How do one become a better church organist? This is one question every serious minded organist at one point in time or the other may have asked themselves or another person.
My Journey Into Organ Playing
I fell in love with the sound of the Organ. My early years were memorable.
Organ sound has been part of my childhood, which I found interesting. My love for Music and Organ playing started from the Choir at St John’s Church Aroloya under the tutelage of Mr. Kehinde Okusanya, AGSM London. My father of a blessed memory introduced me to church at an early age back in primary school at St Peter’s Faji School, Ajele, Lagos. I could vividly remember every first Monday of the Month the school Authorities gathered all the students to the church for a short service. I kept wondering the need for such services. However, the service had really contributed to my music journey. There was a particular morning; Dr. Christopher Kolade, CON was on the Organ and played for the short service while singing the hymn – All things bright and beautiful from the Songs of Praise which was mandatory for all students. I marveled, looking at the Organ console as a teenager. I was eager to meet the man on the organ immediately after the service I pretended as if I wanted to pray in front of the altar. I guessed Dr. Kolade came into the church to practice that morning. I walked quietly forward toward the chancel where I could see Dr. Kolade sitting at a very large two manual console. He was practicing. I watched him play with his feet. Since that moment, I made up my mind that one day I would become an Organist.
This article will never be complete without narrating my journey to the organ playing. It will reveal a handful of points that will help a church Organist to be better. There are lots to know, consider and even put in place by every Organist. Let us ask ourselves these simple but difficult questions:
Who is an Organist?
What makes a good Church Organist?
How can we identify a good Church Organist?
Lastly, How do one become a better Church Organist.
In my last article I talked about the Church Music Teaching Methods. So, I believe you have been informed on teaching methods in church music and have the solid mindset to give you motivation while using them. There is a need to establish a fact before we can enjoy this new article. We must thoroughly identify who can we identify as a better church Organist.
First and foremost, Organ playing in the church does not rely or depend on your age or amount of the years of your service in the church. However, if you are not dependable, skillful, God fearing and competent. It will be strenuous to be a better church Organist.
Meaning of Organist
The word organist means “one who plays an organ” especially a pipe organ, 1590s, from organ in the musical sense+-ist, or from or influenced by French Organiste, from Medieval Latin Organists “one who plays an organ,” from Latin Organum. 19c. churches often an official person charged with managing the music of the service. Organer is attested form c. 1300 as a surname (Culled from www.etymonline.com)
What makes a Good Church Organist?
Training / Organ techniques.
The position of church Organist in the service cannot be undermined. They represent a significant role in achieving the excellent standard of music in the church service.
Choice of registration determines how the organ will sound in addition to being vast in the knowledge of the liturgy. Phrasing is the life of any music we all express our emotional differently so, phrasing can be taught it’s an innate skill to heat extent.
The church Organist must endeavor to reach an international standard of Organ playing.
The use of pedal phrasing and rhythm use of stops to produce Orchestral effect.
Practice regularly with the right techniques, get a routine that works for you.
A trained church Organist must be skillful with indepth knowledge of registration that will bring out the beauty of the organ sound.
Hints on what makes good Church Organist.
Ethics, Conduct and General Musicianship
Being an organist in Nigeria is not a gainful employment.
Edith Stewart has recorded this for us about the church Organist, “Now the Organist, unless he is quite genuine artist, requires considerable grace of character if he is to fill his position.
Previous Knowledge of the piano will be a great advantage for good Organist.
The church organ must be fluent on the sight reading, and understanding of the tone colors.
The mastery of the how organ should produce a beautiful sound should always be starting point.
Learn from the Master’s and be open for constructive criticism. Explore and expand your Repertoires.
How to Identify a Better Church Organist Spiritually .
Albert Schweitzer once said, “if you are called upon to play in a church service, it is a great honor than if you were to play at a concert on the finest organ in the world…” You should thank God each time when you are privileged to sit before the organ console and assist in the worship of the Almighty.
How to identify better church Organist should attain the level. His/her playing can cause healing, deliverance or greater supernatural causations!
