Mar. 16, 2016

Playing Barefoot

Ever see this? ... it's a little like watching an organist playing barefoot or in their socks.
Playing the pedals without footwear at all has us working without the tools we need; it's like trying to drive a screw with a hammer.
Two important tools would be missing: 1) a drill (to form the pilot hole) and 2) the screwdriver -- and not just any screwdriver; it has to be the right size and kind.
It's pretty much the same with an organist's footwear; and not just any footwear [ See blog, Balance in Organ Playing Part I, Shoes Parts I-VI, The Ten Commandments Of Organ Practice].
There are those who would take issue with this; some organists play shoeless, they practice that way, perform in public that way, and prefer it that way.
Depending upon where their lessons are conducted, sometimes organ students are not allowed to wear shoes into the studio; and in some homes where practicing takes place, people don't wear shoes inside the house; this engenders the habit of never wearing shoes to play.
It's never a good idea to play the organ in street shoes; they're generally of poor construct for playing the pedals, lead to many mistakes in playing, and any dust, dirt, or other grime on their soles can be transferred to the pedal keys this way, which is disrespectful not only to the instrument but to the institution which owns it and every other organist who expects to use it afterwards.
The surfaces of organ pedal keys should always remain clean, free of dirt, polished, and easy to glide upon with leather soles.
Playing in our socks also has some major disadvantages: trying to play a Romantic or Modern virtuoso piece this way, without an elevated heel, increases the amount of ankle movement required, especially in rapid passages, which can be harmful to the ankles if they're flexed too much, and certain maneuvers, such as playing 3rds with a single foot by stepping across an intervening pedal key, becomes impossible; the situation can also become comical during a recital when the console is in full view of the audience and the performer is either walking in their socks to the bench or going through the motions of removing their shoes or slippers to play; some churches and auditoriums are also very cold in the winter and this is no environment in which not to be wearing footwear.
When we're forced to play in a very cold church, even the wearing of organ shoes can be dangerous to the feet because organ shoes fit tightly, even with thin dress socks on, and are always right on the edge of being too small for us.
When organ shoes are on for a long time in a cold church the toes can freeze, which can have us in big, big trouble; the toes can get red and swollen, which indicates first degree frostbite.
This has been known to happen before, and those organists who are forced to perform during winter in a cold church often put two pair of woolen socks on their feet instead of organ shoes for this reason, because they're less likely to freeze their feet.
The other option would be to put the organ shoes on right before the performance and then take them off at the soonest opportunity, so that they're on the feet for the shortest time possible.