Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Archive for October, 2011

Integrity Is Like The Weather

“Integrity is like the weather: everybody talks about it but nobody knows what to do about it. Integrity is that stuff we always say we want more of . . . We want it in our schools and our houses of worship . . . So perhaps we should say that integrity is like good weather, because everybody is in favor of it.” (Henry Cloud, Integrity, 2006

As musicians we have been given great gifts that through work and perseverance we share with the world in a multitude of ways from teaching to performing to composing to writing. But without integrity or wholeness of character, our musical gifts will become unusable or at least less fruitful. So what is integrity?

The dictionary definition of integrity uses three words: wholeness, unity, and honesty. “When talking about integrity, we are talking about being a whole person, an integrated person, with all our different parts working well and delivering the functions that they were designed to deliver.” (Henry Cloud, Integrity, 2006)

In their book The Integrity Advantage, Adrian Gostick and Dana Telford identify ten “integrity characteristics.” Let’s examine how these “integrity characteristics” can be integrated into the life of the whole musician—the musician with all the different parts working well and delivering the functions that they were designed to deliver to students, colleagues, and audiences.

1. You know that little things count. If you don’t lie or cheat on the small things, you are not corrupted by larger temptations.

The popular expression “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is poor advice for the musician of integrity. As teachers, performers, and church musicians our lives can become singular as we hone our craft alone in a practice room. Yet as practicing musicians we constantly are called to interact with the public. Each of our “small” actions is open for scrutiny. Have you ever been tempted to make a “quick copy” of a piece of music for a student or choir member knowing that you lack copyright permission to make that copy?

Integrity is a choice.  Let us as practicing musicians practice integrity in our musical lives.
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist

To Lead a Congregation You’ll Need to Play the Pedals

Recently I Googled the phrase, “Church Music Ministry”, and found an article with details on how to become a church music minister.  I learned that to become a music minister there were eight steps, with the fourth being:

“If you play the keyboard, take some organ lessons. To lead a congregation    you’ll  need to play the pedals, and that takes at least some instruction – and loads of practice.”

To play hymns effectively “loads of careful detailed practice” is a must.  But, let’s take a moment to discuss the goal for the “loads of practice” each organist must do to achieve good hymn playing.

Luther D. Reed shares this insight:  “A poor organist will make hymn playing a          commonplace thing.  A good organist will challenge the intelligent interest of the congregation and charge its hymn singing with thought and feeling.”

An organist can reach beyond “playing hymns as a commonplace thing”, analyzing and practicing every hymn as if it was a new recital piece by:

  •    Marking pedaling and fingering
  •     Practicing parts, combinations of parts and finally all parts
  •     Working with a metronome to achieve the proper tempo
  •     Reading the text and marking phrasing in each verse

An organist can effectively “challenge the intelligent interest of the congregation” by:

  • Playing interesting introductions that indicate the mood of  the hymn
  • Using creative registrations to enhance the text
  • Playing imaginative interludes and alternate harmonizations

An organist can “charge the congregation’s hymn singing with thought and feeling” by:

  •  Studying the texts and tunes of hymns
  •  Knowing how the hymns chosen enhance the worship experience

Are you using your hymn playing as a ministry? Does your hymn playing allow the text to speak to a people in need of  healing, comfort, or joy? Are you a committed player of hymns?  As organists, let us strive to add more than commonplace hymn playing to the next worship service we play.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, church musician and concert organist

How to Achieve Excellence in Hymn Playing–Questions to Ponder

“A poor organist will make hymn playing a commonplace thing. A good organist will challenge the intelligent interest of the congregation and charge its hymn singing with thought and feeling.” Luther D. Reed

Questions to ponder…
* Would you judge your hymn playing to be 100% technically correct every time you play a hymn? 80%? 60%?
* Is your hymn playing interesting and imaginative?
* Is your hymn playing musical?
* Does your hymn playing encourage and stimulate congregational singing, suggest a mini-recital or, worse yet, stop congregational participation?

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty questions.

* Do spend enough time practicing hymns?
* Do you analyze and learn a new hymn as if it were a new recital piece?
* Do you spend enough time practicing hymns?
* Are you comfortable with your knowledge of organ registration to change the registration of the hymn for each stanza?
* Do you spend enough time practicing hymns?

These very practical ideas for all church musicians were excerpted from Hymn Playing by Dr. Robert Mann by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, church musician and concert organist.

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