WORKSHOP #9: "News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
[This Workshop originally appeared as a Weekly Rampage, 1/13/2003]
As a service-playing organist, I am flattered by the number of people who sit and listen to the entire postlude, regardless of its length. Their patience is doubly impressive given the eruption of talking that generally accompanies the end of a service. While I don't condone this behavior, I understand that after an inspiring hour people are pumped up with energy and ready for fellowship. However, the occasional extra-high intensity of their enthusiasm has me convinced that "Postlude Yelling" should be an Olympic event. Years of struggling with this phenomenon have led me to develop a coping solution, which is to play two postludes. That's right...one for them and one for me. Here's how it works:
After the final hymn, I increase the registration only slightly to signal the change from the hymn to Postlude #1. This first postlude can last anywhere from 2-4 minutes and provides an opportunity for people to visit without having to shout over the organ, and, with any luck, move their conversations outside. After concluding the first postlude, I kick in the big registration for Postlude #2, which can last anywhere from 5-12 minutes. Hopefully by this time, those who weren't listening to the music are either gone or at least slightly winded. This arrangement has worked out far better than blasting into a single postlude at the end of the service. Perhaps that practice only serves to inflame their "fellowshipping" tendencies.
Now, I would gladly play only Bach, morning, noon, and night, however, there are those who wish to have a greater variety in the service music listings. This desire to "see" variety for the sake of variety (for those seeking it generally cannot hear the difference between, say, Bach and Franck) is unfortunate because the reality is that I receive much more positive feedback from playing Bach for postludes than from any other composer. I've heard stories about this kind of thing driving organists to such lengths as to attribute Bach's works to other composers, including the ever-popular composer John Brook.
Fortunately, my dual-postlude solution silences these critics as well. I simply choose a non-Bach composition for Postlude #1 and a Bach composition for Postlude #2. The trick is that while Postlude #1 is listed in the service program, Postlude #2 remains unlisted. (On a good Sunday, both postludes are by Bach -- variety in the listings, remember?) Additionally, this gives me flexibility on any given Sunday to discover what kind of mood I'm in before choosing Postlude #2.
So let's review this win-win solution:
--The church receives a higher return (more music) on their investment.
--It's like having a mini-concert each week for those who wish to stay and listen, helping to attract and retain new people.
--There is plenty of variety, visually in the music listings and audibly in the services.
--It retains the Bach postludes that keep them coming back for more.
--I get to play longer.
--I always get to play Bach yet my repertoire remains well-rounded.
Is it more work? Hey, we don't work the organ, we play the organ. No! It's more play! And it may be a little more complicated than we're used to but sometimes it's just easier to kill two birds with two stones.
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