Ever wonder where that expression came from? According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer, this means to:
“Resume work, usually with some reluctance, as in With my slavedriver of a boss, even on Saturdays it’s back to the salt mines. This term alludes to the Russian practice of punishing prisoners by sending them to work in the salt mines of Siberia. Today the term is only used ironically.”
What this means for me is that I am starting the process of refining and polishing my performance. In terms of practicing, these days I am using the metronome on almost all the pieces, and am using only a soft 4′ flute stop so that I can clearly hear all of the voices. Somehow when you play on full organ all the time things tend to get lost!
Why use the metronome? Of course, this is for the purpose of keeping the rhythm steady and the tempo consistent. I am deliberately setting the metronome slower than how fast I eventually want to perform the music. This forces me to listen to every note, something I have to keep telling myself. As one website put it, SLOW practice is the key to FAST playing!
Luckily I have a metronome which can subdivide beats in half, in triplets or in sixteenth notes so that I can hear every beat clearly.
Back to the salt mines also means is that I’m starting to do all the “work behind the scenes,” and yesterday I sent off the print order for 1000 postcards to publicize the concert. Here’s a sneak preview of what it will look like.
If you think this looks awfully familiar, it is because the graphic is almost identical to the one I used three years ago with Bach’s picture superimposed upon the Lutheran Church of Honolulu’s Beckerath organ. Only the text, of course, is different.
Before my big trip, I already spent weeks preparing a choral edition for the concert, which meant punching in all the music and (German) lyrics to the four-part chorales for the choir, in addition to scanning the last line of each organ piece for cues. That took a lot of work, of course, but now I have the big job of preparing the actual program book for the audience. Like the one I did three years ago for the Great Eighteen Chorales concert, the program book will contain program notes on the entire Clavierübung, plus information about each of the chorale preludes. I will also include the melody line for each chorale so that you can follow the tune to understand Bach’s genius in setting these chorales, and get this — the audience will be invited to join in singing the Gloria in excelsis (“Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr”) and the Credo (“Wir glauben all an einem Gott”) — in German, of course!
What fun that will be!