Cold church blues: practicing organ in the winter

One of my favourite Christmas stories is the one about how the hymn ‘Silent Night’ was written: on Christmas Eve a priest discovered that mice had chewed through the organ bellows and the instrument couldn’t be played, so he wrote a simple hymn that could be accompanied by the guitar.

Don’t ask me why I always think of that story when I practice the organ in our cold church every Christmas, but I do. Maybe I feel like a poor church mouse, with no heat to keep me warm while I practice.

Through the winter our church is heated only for services, so it has been a challenge for me to find ways to practice the organ during the cold months and not freeze my fingers on the frigid keys. Here are three hacks for practicing in a cold church:

  1. Pre-heated hot water bottle — I carry my hot water bottle with me to the church, tucked inside my winter coat. While I practice pedals only, I keep my hands on the hot water bottle, nice and toasty and warm. Each time I switch to practicing a new hymn I practice pedals first, which gives my hands a chance to warm up until I add manuals.
  2. Knitted fingerless practice gloves — My mother-in-law knit me gloves with holes for my fingers to stick through. These allow my fingers to play the keys, and even though the keys are cold, somehow my fingertips get warmer over time if my whole hand is warm. The gloves do impede my movement just a little, but I’m still able to practice effectively and there is no problem when I play during the service.
  3. Making best of the heat — when I can, I practice in the hour-and-a-half before services while the church is heating up, and in the hours following the service (for the following week), while the church is still warm. Luckily my pastor chooses hymns early enough for me to practice ahead like this.
Fingerless gloves help keep hands warm.

If you live in the cold white north like I do and need to practice organ in a cold church, I hope these ideas will help you stay warm!

Merry Christmas! — Rebekah

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Video of the week

Title of Piece (level) from The Color Collection Junior, Elementary to Late Elementary piano solos that express all of our feelings. From gorgeous character pieces to the blues, from black-key pentatonic to disco, this collection has it all!

Student playing White Frost on My Window

White Frost on My Window is a delicate, expressive piece composed over an ostinato LH. Check it out in my shop, here!

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