What Kazuko Ishida aimed at in the organ class in the Bach Grove

–Kazuko Ishida wrote four articles about the organ class in The Newsletter from the Bach Grove. The following are excerpts from them.

1. I would like to consider the meaning of music to the extent what is music for us

Like every kind of music, the organ music gives us a distinctive excitement which moves our soul. I think we learn organ to feel much more deeply that excitement. Naturally we must learn the technical skill but it is not enough to accumulate knowledge and technique how to play organ. At the same time, by studying the deep and wide cultural background of the organ music, I would like to consider the meaning of music to such an extent what music is for us. No. 57 (October, 1997)

2. To learn by experience the essence of Bach's sacred music

In the organ department of music schools, students naturally have an education for concert organists. In the Bach Grove, however, I hope that students of the organ class learn by experience from another viewpoint a role of the wonderful instrument, organ. How can we learn by experience the essence of the world of the sacred music created by J. S. Bach with his heart and soul? To do so we have great difficulty originating in the fact that we live in modern Japan of which the cultural milieu is completely different from Bach's world.

In order to solve the problem, in autumn 2000 we launched a program called gThe World of J. S. Bach: A workshop on chorales and cantatash . In the program each student of the organ class takes by turns the role of organist who plays a chorale prelude and accompanies chorale singing by all the participants. Through a series of the workshop we could have a glimpse of the original role of organ as an instrument which takes part in the liturgical music in a church but not a solo instrument in a concert hall. No. 78 (January, 2003)

3. Learning from the German congregation and our Ahrend organ

In late teens, I began to learn pipe-organ to be church organist. I studied in USA 7 years during which I learned widely the technical skill of the organ music from Bach to modern composers. However, throughout this period I was always interested mainly in the organ music with the congregation, i.e., music with texts or chorale preludes.

After coming home I served as an organist at Tokyo Union Church for 14 years, then became an organist of the German Church in Jerusalem. As playing organ in every Sunday service in the cathedral built by stone, I learned by experience many new facts as though gthe scales fall from my eyesh. One can understand how to take a gbreathh or a gpauseh for the first time when playing organ in a space with reverberation. As another important experience I realized texts corresponding with music as the congregation sang chorales in German. Moreover, I was astonished at the people who really took joy from singing chorales, sacred songs from 400 or 500 years ago. As realizing those facts, I learned from the German congregation that chorale preludes can be played in a shape it should be when both the player and the congregation hold in common the understanding of the texts and melodies. Under these conditions chorale preludes become no more fragments of pure music.

When we began to make a plan to establish the Bach Grove and to think which kind of organ should be built there, I had already made up my mind firmly. Since chorales were the foundation on which Bach built his church music, our organ should be suitable to accompanying chorale singing of the congregation and playing Bach's chorale preludes.

In 1989 Ahrend Organ was built according to our plan. As playing it, however, I began to feel uneasy because of the gcomplaint against meh made by the organ. When thinking about its cause, I realized that this organ was built as a historical instrument in the method in Bach's period. Therefore, it couldn't sound beautifully unless I played in a suitable manner of that period. At the same time, I took notice of the fact that this sort of music originated in the texts of songs. The organ taught me that instrumental music in the Baroque period came from an imitation of vocal music.

Perhaps I could call our Ahrend organ a gsinging instrumenth according to its characteristic feature. Each stop sings its own song. But it sings only on the condition that a player can show to the organ clearly what he or she wants. It was impossible for me to master the way of communication with this organ in a short time. It was necessary for me to have time to change the viewpoint from the modern way of thinking and technical skill to which I had been used. Until then I had been teaching organ for a long time. However, I quitted teaching organ, since I was unable to teach what I did not understand. Since then I have taught myself for 8 years with our Ahrend organ as my teacher. Then I opened the organ class in autumn 1997. No. 93 (October, 2006)

4. The Bach Grove is the best place to learn organ chorales

gWhen coming here to learn organ, I was told: Sing!h These words show the characteristic feature of the organ class in the Bach Grove. Since the two-thirds of the organ music of J. S. Bach are chorale preludes of which the themes come from sacred songs, we cannot understand Bach's sacred music without getting acquainted with chorales, gsoul songsh of German people, and singing them by our own voice. Therefore, I set up the motto of the organ class: gSing like reciting chorale texts, play like singing choralesh. It is important to know, however, that chorales are not songs for a solo voice but for the congregation by which they are continuously and repeatedly sung for many years with one voice, one accord, and all their might. Since we have now the congregation who loves to sing chorales in such a manner, I think, the Bach Grove became the best place for organists to learn chorale preludes. No. 94 (January, 2007) @@@@@