Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Big Toy

When I was in high school I took early morning seminary classes at the local church building- scripture study classes. (One year for Old Testament, then New Testament, followed by Book of Mormon, and finally Doctrine and Covenants.) And I DO mean early morning- class started at 6:05, if I remember correctly. Maybe 6:10.

My junior year of high school found me taking a full load of classes at the community college, and going back to the high school just for choirs. What this meant was that while all my seminary classmates had to scurry to get to school before that 7:30 bell rang, my next class time was variable and I had some time to study or eat after class. I was amazingly blessed with my teacher that year- Linda Snow was one of my personal heroes. I couldn't really tell you why, but she just personified everything I wanted to be. Tall and stately, curly gray hair, well dressed, and always a witty comment at the ready. She would sigh and shake her head at my school clothes (why did I ever think clothes that were three sizes too big would make me appear smaller?), praise my efforts in class, and unabashedly declared herself the "center" of our universe. We didn't mind- it generally meant if she woke up extra hungry, we could come to class and find her with a pitcher of pancake batter and a hot griddle, making pancakes for everyone. "If I'm hungry, everyone eats!"

Linda was an accomplished pianist, and a wonderful organist. A few weeks into the school year, a thought occurred to me. "Linda, would you teach me to play the organ?"

She was never one to beat around the bush- I followed her to the chapel after class.
"These are stops. They make the noise in those pipes up there. This is the swell, this is the great. That keyboard down there is for your feet- it's called the pedal. Bass part is on pedal, tenor on left hand, and alto and soprano on right. 8 foot pipes are regular, 4 foot pipes are an octave up. 16 foot pipes are an octave down. Never play a 4 and a 16 together without an 8- it sounds weird. Flutes are soft, oboes are buzzy, these german-sounding ones sound tinny. Take off your shoes, and here's a hymnal. Sit down and play."

She told me where to order my organ shoes, and lent me a book of excercises to explain the crazy fingering needed to keep a sustained tone going, and set me on my way!

When I was called as the congregational organist a few months later ( dad was kind of behind that one. He believes in jumping right in!) Linda was also the one who would come up as I played postlude and congratulate me on a tricky song I had done well on, and suggest her favorite registration for another song that hadn't gone well at all.

Now years down the road, I was excited to be asked to play organ again in our new congregation- it's a fun position, and one that doesn't really take much effort. Or so I thought. Apparently it's been a little TOO long since I last held this position! When a piano student's mother mentioned she had an organ in her basement she didn't want, I jumped at the chance to be able to practice at home.

Organ still un-seen, Wonder Daddy left last Saturday to help load it into her husband's truck and bring it over.

Now, I had a little hand-me-down organ in high school. It weighed maybe 150 pounds.

This honker has got to weigh at least 300. Wonder Daddy is guessing 500, but I think that's just because he's STILL sore from carrying it up our stairs with my student's dad!

We're having so much fun with our new instrument! If you're into old music equipment, it has a real Leslie speaker and actual reverb coils. So very, very cool! The girls love to push all the buttons (and I love that Grandpa's antique head set works perfectly to protect our ears from a reverb-leslie-flute-cello-dixie funk beat cocktail the girls mix up.)

I'm also excited to be able to teach on this organ. I'm lucky to have a high school student in my studio this year (they're generally too busy to take lessons) and she was excited when I mentioned the possibility of learning organ.
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Aunt LoLo said...

2) Can I send this to my friend, to pass on to Linda's grandaughter?
3) That cocktail should ALWAYS be served with headphones. Oy!
4) Have fun. ;-)

Su said...

Nice :)
I had one of those growing up. Actually, I shipped it to Canada, along with my piano. But, sadly, the organ had to go.... it was that or the piano, and I just couldn't let go of the piano

Debbie said...

What a gift to have that organ! There is nothing like the sound of live music in a home.

Tammy said...

I picked up a free organ when I lived back east... perfect to practice on without having to drive 30 mins to the church. Getting that sucker up the stairs was crazy... but it was sweet. Orange, green and purple stops... some pedals didn't work. We donated it to a Tongan church when we moved... they got it down the stairs masterfully! Enjoy!