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?
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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.