The Elderly Novice Virtual Organist
This page documents my experiences of learning to play a (virtual) pipe organ, after having not played any keyboard instrument for over 45 years, nor even ever having been near an organ console. It is never too late to learn something new!
Who is the Elderly Novice Organist?
I am a retiree living in Mexico, born September 1955 (age 67, at the time of writing this). On 15 July 2022, I finally commissioned a Hauptwerk virtual organ and started to practice on it. My previous experience was learning the piano from the age of 6 to the age of 17. Also, I got the pedalboard and bench a few weeks earlier, and practiced for about half an hour a day; however, without sound, this was of limited value. I had not even seen an organ console before I got this one, and had not played any keyboard instrument for over 45 years; the only keyboards I had used since then were computer ones.
I had been looking at virtual organs for a few years before finally deciding to get one. Apart from the substantial financial outlay, putting together such a system is no picnic. I was also worried that I would never be able to play to my satisfaction (I was looking to play primarily the organ works of J S Bach, which are not noted for the ease with which they can be learned and played). I finally took the plunge and started buying components in November 2021.
At first it was indeed very hard. I likened my attempts to play Bach fugues to cutting a tunnel through a mountain of granite with a hammer and chisel. What was especially difficult was coordinating the manual and pedal parts (although I was surprised how fast the pedals could be played). But it is quite remarkable how the hard work paid off. Things at first appeared utterly impossible and that I would never be able to play became feasible (after a considerable amount of practice). Then after considerably more practice they became much easier, and eventually even second nature. Prevailing over these difficulties has given me a tremendous amount of satisfaction.
The first piece that I became able to play to an acceptable standard was the "Dorian" Toccata BWV 538/1, within six months of starting to learn (T + 6 months, where T is 15 July 2022). However, the first recording I offer is dated about 2 weeks later, during which my playing improved significantly.
Overcoming the numerous apparently insuperable difficulties has been a very positive experience. Don't let anyone tell you that you are too old to learn anything new - it is attitude of mind that counts.