Practice makes Perfect – or does it? Talk by Hilary Shaw

Talk by Hilary Shaw at St Mary the Virgin, Cheddon Fitzpaine
Tuesday 9th May 2017

Hilary Shaw (SOCA committee member) gave a presentation about this aspect of an organist’s creative life. The attractively situated church at Cheddon Fitzpaine is worth a visit in its own right, and it was made to feel warm and welcoming for the occasion, with refreshments in an interval. The organ is a two manual tracker by Osmond of Taunton dating from about 1900, with a concave straight pedal board and a ratchet swell pedal – a bit of a challenge in other words!

Hilary began with a survey of Organ Tutor books, highlighting that many of the older standard works were male oriented, that the business of practice only occupies a very small section in most of them, and not at the beginning. She supplemented the information with some online sources *, and a handout from the Lyme Regis Organ School.

In the relaxed atmosphere there were dialogues with members over their own experiences – by no means all had taken up the organ before coming of age. This is important because the young have the advantage when it comes to retaining music in the memory. Hilary revealed some of her own disciplines in practice, such as its duration – evidence suggests little correlation between length of practice and quality of result – and of maintaining a regime which includes scales and exercises.

She emphasized that eliminating wrong notes immediately was important for accurate performance, and revealed surprising details of very recent research which proposes that talking out loud (to oneself) during one’s practice can help, and that practising a piece speeded up rather than slowed down can be valuable.

Hilary convinced us that an informed evaluation of our practice techniques would be beneficial both to us and to those who have to listen to our performances.

Report by Ian Carson

Notes provided by Hilary for this talk may be found on the ‘Tuition‘ page of this website.