. For Romantic style organs, the Great is usually on the bottom, though there are exceptions. If you don’t know what manual does what, just ask! Above the Great/Choir is usually the swell, then Solo or Echo usually above that. If the organ has a separate positive and choir, they are either together above the great, or one will be on the bottom and one will be in the middle somewhere.
    -I would play the star spangled banner, because it looks like the most fun! Relax, take in the experience, and enjoy yourself!

    Current: Allen 225 RTC, W. Bell reed organ, Lowrey TGS, Singer upright grand
    Former: Yamaha E3R


    • Ymerejliaf
      Ymerejliaf commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks! This is great advice. I looked it up and found a Wikipedia entry that actually lists the stops for each manual too! If I get the Tabernacle organ it looks like the manuals in order are:
      I: Choir
      II: Great
      III: Swell
      IV: Solo
      V: Antiphonal

      Reference to that:

      That puts me at ease a bit though - I was also leaning towards that - also because it's the one I know the best of the three I narrowed it down to haha.

  • #3
    Originally posted by Ymerejliaf View Post
    • The Star-Spangled Banner - arrangement by Virgil Fox (this one's a bit short, but definitely loud and incredible)
    • Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - arrangement by E. Power Biggs (this one is a bit mellow - I feel like organs like these three need something more grandiose)
    • Christ the Lord is Risen Today - arrangement by James Kasen (I know it's not even close to Easter, but it's a great arrangement)
    Don't back away from the mellower piece just because it's a larger organ. When I meet a new organ, I use Bach's Wachet Auf from the Schübler Chorales to test the blend of just a few stops. Any organ can play with most/many of the stops playing loud, but the ability of individual stops to blend well with each other is a greater test. Your "organ instructor" or what sounds like a master class will probably be relieved to relax their ears for a few minutes or so!

    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos


    • Ymerejliaf
      Ymerejliaf commented
      Editing a comment
      Oooh that's a good idea. I've never played that particular piece myself, but I just listened to it and I can see exactly what you mean. I'll have to see if I can get some sheet music for that at some point.

      Probably! I think he'd appreciate that.

      Funnily enough - the Tabernacle actually does a live concert every Wednesday (a series they call "Piping Up!") that Joseph was the organist for this week (just today actually). I really enjoy this series - they give a bit of history about the songs as well. Link for you if you want to see/listen - I'm constantly in awe by the skill of these organists (hopefully I can get to that point some day):

  • #4

    No need to purchase. Just choose one of these scores at IMSLP (all free Public Domain classical music).

    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos


    • Ymerejliaf
      Ymerejliaf commented
      Editing a comment
      Wow! This is great - can't believe I didn't know about this website. Bookmarked! Haha

  • #5
    That sounds like a great opportunity. A couple points to consider:
    - This is a chance for the teacher's strengths to help the student's weaknesses. It is their job to make you a better musician. If you can identify common problems or trouble spots in your own playing that you wish you could overcome, that can be helpful for the teacher to know, though it's not necessary.
    - Choose rep that takes advantage of the teacher's strengths/focus. If they are a fantastic improvisor, or a Bach scholar, or jazz arranger, play (literally) to those strengths. One possible down-side to some of these brilliant people is that it comes so naturally to them that they don't know how to teach the thing they do so well. Because this is a well-organized event with a good history and reputation, that shouldn't be a problem.
    - 50 minutes will fly by. When one considers all the possible topics and sub-topics - such as registration, fingering/pedalling, stylistic interpretation, and others - you will still only cover a certain amount of material. Still, 'something' is better than 'nothing' and it sounds like you're going to have access to some pretty good 'something.'

    - Don't take a piece that you can't play well, or they'll just tell you to go practice some more to learn the notes.
    - On the flip side, don't take a piece that you've mastered so well that there's not much more you can do to improve it. There are show-offs who do this, which is fine, but they forfeit the opportunity to learn when they do that.

    Have fun and let us know how it goes.


    • Ymerejliaf
      Ymerejliaf commented
      Editing a comment
      That's great advice, thanks! There are definitely some areas I know I can improve on, so I will ask about a few of those things. Though I'm hoping some of the classes during the workshop will also be able to help me in those areas.

      Yes I'm sure that time will zip by! But hopefully using some of the advice here I can make the best of it. :)

      Good point - I plan to select the music I'm going to take with me this weekend and definitely have some pieces in mind, but to your point, since 50 minutes is so short I'm only going to take a few songs.

      I will definitely report back next week!

  • #6
    Wow! Thanks everyone for the wonderful advice!
    I had an amazing experience today - ended up getting to play two pipe organs today because one of the practice rooms was free (they are first come, first serve unless you have a lesson or you reserved ahead). The tips above though were able to help me have a great experience in my lesson and I have lots of notes to apply to my future playing. Definitely going to make this workshop a yearly tradition, I can tell already after the first day. I've never seen so many organists in one place, it was awesome - and technically the workshop starts tomorrow (today was just sort of a prequel) so I'm sure there will be more. The teachers I worked with today (I had a couple short consultations as well) all gave me great tips.

