people can listen or just move on


Lots of thoughts flying around in my head this morning. I have been doing an online journal since the late nineties and I am still learning what’s appropriate to write about. I try to err on the side of omission but my nature is one of transparency especially in the kind of confessional writing I sometimes do here (sometimes I go offline and journal if I feel like my thoughts are too personal or might possibly offend or damage a reader).

So while there’s lots on  my mind, I’m not sure if much of it is appropriate to share here.

The underlying thing I have been thinking a lot about is how people seem drawn to and ask for mediocrity. This frustrates me to no end since I have spent my life trying not to be mediocre in my work and life.

Of course, it’s more likely that I’m just mentally fatigued on Monday morning.

In the course of writing this blog post, Eileen and I discovered that the cords that we have had hanging everywhere in the dining room have been dead for months. We (I) thought that the signal for the phone, TV, internet was coming through the phone line. Nope. Everything has been coming through the cable line. Ahem.

I nailed my postlude yesterday. After a long day on Saturday I dragged myself to church to practice for Sunday. I like to go over the entire service on Sunday, sometimes in order. I don’t practice every hymn particularly, but I do usually do one or two. I wait and go over the psalm on Sunday since the bulletin is already printed at that point.


I have been refining my own practice techniques lately to include systematic repetitions. Each time I sit down at the organ (and increasingly more and more at the piano) if I decide to rehearse a tricky section I repeat it a minimum of four times often more. I sometimes do the section slower and slower so that I allow myself more consistent accuracy and security. That way the last time I play the section will be the most correct and secure.

I have been doing this for a couple of years and it’s really paying off. Case in point, the Saint-Saëns prelude I performed yesterday as the postlude. I learned this piece in about six days. After settling in to learning it, it became apparent that there were three sections that demanded the most of my technique.

All three were a running pedal part with moving accompaniment in the manuals.


As I mentioned here before, the section is repeated in two other keys. Each section is slightly different in the manuals with elegant shifts of accompaniment emphasis.

On Saturday and again yesterday morning before church, I isolated these sections and practiced them slowly and carefully.

The result was I nailed the first two and had only a momentary insecurity in the third which was probably indiscernible to even a careful listener.

It’s telling that I mention the careful listener, because I don’t think I had any yesterday. That happens. But it is my own need to do quality work that drives me, not how people choose to listen to it.

It’s still very satisfying to do well. It’s kind of like busking. I put it out there and people can listen or just move on.

So when a colleague brags about not bothering to prepare preludes and postludes, I have to quietly remain steadfast in my own habits of preparation even though I don’t necessarily have the chops that many professional organists have. In fact this drives me to practice more often and carefully.

2 thoughts on “people can listen or just move on

  1. Hi Dad,

    Just wanted to let you know I’m reading your blog. I love you. I just finished reading an Ibsen play: “An Enemy of the People”… I think I probably mentioned it to you when I first ran into it. Anyway, I finished it. It’s very didactic, but resonates with the work at Greenpeace and living in China. Arthur Miller did an adaptation, changing the ending, but I haven’t got my hands on it yet.


  2. Ibsen, eh? I read some of his plays when I was pretty young (teens?) and was impressed with them. Haven’t read much of him lately, though. I do recommend the book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander. I know it’s not obviously related to Greenpeace and living in China, but it is a meticulous analysis of the racism and classism in the US today. I am finding it very helpful in understanding how we got here and how we persist in this.

    Thanks for reading!

    love from Dad

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