I am an experienced pianist and have been tapped to play the organ at church for years, but I play it without pedals and while I have learned to choose and combine stops according to my own taste, I wanted to learn more about how stops are put together on organs. And I want to learn how to use pedals more than the occasional dominant and tonic uses I now when the music allows my time to find them.
This book is just what I wanted. Harold and Catharine Crozier Gleason have kept this method relevant through eight editions since it first appeared many decades ago. The book has explanatory text, illustrations, progressive exercises, and a nice selection of graduated pieces. The book assumes that you begin with a level of keyboard skill (piano, they say) of the level where you can handle the Bach 2 and 3 part Inventions.
Part 1 provides text that introduce you to organs, how they work, classes of pipes, mixing stops, and registration. Part 2 is just two pages providing an outline of this method. Part 3 introduces you to playing the organ on just the manuals. It begins with very simple exercises and soon provides a mixture of held and moving notes and combined touch. Finger substitution is an absolute requirement of organ technique and is taught quite well and its cousin, the finger glissando (sliding to neighboring notes). The section on how to play multi-voiced works and articulating the different voices so they are heard clearly is quite helpful. Part 4 introduces some practical issues of technique for playing pieces rather than exercises and provides more than 40 useful short pieces that give you experience in a variety of techniques and require you to use everything you have learned so far. I also enjoyed that the authors provide a few samples of the pieces in original notation along with the modern notation so you can see how different they are.
Part 5 introduces the pedal from how to sit at the console, very simple exercises including step-wise, small intervals, heel and toe, foot substitution, alternate toes, wide intervals, broken cords, harmonic intervals (playing two notes at the same time), and chords. Part 6 provides exercises and pieces for manuals and pedals together and begins very simply.
Part 7 provides some perspectives on performance practice from various periods and places including ornamentation. A table of ornaments is provided. Other issues such embellishment, notes inegales, fingering, touch, phrasing, articulation, the doctrine of affects, rubato, style, and interpretation. Part 8 covers the practical issues of playing for sacred services.
Part 9 provides scales for manuals and pedals. The appendices provide interesting material about organs around the world from various periods, information about composers of organ music of the Renaissance and the Baroque, a bibliography for further reading and a glossary.
The book is bound in a very sturdy way that will stand up to long use. However, you will have to work to get it to lay flat at the organ (at first) or use other books to keep it open to the pages you are working on.
A very useful text for pianists being used as organists, organ students, and anyone interested in developing beginning organ skills.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI