Being a musician is somewhat akin to being an accountant — there are always deadlines which keep on coming, and they never end, like taxes. No sooner do you finish one task and then there’s the next one right behind it. And right now I have the looming deadline of the next Early Music Hawaii concerts, which will be Saturday, April 2nd at 7:30 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, followed by Saturday, the week following on April 9th, at 5:00 pm in Kealakekua, Kona on the Big Island.
This concert is a sequel, if you like, to the Bridging the Centuries set of concerts which were done last year. This year the theme is “A Fourth Centenary Celebration of Shakespeare: Songs from his Plays, Then and Now.” In other words, the songs from Shakespeare’s plays will be heard from composers of his time, including Baldissera Donato, Luca Marenzio, Claudio Monteverdi, Jacob Clemens, William Cornysh, Thomas Morley, and Robert Johnson.
The same texts will be sung in Romantic and contemporary settings by Franz Liszt, Morten Lauridsen, Pablo Casals, William Billings, Vaughan Williams, George Shearing, and Matthew Harris.
All of which means, not only will I playing the organ, but I will also be playing the piano in public, which is completely out of my comfort zone! During the 37 years of my marriage to Carl Crosier, whenever there was a piano accompaniment, without question, he always played it, and I never did. After all, he was the one who had a performance degree in piano, and played many chamber concerts and piano concertos with orchestra. Me? I stopped taking piano lessons in the eighth grade, which was eons ago.
People may ask, but aren’t piano and organ similar? To me, they are almost like night and day. In fact, the piano can be thought of as a percussion instrument with the fingers striking the keys, which in turn use hammers to hit the strings. The piano’s sound dies away immediately. Even though there is a damper pedal, it only sustains the sound for a short time, and the key must be struck again to lengthen the sound.
The organ, on the other hand, is a wind instrument, and the note will sound as long as you have your finger on the key, and the electricity doesn’t go off! It is therefore imperative that you let go of the key precisely — your finger must hold the key down for the full duration of the note until the downbeat of the next note! I always think of my fingers as pressing the organ keys rather than hitting them.
The other big difference is that the piano has 88 keys while the organ keyboard ranges from 54 to 61 notes. On the piano you have to cover a lot more “real estate,” using the whole keyboard to create the range of harmonics and you end up playing a lot of octaves, while on the organ, your hands stay mostly within the staff and you just add more stops to create the harmonics. I always say that I hardly ever play octaves in one hand and don’t read ledger lines! (those are lines placed above or below the regular musical staff.)
Well, I’ve been practicing the piano, and I’ll try my best to do the piano accompaniments justice, but let me tell you, the piano is not my instrument and I feel like a cow on the ice! I wish Carl were here to rescue me, or even my sister Margo or my cousin, Mary, who are both professional pianists and know how to play this thing!