The better church organist should played with understanding of the music.
If you are not skillful as organist it would be difficult to achieve excellence. However, there is still difference between ministering to the head (emotion) and ministering to the spirit (innermost being)
What is expected of better church organist is pure heart and good relationship with God, in addition to skill.
Church Organists should endeavor to study his scores and learn the music possibly have in-depth knowledge of the Composer’s of the music you intend to play.
Church Organists needs to be trained Art of accompanied and knowledge about four part harmony.
With good effective training and practice, you can be sure of becoming a competent church Organist. As Organist you must commit yourself to continuous learning.
Having a certificate does not always translate to skills if you are going to succeed and become a better church organist. Efficient practice is often needed alongside punctuality and commitment to becoming a better organist. In finding your strength there is always new things to be learnt. These may include being genuine and being original.
As a church Organist you must keep educating yourself, have the courage and openness in addition to being humble, be determined to succeed. Also important is that as an organist you do not compare your self with others; rather, you should move at your own pace. Do a thorough research and read extensively especially on Organ playing, techniques and History.
Practical Tips To Help In Becoming A Better Church Organist
Here are some practical tips to help you become a better Church Organist.
- As a church Organists we should ask ourselves this critical question; how much should I practice organ every day? Practice will lead you to greatness.
The quality of your practice is one of the tool that will determines whether you become a better church organist. Leopard Auer once said, “practice with your fingers and you need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much as 1/2hours.
2. Acquire skills to make you stand out among other Organists. Consistency is the key.
3. Dedicate your time for learning and practice at least for an hour a day.
4. Understand the liturgy and various season in church calendar. The use of different registration for each verses and stanzas. The text of the music will guide you. Dynamics is also important and the mood of the music you are playing.
5. Commitment and Passion. Study wide range of repertoires from Medieval to 21st century.
Pa James Adekunle of his blessed memory opined in one of his papers present on Decadence in organ playing in Nigeria 2010. “Organists must aspire to such a height that they can hold their shoulders high anywhere in the world”.
6. A better church organist must invest in your professional development and reading books on Art of Organ playing.
7. Effective practice everyday will improve your techniques and skills that is required to be a better church organist.
8. Study extensively on various styles on Organ playing addition with great Composer’s of organ music.
9. Listening to various organ piece by Master’s.
10. Church Organists should learn skills of choir training, performing.
11. Acquired knowledge and skills that will make you stand out among other Organists.
However, it’s important to remember if you have not been practicing you are not likely to become a better church Organist than you already are.
Being a church Organists requires a great deal of commitment and passion to bring out what we do to the world. Church organist should strive for excellence performance while playing of organ in the church.
The Best & Finest Church Organists In Nigeria
Through my experience as an Organist as I have compiled my best 25 best finest church Organists in Nigeria. The following list are my personal opinion and do not reflect any guild.
- Pa. Kayode Oni. FTCL
- Ibifieyibo Harry FRSM
- Dr. Ayo Oluranti
- Adejola Adeosun
- Biodun Ojo
- Tope Olagunju
- Oluleye Akinlabi
- Dotun Olayemi
- Akin Olubi
- Babajide Odedeji
- Gbenga Oyesanya
- Korede Omopeloye
- Dr Babatunde Sosan
- Seun Jacob
- Okubadejo Tunde
- Ayodeji Ajayi
- Seun Ori Oke
- Niran Obasa
- Kunle Asaolu
- Tosin Ajayi
- Dr. Babalola Faseru
- Paul Oyejide
- Olatunji Abolade
- Akinwale Ajayi
- Alaba Akinselure.
I hope as Church Organists you have learnt something from this article.
Thank you for reading, the topic covered are available for positive progress and critical assessment. Please feel free to send a comment here or send directly to the author by mail: email@example.com
Compiled by Shosanya Babatunde Oluwaseyi, Music Educator, Historian, Researcher, Writer, Organist and Professional Teacher.
I am Music Estate’s Music Director