    I also attended a recital (never actually been to a live organ recital before - only online) which was amazing. Nothing quite like listening to a pipe organ in-person. Several times I just got chills from how awesome it was. This was the organ and there were 8 organists who played today:
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    And good news is it looks like I will get to play my first choice which was the Tabernacle organ, though I will have exactly 3 minutes from the time they call my name till the time they call the next person (they are very strict on the time because of how many people are coming). Regardless, I am beyond excited for Wednesday. What an adventure though - seriously thanks everyone for the great advice!

    If anyone's in Utah the first week in August, highly recommend this even if you're not a Mormon or familiar with our faith - The experience alone so far has been totally worth the cost (it was $225 for registration if anyone is curious, then I paid an extra $60 for the lesson - considering all the classes and such over the next three days I think it's a steal).

    I'll post back after Wednesday as well, just wanted to update this post.


    • myorgan
      myorgan commented
      Editing a comment
      Great to hear the news, Jeremy! I'm looking forward to your posts coming up!


  • #7

    Well what a blast, that's all I can say! Haha. I just had to take it all in and live in the moment - what an adventure! The performance went great yesterday, we were all able to take our 3 minutes of fame and play on the organ. That just wasn't long enough to really take it in, I wish it had been longer - though to be fair, I could spend days on that organ and it wouldn't be long enough.

    You guys were spot on with the registrant - though there were actually two, one on each side to speed things up. They got me setup quickly and I did end up playing Virgil Fox's arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner. That arrangement has a few solo parts that require some bright reeds, and they were originally going to put me on the fourth manual which is the Solo manual. But my nerves were high and it felt uncomfortable to reach that high without having ever practiced like that before - I was not confident I would be able to jump to that manual quickly/successfully, so instead they registered some reeds on the Choir manual and that worked out wonderfully. I made a few errors being nervous, and also the way the tabernacle is setup acoustically is different than anything I'd ever played - basically the pipes are to the left of the console so you hear it from the left, then it reverberates throughout the entire building and comes back so there's sort of an "echo" effect that threw me off slightly at first. You don't really get that effect when you're in the audience area so being up close has a different feel. Though it was amazing to really feel those 32' pipes, you can feel it in your chest. I think I was also extra nervous having the registrants standing right next to me (it felt like they were hovering over my shoulder) but overall I still did pretty well and got lots of compliments from my fellow workshop organists, particularly for some of the complicated pedal-work on that piece.

    I got some pictures and video, however they asked us not to post the video online so I can't share it publicly. ☹
    The audio recording from a phone doesn't really do that organ justice anyway though, so maybe it's for the best. But here are a few photos of me at the console and a selfie with the pipes in the background:
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    At any rate, thanks again everyone for your suggestions - it really helped put my mind at ease both on Monday and Wednesday and I was able to have the time of my life. I consider this a great success - plus it was like organ Disneyland this week with all the organs I got to play. I even got to play a small tracker organ on Tuesday which I'd never played anything like that before. So that makes 4 pipe organs in one week - four times as many from the last decade, which is super cool to me as I consider it a rare opportunity. Haha.
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    The best part is though I learned a lot of stuff that I'll be able to take and apply to my playing, so I have plenty of things to work on until the next workshop which is going to be August 7th through the 10th of 2023. One of the immediate highlights is going to be the pedal technique class I took, as well as the advanced hymn playing class I took - I learned a lot of techniques for hymn playing that will help me bring spirit to hymns and get the congregation excited. Using interludes and techniques such as soloing a specific voice, reharmonization (free accompaniments), etc. Just lots of ideas right now swimming in my head from that.
    They only do the console experience every two years so in 2024 maybe I'll get to play one of the other two organs I mentioned in my first post. I'm considering taking up private lessons again after all this, it has me really invigorated right now! We'll see though, I haven't fully decided yet - that's a pretty big commitment, but I think it would be worth it in the end.

    Thanks again though guys - let me know if you have any questions or anything about the experience/classes - happy to share more if anyone is interested in what kind of material they covered.


    • #8
      I am so jealous! How exciting for you to have attended this conference and learned so much from it. I really enjoyed reading about your thought process and experience. Sounds like it was money very well spent. Congrats!


      • Ymerejliaf
        Ymerejliaf commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, it was definitely awesome! Totally worth the money and time investment - I think I'm going to make it a yearly tradition.

    • #9
      I've been trying to attend the organ workshop for years. I used to help with moving the portable organs around the HFAC for the workshop when I worked there as a student but I never got to attend. Hopefully they will be in the new building next year that should have some extra space.
      Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
      Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.


      • Ymerejliaf
        Ymerejliaf commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes next year they'll be in the new building - this was the last year in the HFAC. My understanding is they'll be tearing the HFAC down and moving the art classes to another building, then building a new building in the HFACs place for the art classes.

        They're building a brand new pipe organ for the new music building but it won't be ready for next year's workshop. So the pipe organ in the HFAC is actually for sale right now, so are a couple of the practice room organs not making it to the new building.

        Should be interesting to see what happens!