It’s Monday at 3:25 pm and I’m in the nave of Grosse Pointe Congregational. In 50 minutes I’ll walk across the street to St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran church for my weekly organ lesson. I have 50 minutes to try to learn the middle section of Bach’s Fugue in G major. 50 minutes to perfect one of Hayden’s Sonatas. 50 minutes to do my exercises from Johnson’s Beginning Organist Theory Book. 50 minutes to practice all of what was assigned to me last Monday at 4:15.
My illegally copied music is worn at the center where I’ve folded and unfolded it many times. My teacher has underlined notes that I have miss over and over, obscuring their original meaning. Dynamic marks have be circled and re-circled, illegible comments written in the margins, and pedal marks added out of shear desperation to get it right.
This was my choice. I asked to take organ lessons and, however it may appear, I do enjoy it. I enjoy being and organist when I know the piece and my fingers move without my consent. When I love the song and practicing is like piecing together a puzzle and not getting my teeth drilled. When there are no distractions for my mind to wander to. When I’m alone in the church and nobody can hear my mistakes.
I’m a conditional organist (My organ teacher would grimace to hear this). I like it when the conditions are right. But rarely are they ever perfect. When I know the piece, it’s not something I should be practicing. I don’t pick out the songs I play and they’re not pieces I adore. School is always on my mind during the winter and the sun in the summer. And it is an odd occurrence when I am alone in the church.
It’s even worse when I’m actually in the lesson. My organ teacher is a graduate of Michigan and Juilliard. He’s a prominent member of the Anglican Organist’s Association. He’s conducted a world-renowned choir on countless tours across the globe. And here he sits, glasses in his hand, rubbing his forehead, listening to me blunder my way through a fugue that has been performed by people far better and far more diligent in their practicing than I. Or a sonata that once resounded through a 17th century manor. Apologizing doesn’t seem appropriate, and it’s not something my pride would allow for.
People hear that I play the organ and they comment on how wonderful that is. Their mind immediately jumps to what they hear in church or on a Christmas CD. That’s what I reverie, but it’s not where I am. And sometimes I fear it’s not where I’m headed either.
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