Organize Your Skills

A Hands-On Pipe Organ Workshop
with David Adams

On May 6th 2023, aspiring organists from across the dioceses gathered in Monkstown for an organ workshop. The event was organized by Church Music Dublin and led by organ tutor David Adams. David started with an overview of the pipes available on the Monkstown organ. We learned that the diapasons are the ones you see on the outside of organs. Hidden inside are the flutes which are wider and the “strings” which are thinner pipes. David encouraged students to spend time experimenting with the various pipe organ sounds.

Each student took turns to play a pre-prepared piece of their own choosing. We heard pieces by Bach, Samuel Wesley, Nadia Boulanger and Caccini. It was a very supportive group, with each student receiving a round of applause for their playing. David offered advice on registration and articulation to improve their performance. Each student had the opportunity to replay sections of their piece to apply what they learned from David.

Three students played pieces from Bach’s Eight short Preludes and Fugues. David introduced us to the golden rule for playing Bach: add some air to the leaps and smooth out the stepwise notes, or to put it in musical terms: staccato for the arpeggios and legato for the scales. He also demonstrated how to make trills brighter, and encouraged us to vary the timing of repeated chords to make the performance more interesting for the listener.

The coffee break provided an opportunity to chat and peruse the large quantity of sheet music donated by Mervyn Cooper of Glenageary parish. The students greatly appreciated this kind gesture and everyone took a few pieces to try at home.

Throughout the morning David entertained us with anecdotes about each piece of music. The relaxed atmosphere provided plenty of time to discuss the challenges of playing the most complicated of musical instruments. David offered advice on fingering and playing the pedals. When practicing David encouraged us to start slow and be patient. We also learned that Bach played pedals with just his toes, and not his heels. How do we know this? Among other things, all the organ stools at the time were very tall, so he couldn’t reach the notes with his heels.

The workshop was an entertaining, productive and encouraging experience for everyone present. David improved the playing of every student, regardless of their level of experience. Raymond Russell, organist at Monkstown, played a couple of pieces to demonstrate the versatility of the organ. Every student went home with new playing techniques and a goodie bag containing educational material from Church Music Dublin. Visit to learn more and join our mailing list to stay informed of future events for organists and singers.

The above photo features David Adams (organ tutor) with Yuliya (Howth), Anna  (Castlepollard), Carol (Bray), Rosemary (Newtownmountkennedy), Natalie (Killiney), Harry (St Columba’s college}, Lauren (St Columba’s college), Kevin (Kiltiernan).