I love to play music with lots of notes, and I like to play those notes as fast as I can. Going WAY too fast is my musical besetting sin, and it’s been with me a long time. Should I get nervous, my cure is to go even faster. As I get older, I’ve learned to appreciate that each song has its home–the perfect key, the perfect range, the perfect style, and the perfect tempo, so I can play slowly; I just don’t like to.
When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I became the church organist for our church. That job demands not just playing the hymns for the service, but also a prelude, music for communion, and an offertory. The organist has wide latitude here, and you get to choose what you like. It’s nice if the songs complement the mood and message of the service, but that’s not required. If you’re young and inexperienced, you’re really focused on playing what you can get through with as few mistakes as possible.
One morning a couple of irate older ladies came up to me, and accused me of playing an Irish jig for the offertory. No, it wasn’t a jig–wasn’t even Irish! The song was one of the greatest hits of the 18th century, and by Bach, to boot. Couldn’t have been more classical. I must have played it at top speed, since it met my “favorite song” criteria: tuneful and lots of notes which could be played rapidly.
That song was one of my mom’s favorites, and it’s still one of mine. I play it a little slower now, with a little more finesse. Mark Hayes’ masterful arrangement puts a new twist on it, which makes this 250-year-old hit just a little more contemporary.
The song? “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”