When I was in college, my theory teacher used to have a saying about church organists and their weekly preparation of preludes, postludes, hymns and other incidental music, “like grinding out sausages every week.” This week my sausage-grinding has taken me more work than usual, and I’ve had to “woodshed” several pieces of music. The term “woodshed” is used by musicians to refer to slow and careful practice of difficult passages and I guess originally, one went “to the woodshed” to do this kind of practice. Practicing is by nature a solo experience. One of my colleagues called practicing therapeutic, and way cheaper than going to a psychiatrist!
This week we celebrate what most of the Christian world refers to as “Christ the King” Sunday, but at LCH we’ve called it “Reign of Christ” so as not to be politically incorrect or insensitive to gender issues. This year the focus is on Christ at the crucifixion. I’ve learned a new prelude on “At the name of Jesus” by Robert J. Powell, but have had to spend most of my time on John McCreary‘s “Vexilla Regis,” an anthem based on “The royal banners forward go.” As many of you know, John was for many years the Organist-Choirmaster of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Honolulu, and is now retired. (His grandson, Jordan, is my organ student.) I think his anthem is one of the most difficult pieces in our choral library, especially for the organist. The last two pages have double pedal playing in a 2 against 3 rhythm with large chords in the hands. The choir and my right foot play in duples, and my hands will play in triples. Luckily my left foot has a much simpler pedalpoint. I have NO idea what Carl Crosier will be conducting, but I’ll be hanging on for dear life!
I’ve also had to practice (“woodshed”) William Mathias’ “Magnificat” which we will perform at our Advent Procession next week. That organ part is no picnic, either, with many chordal dissonances.
Ah, the life of sausage-grinding.