Weedon Weekly: 11th September 2017

A COUNTRY PRACTICE

I have been a bit quiet lately, haven't I? Some would say that makes a pleasant change :-)  I have, in fact, been beavering away on a new concert programme.

I try to choose my repertoire with some sort of theme. In the past, I've put together programmes featuring Spring, Autumn, Winter, Film Themes, European Countries, Viennese Music and the Music of England.

When I took delivery of my latest instruments, I needed to put a selection together in a hurry. As both Diddy the D Deck and Elsie read old Tyros and EL registrations with ease, this was far easier than I had feared. I simply cherry-picked favourite pieces from past repertoire, using one piece for each letter of the alphabet. And now I'm completely hooked on my A to Z programmes, so I am currently working on 'A to Z, Autumn 2017'.

Depending on the venue where I am playing, the actual playing-time of my concerts varies from 70 minutes long (performances held in churches seem to fall into this category, maybe because of the hard seating?) to 120 minutes long in the standard organ club. With most pieces lasting about 3 minutes, that means working up 40 new numbers for a full evening of entertainment.

A 'normal' 3 minute piece takes me about a day to arrange, practice and register (that is, set up my choice of sounds). I will typically use 16 different sounds in a piece of that length. A 'showstopper', on the other hand, can take many days of work - perhaps 50+ hours - and may have sound changes numbering in the hundreds.

Apart from getting the notes right, which is largely a matter of choosing the best fingering, I have to type-set mini scores that fit on my music rest, and then carefully mark them with where each sound change occurs. I make those sound changes not  by pressing the thumb pistons (too fiddly) but by kicking a foot switch. So I need to programme the kick switch to bring the sounds up in the correct order. Then I just play, play, play and play some more until each piece wears a groove in my aural and physical memory. Poor Tone! He thought he'd retired to a peaceful life in the heart of the country...

Apart from when I prepared the Vienna concert, which was all Strauss and the like, I aim to make my shows a real mixed bag of ballads, swing, classical orchestral, synth tracks, jazz, novelty numbers, classical and theatre organ, and to play pieces which range from the venerable to the bang up to date.

So that's why I've been quiet lately. And why the house looks a tip. And why we're eating TV dinners. Let's hope it all proves worth it in the end, eh?

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