I always wear organ shoes when I play the organ even when it is just practice. However, when I visited Riga, I didn’t have them with me. I was wearing some slip on flat shoes and it felt odd but it also had a straight pedal board so I thought that may be the ‘problem’! So today, on an organ I play every week, I did an experiment on different footwear on the pedal board. I was bare foot, wore boots, flat shoes and then my organ shoes. I used a grade 7 pedal solo piece which is in the scales part of the syllabus.
Bare foot – I found playing bare foot really quite hard. My feet slipped off pedals but without control or stuck to the pedals making it harder to move quickly off one pedal and on to the next one. I also found one foot got in the way of another, probably because my feet are quite wide and flat! My leg muscles had to work much harder bare foot as every note I played my feet had to be completely lifted off and moved.
Boots – My boots were a synthetic fabric with a rubber sole. The sole of course prevented the ease of gliding from one note to another and I even heard them squeak at times! They gave me too much ankle support reducing the freedom of movement I need to get around the board and moving from sharps/flats to natural notes. There is a slight heel on the boots and that helped a little in comparison with bare foot, but not enough to make these good organ playing boots.
Shoes – My patent shoes are very beautiful and shiny, with a rubber sole, but they are rubbish for playing the organ! The synthetic finish means there was friction between the shoes meaning they didn’t allow independent movement of each foot. I had the freedom to move my ankles much more but the shoes allow my feet to be wide and flat which lead to an inaccuracy of movement and playing across the pedal board. The shoes have a slight heal but not enough to assist with moving around the pedal board. That along with the rubber sole, they are not easy to play in.
Organ shoes – My Mary Jane organ shoes are perfect for playing! They are leather with a suede sole and 3cm heel. Wearing them, my feet are small and narrow. I can feel my feet next to each other without any resistance and the pedal board beneath them. The suede soles allow for easy transferring between notes and the movement is silent! The heel really helps me reach notes and my muscles are less strained as some of the ‘lifting’ is already done for me.
Organ shoes are definitely the shoes for me. Here are all the videos together.
Some people wear dance shoes or dress shoes to play. I haven’t tried either. At the moment I wear black Mary Jane Organ Shoes, not because black is my favourite colour, but because I can play a voluntary or hymn at the beginning of a service and join my choir easily in the correct uniform. I only wear them in church as I don’t want them to get dirty. Dirty shoes could scratch the organ and make them harder to play in. I’m not sure Mr Totney would approve of choir robes and gold shoes! My feet are still growing and so to have more than one pair of suitable organ shoes is pointless. One day I hope to have a pair of organ shoes in every colour.