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March 4, 2005
Vol. V, No. 5

"I Can See Clearly Now"
I've been thinking a great deal recently about a subject that is best summed up by an expression popularized in politics a few years back: The Vision Thing.

The Vision Thing is about ideas and, more specifically, about the importance of ideas, especially over things like money and ego. Some people just get The Vision Thing and thank goodness for them. Even some members of the business world get it. Apple Computer is a good example. Stonyfield Farms Yogurt is another and George Lucus another. The other day on the way to work I spotted the most amazing truck grille. I think it was on an ancient Oldsmobile truck. Historically, a lot of car people have been vision people; lately, not so much.

We organists get The Vision Thing. We're big picture people. I think it comes from playing the organ. While most other musicians are physically larger than the instruments they play, organists play instruments bigger than they are, bigger than houses even. Organs use entire buildings as sounding boards!

No doubt about it, organists think big, we play big instruments and we strive to give to the best of our abilities. It's only natural since as organists we're all descended from the same great, great granddaddy organist, J.S. Bach. I know I've said it before but we are so fortunate to have Bach as a role model, so uncompromising in all his artistic endeavors. Can you imagine the old man squandering his talents or selling out his art for a quick buck? Not for a second!

In her book, "If You Want to Write," Brenda Ueland writes:
"If you read the letters of the painter Van Gogh you will see what his creative impulse was. It was just this: he loved something--the sky, say. He loved human beings. He wanted to show human beings how beautiful the sky was. So he painted it for them. And that was all there was to it.

"When Van Gogh was a young man in his early twenties, he was in London studying to be a clergyman. He had no thought of being an artist at all. He sat in his cheap little room writing a letter to his younger brother in Holland, whom he loved very much. He looked out his window at a watery twilight, a thin lamp-post, a star, and he said in his letter something like this: 'It is so beautiful I must show you how it looks.' And then on his cheap ruled note paper, he made the most beautiful, tender, little drawing of it.

"When I read this letter of Van Gogh's it comforted me very much and seemed to throw clear light on the whole road of Art. Before, I had thought that to produce a work of painting or literature, you scowled and thought long and ponderously and weighed everything solemnly and learned everything that all artists had ever done aforetime, and what their influences and schools were, and you were extremely careful about 'design' and 'balance' and getting 'interesting planes' into your painting, and avoided, with the most stringent severity, showing the faintest 'academical' tendency, and were strictly modern. And so on and so on.

"But the moment I read Van Gogh's letter I knew what art was, and the creative impulse. It is a feeling of love and enthusiasm for something, and in a direct, simple, passionate and true way, you try to show this beauty in things to others, by drawing it."


"It is our nasty twentieth century materialism that makes us feel: what is the use of writing, painting, etc., unless one has an audience or gets cash for it? Socrates and the men of the Renaissance did so much because the rewards were intrinsic, i.e., the enlargement of the soul.

"Yes we are all thoroughly materialistic about such things. 'What's the use?' we say, 'of doing anything unless you make money or get applause? For when a man is dead he is dead.' Socrates and the Greeks decided that a man's life should be devoted to 'the tendance of the Soul' (Soul included intelligence, imagination, spirit, understanding, personality) for the soul lived eternally, in all probability.

"I think it is all right to work for money, to work to have things enjoyed by people, even very limited ones; but the mistake is to feel that the work, the effort, the search is not the important and the exciting thing."

That's right, it's not about the money but that's not to say money is something we can live without. We all have needs. But we organists do generally go above and beyond without any sort of expectation of literal compensation for our time. If Bach had been paid what he was worth, he would have lived in a house of solid gold!

Of course, that's no reason to be paid badly or mistreated but the truth is our good nature sometimes works against us. Recent news of a community member being let go from their church organist position in the most unprofessional and un-Christian way was enough to make my blood boil. I've had my own run-ins as related in my FREE Workshop #18 "You're Fired!"

Such stories bring into focus the idea that some people just don't get The Vision Thing. The good news is that lots do. Some of us are fortunate to play in churches where the members support quality music and a large pipe organ for the greater good of the community and the human race in general. I'm not bragging, just expressing how grateful I am.

It's not rare; it's everywhere. Check out the Pipes Hall of Fame page. I just inducted three new members; churches from South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maine, people who appreciate music, organs and organists.

So, some parting words of advice for those who find themselves in difficult situations:

Just remember, there's nothing wrong with you. Go where you're wanted and don't settle. Get a contract. It's not a guarantee or some kind of protection. It's a sign of good intentions on the part of both parties, which is much more important. Read my workshops. Update your resume. Make a tape. Create a website (I can help, just ask!). Keep practicing and most of all (and boy do I wish I'd come up with this expression), never let them see you sweat!

Click this link to read comments and offer your own:

Updated Pages
Support our BLOGgers and be sure to leave a comment or two! The link below leads to the main BLOG page and the links below that lead to the individual BLOGs. If you are interested in contributing by writing your own BLOG, please reply to this email.

Victor Frost
"II 05" - Last month I began to discuss the organ works I have posted for free download at this site. The work Dan and I did to get Pedalexercitium online (see below) was very instructive, and I found myself relying much less on his help when it came time to post...
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Vic Kovacs
"March 2, 2005" - Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to update my BLOG last Sunday. I felt ill after the service and ended up coming home and sleeping most of the afternoon and into the evening. I honestly can't even remember how the music went. From a day to day and week...
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Dan Long
"Practicing Again (2/25/05)" - I've been getting some good practicing in lately. In addition to my gm fugue and Ich Ruf memory pieces, I've been making good progress on the D Minor Fugue. It's tough relearning music you previously had memorized but true to my workshop I'm working at it...
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Peter Stapleton
"Sister Mary Cecelia Explains it All For You" - My name is Sister May Cecelia and I am going to explain it all for you.
By way of introduction I come from a large Catholic family. Two of my sisters became nuns, one became a monk, one became a priest, and the others were institutionalized.
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Articles Library:
Added is "Pipe Organs 105: What is 'Organ Music'?" by Steve Thomas of "Before we try to understand what organ music is, we should first think about what music itself is. Music is complex- we hear sound vibrations with our ears, but it's much more than mere sound. Sound is from the outside in, music, from the inside out. It transforms our mood, our view of the world. Music is universal; it is not bound by spoken language. We respond to it from infancy, we strive to fill our lives with it. To live without music is to live impoverished."

Pipes Hall of Fame:
Recent inductees include the following churches: St. John's United Methodist Church of Aiken, South Carolina; Immanuel Lutheran Church of Lebanon, Wisconsin; and First Congregational Church of Wiscasset, Maine.

WHAT I'M READING..."The Celestine Vision : Living the New Spiritual Awareness" by James Redfield. This was a quick read and I found it very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the discussions on intuition and synchronicity. It got a little wishy-washy at the end but overall I found it helpful. Click the link below for more information on this book:
Click this link to see all selections in Dan's Book Club:


Have a great week!

Dan Long

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