By Peter Niedmann
2018–A new year! What could that mean for organists? Perhaps the new calendar year can inspire us to learn new pieces. Even the most seasoned musician who has built up a substantial list of repertoire should always be learning new works. Is there a Bach chorale prelude you’ve always loved but never played? Pull it out and start learning it. Program it for a service when it’s ready, so there’s an end goal in sight.
Did you hear a fantastic piece on a recital program recently that grabbed you? Order it for yourself. Maybe you attended an AGO repertoire workshop and checked off some pieces on the list that resonated with you. Look through publishers’ mailings and websites. Explore YouTube. Drop in on a Facebook organist’s group and see what pieces people are talking about.
I sometimes refer back to an article from an old issue of The American Organist that researched organ recital repertoire and listed the most played pieces; sort of a semi-scientific way to codify the greatest hits of our field. This helps me quickly find holes in my rep list.
And, if you start on a piece and find it feels more like work than fun, maybe set it aside and try something else. There’s plenty of material out there to choose from.
A newly published collection of hymn preludes by Hartford Chapter board member, Alan MacMillan, that I would recommend: “Sing the Year Round” (Augsburg Fortress). The collection contains pieces based on a variety of hymn tunes from throughout the church year, each treated very creatively. (I’m looking forward to playing a set of three of them on a recital later this month.)
Best wishes to you for a joyful and healthy new year!