I saw this and I thought these were very wise and inspirational words. Part of a speech from 12-31-13 before a delegation of organists.
Dear brothers and sisters,
I would like to affirm my esteem for you before everyone, to pay my respects to your achievements, and, if possible, to repair the unjust way society treats you.
Indeed, it is necessary to recognize that you are an ignored group. Even the place where you exercise your art is hidden, invisible to the great masses who, moreover, ignore you or don’t pay attention to you. Our modern times, infected as they are with materialism, become delirious with sports heroes, frantically applaud the gods of the cinema, but they don’t know how to appreciate your noble art, which unfolds itself in the sphere of the most pure spiritual values. Few clap for you; rarely is there someone who gives you a compliment for a piece which you have so laboriously prepared and played with your entire soul.
You are a badly rewarded group. Let’s leave aside the arguments which are always odious; but it is certain that you have chosen (and I say this to your praise) a branch of the musical art which is presently probably the most unselfish.
However, you are a group of great worth. You render a precious service to the Church, you have a role of primary importance in the unfolding of the sacred liturgy, you have a beneficial influence on the soul and spirit of the faithful. Because entire congregations, even against their inclination, are exposed to your actions and many profound and noble impulses from your soul, they are indebted to you who, with your harmonies, touch the most intimate fibers of the heart, and bring to life in them feelings of adoration and aspiration to goodness.
You are a glorious group. When doing your job, you are so close to the Lord! In a way, you also, like the priest, are the delegates and representatives of an entire people and you praise the Lord in their name: you gather together all the voices, all the lamentations, all the sighs of the faithful, and you express them to God through the voice of the organ, sometimes joyous, sometimes sad, sometimes weak, sometimes mighty.
I have addressed this deserved testament of my esteem to you with all my heart. And now, permit me to make some recommendations to you. Truly, as noble as your art is, it also imposes great responsibilities upon you. What are they?
They can be boiled down to two: good technical preparation and an ardent sense of responsibility.
I am quickly going over the first: it is natural that the organist must be versed in his art and consequently have studied enough (there is never enough!), and that he must constantly stay in practice, in order not to decline from one day to the next.
I insist on the second: the sense of responsibility. I just spoke of the power exercised by your music upon the spirit of the faithful: if the organ cries, they experience a feeling of sadness; if it explodes with solemn and triumphant sounds, they feel overcome with a festive atmosphere. It is an honor, but also a heavy responsibility. The organist must draw from his instrument the most sweet and the most celestial melodies. But what can one say, if he draws instead secular songs and ditties? Or if, giving himself over to inspiration, which he perhaps possesses—or does not possess because of insufficient technical preparation—he tries to improvise, deforming the rhythms, using poor melodies, without skill, strained, empty, monotonous, without life, and at times a dissonant joke? Thus, the organist makes a living by disturbing the solemnity of the rite, offending the sensibilities of the people present, by distressing them and troubling them.
The organist who is conscious of his duties will have taken care to diligently prepare his pieces (and not trust himself to a stuttering and deformed way of tearing into them), choosing from the truly artistic and sacred musical repertoire [pieces] worthy of the Church and of the sacred liturgy.
I alluded to improvisation.
I pray you, dear organists, with all my heart, I beg you not to yield too easily to the temptation to improvise. Leave improvising to those who have exceptional natural gifts and a well prepared technique. Be humble; and play [pieces]: even simple, they will at least be correct and have a certain logic and, thus, they will please the ear. But certain improvisations make one’s hair stand up.
I will say in conclusion that the organist, if he wants to discharge his role truly well, must be a person of faith and of prayer. Don’t open your eyes wide: it is true. If the sacred organist is not a person of faith and piety, he will be like someone who speaks a language without understanding it. His cold and conviction-free discourse will never be able to stir up intimate vibrations and spiritual trembling among listeners. If, on the other hand, he is a person who feels pious and religious faith at the bottom of his heart, he will bring to life a wave of piety in his listeners, he will elevate them in a divine atmosphere, will stimulate them to holy ideas, will inspire them to a holy discipleship which the Divine Judge will repay someday with abundance.
In the meantime, I wish that the talents put to the service of the Church by those among you who have accomplished professional study and earned an academic diploma from a conservatory or from our Pontifical Institutes of Sacred Music, should be fairly recognized from the financial point of view, according to the norms of canon 231 of the Code of Canon Law, for the greater benefit of the embellishment of the sacred liturgy, which is “the summit to which the Church’s activities aspire, and at the same time, the source from which all its energy flows.”
And now, with all my heart, I give you the apostolic blessing, and may it accompany you in your ministry and your profession as organists of the Church.