Tips for Beginning Organists

Our ward has five organists who alternate playing for sacrament meetings. How is it that we have more than the usual one or two? The answer is that we encourage our pianists to learn to play the organ.

Competent pianists who want to play the organ can learn basic skills that will quickly enable them to play in church. Following are tips for playing the organ and a quick introduction to the instrument:

Pedal board and volume (expression) pedals: The beginning organist should not worry about using the pedal board. Proper pedal board technique can be learned later. Keep the volume steady when an appropriate level is established with the volume pedals.

Manuals (keyboards): Most meetinghouse organs have two keyboards, called manuals. The lower manual is called the Great; the upper manual, the Swell. Play hymns with both hands on the Great.

Fingering: There are many fingering techniques for playing the organ, such as legato, finger substitution, and glissando. Beginning organists can improve their fingering by practicing on a piano, trying to play smoothly without using the damper (right) pedal. Moving parts should be played legato. When the fingering becomes awkward, sacrifice the legato of the alto and tenor parts first. It is sometimes desirable to tie frequently repeating notes, particularly in the bass and tenor parts. Use a precise attack and release of the keys. An experienced organist can suggest fingering that could be marked in a personal hymnbook.

Tonal families: There are four tonal families on an organ: Principal (Diapason), Flute, String, and Reed. The individual sounds are marked on stops and activated by either tabs or draw-knobs.

Pitch: The stops are marked with numbers that indicate pitch, such as 8′ (same as the pitch written on the music), 4′ (octave higher), 2′ (two octaves higher), and 16′ (octave lower).

Couplers: These allow a stop for one manual to be heard from a different manual or pedal. For example, if the “Swell to Great” coupler is on, the organist can play the Great manual and hear stops from the Swell division. The pedal board Bass coupler, if available, offers an improvement to the performance of an organist who is not yet using the pedal board.

Registration: The registration refers to the stops selected for a particular hymn. The stops can be manually selected or, with some organs, programmed. For hymns, 8′ and 4′ Principals and Flutes can be used for the manuals, with 16′ and 8′ stops selected from the pedal division. For clarity and brighter sounds, 4′, 2′, and mixture stops could be used. Strings also add clarity. Reeds add power and brilliance. Each stop has a unique quality, volume, and pitch. Beginners can experiment with the stops until they feel confident using them.

Vibrato, tremolo, tremulant, and crescendo pedal: These controls are not recommended for congregational hymns.

Hopefully, many beginning organists will pursue formal training. In addition to building musical skills through practice and training, accompanists should remember to pray to contribute to the spirit of the meeting.Paul R. Howarth, Quail Ridge Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Green Valley Stake

[illustration] Illustrated by Joe Flores

My Motherhood Manual

As a mother, I have often wished that my children had come equipped with instruction manuals. Sometimes it is hard to know how to raise them properly. But I do know that my calling as a parent is important, sacred, and eternal. Fortunately, as members of the Church, we have many resources to assist us in rearing and teaching our children. With the aid of these resources, I have compiled my own motherhood “manual.”

In a three-ring binder, which I keep close to my scriptures, I have included scriptural verses pertinent to being a parent. For instance, Mosiah 4:15 reminds me to teach my children “to walk in the ways of truth and soberness.” I have also included “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” additional counsel from Church leaders, and the resource book Teaching, No Greater Call (item no. 36123; U.S. $2.00). The Church also offers many other helpful materials such as A Parent’s Guide (31125; U.S. $1.25) Family Guidebook (31180; no charge), the Family Home Evening Resource Book (31106; U.S. $5.00), and For the Strength of Youth (36550; no charge).

To further personalize my manual, I have added ideas for family home evening and family traditions, as well as goals we have set together.

I know that motherhood is a sacred, important calling. When I get caught up in the everyday tasks of caring for my children, I know that my motherhood manual will help me quickly refocus my perspective.Brenda Minor, Suncrest Fifth Ward, Orem Utah Suncrest Stake

Emergency Preparedness Game

Often when I watch the news on television, I see reports of natural disasters. With each new report, I am reminded of the counsel given by Church leaders to be prepared. Since our family did not have an emergency supply kit and preparing one seemed overwhelming, I wanted to find a doable solution. As my husband and I counseled together, we realized that we didn’t have to accomplish the task alone—we could enlist our children’s help.

To involve everyone and make preparing for an emergency seem fun instead of daunting or upsetting, we decided to have a scavenger hunt as part of family home evening. Together we could gather items for an emergency preparedness kit. Considering family members’ individual needs, I made a list of supplies for our search. For starters, the baby would need a bottle, formula, and diapers, while my husband would need sturdy clothes and work gloves. I also found ideas from information I had saved from Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment lessons.

At the start of our family night, we discussed possible natural disaster situations and the importance of being prepared so we don’t have to be afraid (see D&C 38:30). After our discussion, we divided our family into teams and gave each group an empty laundry basket and part of our list. Then we had our scavenger hunt throughout the house, collecting the needed supplies. The children had a great time gathering the items and choosing which clothing to include. Within an hour, we had items for a complete emergency kit—tailored for our family’s needs. What once had seemed an overwhelming task became a fun activity for our family, and we now feel better prepared should an emergency arise.Windy L. Hasson, Celeste Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Sandstone Stake

The Church offers helpful suggestions for preparing emergency supplies in a booklet titled Essentials of Home Production and Storage (item no. 32288; U.S. $.75), available in distribution centers. Regarding emergency storage, the booklet advises everyone to have portable containers with the following: water; food requiring no refrigeration or cooking; medications and critical medical histories as needed; change of clothing, including sturdy shoes and two pairs of socks; sanitary supplies; first aid booklet and equipment; candles; waterproof matches; ax; shovel; can opener; and blankets (see p. 7). The booklet also recommends preparing a portable packet with valuable family documents, such as family history records.

[illustration] Illustrated by Beth Whittaker