Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Organ Failure

Dear Person Who Chose the Songs for Church on Sunday,

A little heads-up would have been nice.

I know that people who don't play the organ can't really distinguish between what's easy and what's hard but it was almost as if you chose from a secret handbook sitting around the clerk's office titled: Impossibly Difficult Songs to Play on the Organ that will No Doubt Bring Shame and Humiliation to the Poor Organist Who has to Play Them Because She Really Isn't Even That Competent to Begin With But Plays Anyway Because She Likes to Serve Where She Can Despite the Fact That She Has No Natural Talent for Playing as Evidenced by her Continued Butchering of Songs on a Semi-monthly Basis Which Manages to Kill the Spirit of the Meeting Every Time. I have no doubt the Deacons have put this out as they are always up to some mischief.

If such a handbook does not exist then you just so happened to luck into a trifecta of tough songs. "Who's on the Lord Side, Who?" (my favorite hymn/sea shanty) is tough but manageable at a decent pace, and "Behold a Royal Army" has a few challenging parts but I've worked my way through it before. So on any given Sunday I would have been okay with one, possibly even both of these with only a few minor flub-ups. But we took "Who's on the Lord Side, Who?" at warp speed and then we even took the sacrament hymn faster than I was prepared for, which made "Behold a Royal Army" more challenging than I was expecting because by that point my fingers were done.

I would have forgiven you for these but you didn't stop there. You had to put in "True to the Faith".

Let's talk about this song for a sec. I think every church organist will agree with me that this is the Widowmaker of all hymns. It's super fast and it has a bass line that doesn't stop. On a good day I can maybe get half the notes in but after playing the other two songs I already felt like I had run a marathon. Maybe you saw the look on Katie's face in the congregation when the song was announced. She looked over at me and grimaced and mouthed, "I'm so sorry." Yeah, so am I. Because this is not the only time this year that I've had to play it. It's the third - which, again, every church organist would agree is just plain mean. You're lucky I can't reach the pedals because if I had to play that bass line with my feet you would have seen me curled up on the floor in a pool of tears, which would have been enough to short circut the organ and then where would you be.

I'm happy to play the organ. Really, I am. But I'm just giving you fair warning that the next time I have to play "True to the Faith" it will be slow enough for you to wonder who died.


PS - Amy's comment just reminded me of another thing. They were LONG. Like 18 verses each. Were you trying to kill me?


Amy said...

If it makes you feel better, as far as I could tell you were playing those hymns beautifully. I was too busy worrying about whether or not I would get laryngitis trying to sing all those hymns with all their verses and chorus'. Luckily, my child distracted me enough during each hymn to give my voice a break every so often. Kudos to you Rachel, for not falling to pieces after playing all those hymns.

colleeeen said...

my friend Kendra, who is a wonderful and talented pianist, loves to tell about the first time she ever had to play the organ in sacrament. she didn't know anything about the sound settings, and she claims she somehow set it so it was "burping bass" and sounded like foghorns or shiphorns. oh, how i wish i had been there to hear that. i *adore* Sacrament meeting chaos (which would explain why the primary program was always my favorite). i don't know about your chorister, but in our ward the secret is that the organist pretty much controls the pace. it looks like the time has come for you to assert your tempo. power to the organist!

Silvestre Family said...

Maybe it's because i am a convert, but i couldn't tell that you were having difficulty with it. Sounded great to me!

Rach said...

That really is cruel. I had to play True to the Faith on the piano when I was in Young Womens and had a complete meltdown by the second verse. Too fast, too hard, and I didn't get to stop when I messed up. And to have that be only one of three horribly difficult hymns is just plain mean. Maybe next week you'll be asked to play, "Come Follow Me," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and "Nearer, My God." That would be the humane thing to do.

Stephanie said...

I was chorister once and my piano player refused to play a song (I can't remember the name of it now) because the tune was once used as a drinking chant.

I gave my pianist (we were a little branch, no organ) the songs months in advance so, of course, he didn't tell me until four seconds before we were supposed to sing it that he had issues with it. I was literally standing with my hand up ready for the intro and he tells me he doesn't want to play the song! I told him to suck it up and play. If it's in the hymnal, I'm assuming it's appropriate to sing in church!

I might have been mean to a piano player once, but he deserved it. I wouldn't ever be mean to you, though! I would give you Choose the Right, Sweet Hour of Prayer and a special musical number, just so you can rest your fingers.

I'm sure you did great!

Amanda said...

Let me just say that I am so glad I am not musically talent and in the church. I've always wanted to play the piano and still have dreams, but if I do ever learn, I will not tell anyone, so I never have a piano playing calling.

Heather said...

Our branch's last piano player just moved out, so I've been thinking about how much of a slacker I am for not practicing the piano, or learning how to play the organ--Thank you so much for reminding me why I dont want to gain that skill! I was thinking about re-learning just for fun, but like Amanda, I will keep that to myself.

themayerfamily said...

Rachel, tons of brownie points have been awarded to you. As I was reading your post I got to the first song, and I did a wince for you. Then the second and another. I also hate choristers who think it is their duty to add new speed to hymns. Don't they look at the numbers? Then when I finally read True to the Faith--I did a gasp and shook my head. That is a horrible one. And with no warning! I am still shaking my head.

Anonymous said...

I think I just popped a hole in my lung laughing at the sea shanty. And I'd only just drawn breath from the suspicious lip explosion herpes. I think you should give better warning to your readers, something along the lines of "Inhale deeply and stand near the sink."