Upcoming Performances

October 22, 4:00 pm Eastern
Inaugural recitalist, Allen organ, White Bluff United Methodist Church Savannah, Ga.

November 12, 3:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, Charles Town Presbyterian Church, Charles Town, W.V.

February 11
Inaugural recitalist, Casavant organ, Forest Lake Presbyterian Church, Columbia, S.C.

March 9, 2018, 12:15 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

March 11, 2018
Guest recitalist, Waldensian Presbyterian Church, Valdese, N.C.

May 13, 2018, 5:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, N.C.

« You can't get there from here | Main

Memorization, Part 1: Why memorize?

Three simple reasons why I memorize my recitals:

1) I sound better when I play from memory.
2) I know a memorized piece better.
3) I was taught how to memorize.

Let’s take those in order:

1. Yes, nerves aside, one sounds better if playing from memory. Fewer distractions for organist, fewer for audience. No page turner to screw things up. No music to spread out incorrectly and screw up. No large mass of white paper paste-ups reflecting into the audience’s eyes. No leaning from left to right as your body follows your eyes across a paste-up board. Playing from memory also lends an extra bit of excitement, an “edge,” much like watching trapeze antics without a net. Of course that is impressive. But I sense that audiences seem to be moving away from being impressed by memorized performances to appreciating them for their artistic merit and heightened musical excitement. Check back with me in a few months or years on that one.

2. With memorizing, I get deeper into the music; I learn much more about the ins and outs of a piece. Most exciting of all, I get into the mind of the composer – I get a glimpse of the organization behind every note. Memorizing brings to my attention any patterns in the notes – especially where those patterns don’t match up from statement to statement. (I’m convinced there is a wrong note in the Duruflé Toccata. And I suspect there are quite a few in the Vierne Sixth. Another day.) From there, I get a chance to dig deeper and try to determine why the composer did it that way (assuming it’s not a misprint). Hey, maybe memorization would land me a job as a proofreader for publishers! (And then maybe music prices would actually reflect the reliability of the printing – maybe.) But I digress.

3. Memorization of organ music used to be more a matter of course than it is now. As it has made its comeback in recent years among younger performers, it tends to be treated as a gimmick. But it began as a sort of gimmick when Marcel Dupré became the first person ever to memorize the complete organ works of Bach. However, Dupré quickly realized how much more musical a memorized performance could be, and he certainly discovered how much easier it would be to plan multiple programs on the road when all the music to be played was memorized. But as I say above, I think audiences are now beginning (merely beginning, mind you) to get used to memory as customary rather than exceptional.

But how do people memorize? There is a difference between memorizing and just repeating until automatic. And there is a difference between being told to memorize and being taught how. I am convinced that having discrete methods to the madness makes all the difference. Knowing how to memorize, as opposed to hoping for the best, removes the mystique from it. With solid methods in place, one need not fear memorization nor wonder when a piece will “take.” I’ll not go into the O/C methods I use and was taught for memorizing music. I’ll just say that whenever I am asked, “How do you memorize all those notes?” the answer is, in all truthfulness, “One note at a time.” :)

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend