Alice Letts

The pipe organ

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It had been many years since I last played the pipe organ.  I used to play regularly when I was at high school.  But then when I went down south to attend University, there were more pressing things for me to do with my time.  After I finished study and started working, I had some people asking me the same question, over and over … “are you going to go back to the pipe organ?” I had to stop and think first before I could answer her. I wasn’t sure if I would go back to playing the organ regularly.  In 2009 I could not find the time.  However in 2011 I made  my first attempt back on the pipe organ.  During the year, and then again at Christmas time.  I dug out my old books and now that I have all of my old organ music back again, I will be able to practise more regularly.

But how did I get started with the pipe organ to begin with?  My thoughts drew me back to think of my old school days.  My liaison with the pipAlign Lefte organ began when I was a very young. During church services I would frequently gaze over to the pipe organ in absolute awe. I was curious, and I wanted to find out for myself how to play the pipe organ. At our church we used to have one organist who would play at almost each and every service. When he was not available, then there was an array of other organists who would come in to play on a rota basis to fill the gaps.

One morning, I walked over to the organist who was relieving that day, and asked her if she would teach me to play the pipe organ. I will never forget what she told me, she said “come back after you have passed grade six piano”. Well that was my goal. At the time, I was still in primary school, and had a while to go yet, but it gave me a sense of purpose and inspiration to dedicate myself to piano and passing my exams.
Well, the time came when I had my certificate in my hands, I had passed grade six piano with the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music). I was so excited, and couldn’t wait to tell the organist. However, she never did teach me. Looking back now, I suspect that her telling me to wait until I had passed grade six was merely a deterring tactic. Regardless, I did manage to find a teacher to teach me the organ. My first teacher on the pipe organ was A. Fletcher, who had also taught me music theory with the ABRSM when I gained distinction. Later on I took pipe organ lessons with I. Green who at the time had taken over playing the pipe organ for the church on a regular basis.

Me at 13 years of age

I can still remember the very first time that I played the pipe organ for a service. The reason is because it was a very emotional time for me. I had tears streaming down my face in what felt like a combination of a torrential downpour from a waterfull resulting in a flood. It was difficult for me to see and I could not read the music in front of me. It was lucky that I already knew the music off by heart. That day I was the organist for the funeral of my ‘Aunty Betty’. Aunty Betty was not a blood relative, she was however, a vital part of our family and more like a grandmother to me. That day I was heavily burdened by a deep sense of loss such that I had never felt before. I was thirteen years old at the time.

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