Organist Debby Graves plays Bach, Franck and others at Hilton Head concert

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comFebruary 15, 2013 

Organist Debby Graves

  • St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church will host a concert featuring organist Debby Graves at 4 p.m. Feb. 17. Joining St. Andrew's organist will be Phyllis Mauney on harp, soprano Laura Floyd, Todd Smith on trumpet, baritone Tim Reynolds and the St. Andrew By-The-Sea Chancel Choir.

    Details: 843-785-4711

With its pedals, stops, pipes and keyboards, the organ looks pretty intimidating. More intimidating than a piano, even. But that hasn't stopped Debby Graves.

The organist at St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church has been playing the instrument for more than 30 years. Graves and the church pipe organ will be featured in a concert at 4 p.m. Feb. 17.

Graves, who's also worked as a teacher and tour guide locally, describes how she became a convert to the organ.

Question. What's the plan for the concert?

Answer. For the most part, it's classical pieces. I'm doing the "Toccata and Fugue" by Bach, the one that's played during Halloween a lot. I like romantic music so I'm doing one by (Cesar) Franck. We'll be doing a Shaker hymn tune. ... I'm excited for the concert. I haven't done a major show like this since 1979, when I did my master's recital.

Q. How did you get into playing organ?

A. I played piano from the age of 6. My junior year (of high school), I took organ lessons. I really didn't like it. When I went to college, I auditioned on the baritone horn and piano. I have small hands and the people judging me said I wasn't going to make it as a piano player. I didn't really want to play baritone horn either. I had someone suggest I take up organ. I've grown to love it.

Q. Small hands haven't hurt you?

A. It wasn't that I couldn't play piano. It's that they wouldn't think I could keep up with the other students with longer fingers. On organ, you don't play octaves like you do on a piano. You have to slide on the keys to connect them. You're not playing a sustaining pedal like you do on a piano. On paiano, when you put the keys down it will still sound. You don't have that advantage on the organ. It's a slightly different technique.

Q. Seems like you're also busier on an organ?

A. You have more things to do on a organ. Not that it's more difficult, just different technique. I've had a tremendous time playing the organ. It's been a great release, too. If I've got some tension to release or am feeling frustrated, I can just start playing and watch it slide away. Once I start playing soft, I know that it's gone.

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