A Blessing to the Church
Written by Donald Moro   
Sunday, 26 October 2014 16:04

After services today one of the church members approached me and thanked me for filling in while the church searches for a new organist.  "You're a blessing to our church in that you're always there when we need you!" she said.  That comment had me thinking about a few qualities necessary to be successful in the business of supply organist: consistency, amiability, quality.

That an organist can be available consistently, show up on time, and do that required job builds an enduring reputation.  I try not to overbook myself so that I can be available on late notice...or at least a few weeks out.  I'd like to be known as a consistent performer, ready to get the job done.

I keep hearing horror stories about egotistical organists who run roughshod over the choir, dominate the clergy, and generally impose their will on everyone.  I just can't believe that as a group, organists have this reputation...but we do.  So, I try to be the exact opposite and get along with everybody.  I am humble, open to suggestion (and criticism!), and flexible enough to change course when needed.

Above all, organists must deliver a quality performance.  I have found that the music played does not have to be complicated, but it must be played well.  Practice is important, and I have spent a lot of time working on my practice technique.  I write in fingerings, work on hard passages, and keep the music "in my fingers" all week long.  Maybe I am superstitious, but if I don't run through my music on Friday or Saturday, I don't feel confident on Sunday.  It's just a thing I've learned about myself.

So if you are doing what I do, try being a blessing to your church.  Step back and ask yourself if you are consistently available when needed, if you are a ministering friend to the congregation and clergy, and if you are delivering quality time after time.  Do these things and you can't help but be flooded with calls for work.

Being in the moment
Written by Donald Moro   
Sunday, 09 February 2014 17:56

At a church I recently played at, the Pastor approached me after the service to thank me for playing the responses at the right time.  I was surprised to hear the comment and asked him if this has been a problem for other organists.  He told me about a recent experience where even though he had discussed the timings with the organist, she still did not play at the appropriate times...or even at all in some cases.  It seems that she was reading the bible or something else when she should have been paying attention.

I thought about a recent experience of my own.  I was playing at church and I was thinking about how important it was to stay focused on the service so I could play the right song at the right time.  Unfortunately, while I was thinking about that, I missed the cue to start playing, and accidentally played the wrong song at the right time!

Gosh, not only do you have to be prepared, but you have to stay in the moment....every moment.

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 February 2014 22:10
Organists Have to Think on Their Feet
Written by Donald Moro   
Monday, 04 February 2013 09:09

Organist DrawingThis past weekend presented a few challenges that made me realize how important it is to be sharp and on your toes (or foot-pedals) when playing a service.

I played a wedding on Saturday, and as usual the music on the wedding program was different from the music I had been given to prepare.  Nothing strange there.  But the program called for the bride to process after her wedding party to the Pachebel Canon.  So I played along, watching the wedding party process down the isle to the altar.  Then I began looking for the bride.

Where was the bride?  No bride.  And funny thing, none of the assembly were standing either.  It was as if everyone was waiting for a more momenteous entrance song.  I glanced over to the wedding planner who gave me this "OK, Don, Do Something" look.

Thankfully I had my wedding music book sitting right next to me.  I ended the Canon in D, flipped through the book to find the Wedding March, and watched as everyone stood up, the bride processed, and all was well.  Whew!

The next day I was playing at a service and when it came time for the postlude I realized that I couldn't find the music.  The book had disappeared!  As the Pastor gave the final benediction, I quickly flipped through whatever music book I had handy and found something that looked loud and strong.  Lo and behold, it was an arrangement of a Bach piece that I knew well.  I site-read the piece with only a few minor goofs (easily hidden) and closed the service in proper fashion.  I later received comments on what a fine postlude I had played.

Wow, how sharp you have to be at all times on this job!

Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2013 09:22
Musings of a Supply Organist on the End of 2012
Written by Donald Moro   
Thursday, 27 December 2012 16:00

As I finish the year of 2012, I am grateful for the opportunities that have presented themselves this year. 

One Year Ago

Looking back a year, at this time last year I was the interim organist at 2nd Church of Christ, Scientist, a most interesting and unusual church.  The worship services were more like business meetings with hymns, but the musical standards were very high and I found the requirements for 30+ minutes of music plus 4-5 hymns each week to be very demanding.  However, the experience stretched me in new ways and I am thankful for being able to play the fine new Allan digital at that church.

Surviving the Apocalypse

December 21, 2012 came and went, and somehow I and my family survived.  My poor 11 year old son was freaked out by the whole thing and probably didn't sleep at all that night.  Myself, I slept like a log.

St. Edwards Candlelight Concert

I was honored to play at the St. Edwards Candlelight Concert this Christmas at St. Edwards Church in Richmond, VA.  Each year the concert attracts more and more people, and this year the church was nearly full.  I was asked to play the Christmas hymns as well as some pedal tones for piano pieces and a very challenging Sanctus from the Rutter Requiem.  The interesting thing about that concert was the new position of the organ.  By placing the console at the front of the choir area, in the midst of the congregation and in front of the choir, I had a hard time gauging how low the organ was relative to the instruments and singing.  I'm guessing that I played too loudly since my family told me that the windows rattled and the pews vibrated.  Oh well, I hope folks found it inspiring.

Gayton Road Christian Church, Richmond, VA

Gayton Road Christian Church

As I end the year of 2012, I find my self as interim organist at Gayton Road Christian Church, pictured here.  It's a warm and inviting church with a small but devoted choir of 5-8 people.  I enjoy playing for them, and especially enjoy accompanying Megan Martin who is their choir director and soloist.  She has a beautiful voice.  The assembly at this church seem genuinely appreciative of my musical selections as I have tried to pick prelude/postlude music that is what I like to call "for the people."  This is music that is easy to listen to because it is based on a familiar tune or theme. 

A Word About Newtown

Knowing that what I write will be captured in the digital ether forever, I wanted to close my New Year's Blog with a word about Newtown.  In December of 2012 a gunman shot 20 children in a school in Newtown, CT.  I have struggled with this tragedy and have found my musical selections subliminally tending towards sorrowful, healing, and reconciliation.  I hope that in some tiny way the music I play will bring comfort to people who, like me, are blessed with a wonderful family.

My best wishes to you and your family for a happy and successful 2013!

Remember to Relax - An Organist Credo
Written by Donald Moro   
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 17:06

Organist HandToday I read an article about an organist who had to keep "reminding himself to relax his hands."  This was a very interesting point that struck home with me because in all my years of playing (nearly 40) I can't remember anyone ever telling me to relax my hands.  But in the past few years as I have found my niche as a supply organist, I have found myself in very stressful situations.  I have had to play music that I never practiced, conduct choirs on a moment's notice, and accompany soloists who decided at the last minute to change their solo.  I have found, just be trial and error, that when you relax your hands you can play better!  Imagine that.  Just stop pounding at the keyboard and instead lighten your touch, raise your wrists, and play more lightly.

As a substitute organist, it's my job to be a calming influence in a stressful situation.  Being stressed and acting stressed usually results in poor organ technique.  But now that I know better, I can adapt.

I have never taught organ, but I hope to someday.  If and when I do, I will be emphasizing the importance of a light touch on the keyboard and at all times "relax your hands!"

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 October 2012 17:15
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