Daniel Moult is a well renowned concert organist in the UK and in many parts of the world. He is also an organ educator, regularly teaching at the RCO Organ School, Bermingham Conservatoire, Wells Cathedral School and the Royal College of Music. Last month (March 22, 2016), the city of Albury was truly blessed to have him give a concert on the St Matthew’s Letourneau organ. To top this off, Daniel kindly provided an organ masterclass for students affliated with the St Matthew’s Music Foundation. Daniel’s easy going nature and engaging method of teaching was an enjoyable experience for all. Four participants prepared a work each for Daniel to assess and I have summarised his comments into five things which can be applied to organ performance and musicianship in general:
- Use “Post-It Notes” on difficult sections
Putting Post-It Notes on difficult sections can highlight areas which you should practice as a priority. Once they are mastered, simply peel it off. AVOID circling difficult sections as they aren’t as easy or simple to remove as a Post-It. Leaving the section circled right through to performance will set you up for a disaster!
- Remember to breathe
Breathing, as in physically exhaling and inhaling. When a difficult section comes up, try to remember to breathe as it helps calm you. Can you imagine if weightlifters didn’t breathe whilst lifting? They’d never get the weights off the ground!
- Practice your poker face
If you make a mistake during a performance, pretend it never happened and soldier on. Unless it’s a major disaster, the general public won’t really notice. They will notice it if you make all sorts of grimaces on your face!
- The basic rule for registration comes down to “BBC”
There are some cases where we must be strict and observe historical registration rules but if it doesn’t conform to “BBC” then it won’t sound good to the ear.
B: BALANCED – do the differing divisions of the organ balance well with each other?
B: BEAUTIFUL – do the stops drawn sound beautiful?
C: CLARITY – do the stops clearly highlight the musical lines?
- Record yourself
Although it’s no substitute for a teacher (or is it, haha?), recording yourself and then playing it back without any other distraction can truly highlight areas of improvement. Daniel recommends the following if you do choose to record yourself:
- Only record in the final stages of learning a piece
- Delete your first ever recording of the piece
- Only listen to it a few days later – this helps you become subjective about your playing
- Remember to find ways to praise yourself – you can’t progress otherwise. You are your own worst critic!
Inspiration for this post was via The Lady Organist – Five questions for Daniel Moult