Christian Allphin, a junior studying music, tip-toed across the black stage, heading for the organ, careful his shoes didn’t clack on the hard floor. Sliding onto the bench, he flicked the lights on over the pedals and removed the cover. He started to play.
He’s practiced these songs hundreds of times, learning every note and chord. Despite Allphin’s practice time, his mind starts to race, wondering if he’ll make a mistake in front of the thousands of people.
This is what students who are studying the organ have to go through at least once in the semester. Daniel Kerr, the director of organ studies, helps students do their best in that type of environment.
“I always play the first devotional of every semester to model for the students how it should go,” Kerr said. “After that, it’s the students.”
However, the performance for these students doesn’t begin at the organ: It begins with getting dressed.
“Anything that will distract from the music, we try to avoid,” Kerr said.
The organists aren’t allowed to wear wristwatches, fingerless gloves, extra bracelets, or unusual hairstyles. They also want to avoid geometric patterned ties, jackets and blouses.
Allphin has previously played for devotional five times.
Between five keyboards with 61 keys each, 120 stops, 32 pedals and five volume control pedals, there are approximately 5,856,000 possible combinations to make up a single devotional song. With three songs per devotional, that brings that number up to 17,568,000.
“There’s a great depth of music that can be performed on (the organ), beyond the hymns you hear in church,” Allphin said.
According to Kerr, prelude music falls in the list of most important devotional aspects. Twenty minutes of prelude music fills the I-Center to help students prepare and feel the Spirit. The organist must also measure their pieces to end exactly at 11:30 a.m.
“You have to be comfortable playing in front of a lot of people, and you have to practice a lot,” Kerr said.
Allphin said practice usually takes at least three to four hours a day. This much practice helps him overcome fear about playing at public events.
“You have a very strong sense of accomplishment when you finish something and then perform it well,” Allphin said.
At the end of the postlude, as the students finished filing out of the auditorium, Allphin’s practice finally payed off. Clicking off the organ lights and sliding the cover back down, Allphin strolled off the stage.