Save the church! (kill the organs)

Save the church! (kill the organs)

But let’s be honest: It’s not so much the ones who have drifted away that are the problem. They’ll be back eventually, when they want to be married or to baptize a child. It’s the ones who have been driven away who’re the problem, and to solve it, the first thing we must do is kill all the organs.

Fifty years ago, there was hope that the organ, like the Edsel and woolly leg warmers, would eventually die of contempt. Vatican II gave birth to the “folk Mass,”a Peter, Paul, and Mary type sing-along that was earnest and soulful and completely right for the 1960s. It persisted into the ’70s, however, and there are still occasional sightings today, leading one to conclude that the Church, while accepting of evolution, refuses to entertain the concept in music.

If Darwin was right, the organ should have led to the piano, which should have led to the guitar, which should have led to a string quartet, or a harp, or even a return to solemn Gregorian chant . . . anything that doesn’t remind us of horror movies. But no.

Of course I strenuously disagree with this. Gregorian chant is the preferred song of the Church. By its nature it is a cappella. But isn’t the organ to be afforded “pride of place” among the instruments? Should it not be retained and maintained in church buildings if only to put an exclamation mark into the liturgy at opportune times? Please, kill the guitars and tambourines and pianos and drums before you touch the organ.

I’m with you… kill the guitars, tambourines and drums… leave the organs alone. :thumbsup:

The whole reason the organ was originally the only instrument allowed in church was because, due to all the pipes, it is the only instrument that can mimic what the human voice can do. It was meant to be an accompaniment of chant.

Interestingly, during the Middle Ages, bagpipes were sometimes used in Irish and Scottish churches where they couldn’t afford an organ.


"120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things. "


The problem is that there are fewer and fewer organists and even fewer students. Many colleges have closed down their organ major due to lack of students. And many organists don’t even have one student, and many of the students are older (not children or teenagers).

If this trend continues, I predict that in many cities and towns, there will be no organists for the Catholic churches within 20 years.

It’s a darn hard instrument to learn! I’m a very good pianist and often play piano for Mass. (I’m 55 years old.)

I’ve been taking pipe organ lessons for a little over a year now, and I still can only play 3 hymns, and they are pretty bad. I am still unable to accompany singing on the organ. My feet on the pedals still sound very clumsy–most misses than hits. I can play a few Bach preludes and fugues, and I have been playing these as postludes for the Mass. But honestly, my repertoire is extremely limited.

My lessons cost $250/month–how many families could afford to pay this for a young child or several children? Yes, I have the best teacher in my city, but even a less-experienced teacher will charge at least $50.00 hour. And the music is very expensive, too. And most people don’t have an organ in their homes, so this means practicing in a church or university chapel, and in some cases, I’m sure that there is a rental fee for this.

Heck, it’s almost as expensive as figure skating! :rolleyes:

Some people on CAF have said that it’s better to play the organ “badly” in Mass rather than playing the piano skillfully. I totally disagree with this. I think that part of the reason why Catholic Mass music is often so unpleasant is that over the last few decades, the parishes have allowed less-than-excellent musicians to play/sing/conduct less-than-excellent music.

I think it’s fine for inexperienced children and teenagers to sing/play during Mass, so that they can gain experience and skill. But I think that it’s wrong for an organist like me to play for the hymns just so that the Mass will have organ instead of piano or guitar. I would refuse to do it (unless someone was dying and it was their last request), and I think many other good musicians would refuse to play/sing when they are not capable of doing so with at least some level of basic skill. A badly-played organ does not honor the Lord or help the congregation concentrate on worshipping and receiving Jesus Christ.

So the answer to the OP is–MORE STUDENTS! This is my challenge to parents–get your kids into organ lessons. And to all Catholics–if you want organ music in the Mass, seek ways to help recruit more students, and if possible, offer to help families pay for their children to take lessons and learn to play the organ.

I personally think that Catholic parish schools should offer organ lessons during the school day. This would mean hiring an organ teacher (the parish organist, if there is one? Although not all organists/pianists teach lessons–I don’t teach piano, even though I’m a very good pianist.) This would also mean scheduling practice times during the school day or evening for the organ students, and this could get tricky, since there are often funerals during the day at parishes.

But c’mon–we gotta give a little to get a little! I have learned that in the past, nuns gave piano lessons in the parish schools. Why not start up this very good tradition again, only it probably wouldn’t be nuns, but Lutheran organ teachers. :slight_smile:

There is one more problem that was dealt with thoroughly in another thread earlier this summer (2012)–the Catholic parishes generally do not offer competitive pay to musicians, and the few good organists that are available generally play at Protestant (mainly mainline, or “old” denominations) churches, where they receive a much more realistic salary. I would like to see the Catholic Church in the U.S.A. deal with this question across the boards, and adopt some basic salary policies for parishes and their musicians. I realize that small town parishes will not be able to pay as much as the large city and university parishes, and that’s fine–an organist living in a small town does not expect to receive the same salary as an organist living in a metro area. But I think that some basic guidelines would be a good idea so that the parishes could attract organists back to the Catholic church intstead of seeing them immigrate to the Protestants churches. PLEASE–everyone remember that musicians have to make a living–they can’t be “volunteering” their skills too often or they will not make enough money to make a living. Would YOU volunteer your welding skills or your waitressing skills?


This was one of the most ridiculous articles I have ever read!

If the author really thinks the reason her children will grow not going to church is because of organ music, then… well, I think she is ignoring many other factors.

The whole article reminds me of an excuse in search of a reason.

Get rid of the guitars, tambourines and drums.

Bring back Solemn Gregorian Chant and The Organ. I’ve had enough of that sing songy feel good stuff.

Hardcore Catholic who loves Hardcore Catholic stuff. If it reeks Catholicism, Gotta love it!!

Like how could anyone not like this:

The irony of this article is that it says no one has organ music on their iTunes or iPods, and also complains about the “creepiness” of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, is that not only do I have organ music in my iTunes, included is the Toccata and Fugue, which I was listening to as I saw this article for the first time. :stuck_out_tongue:

This was my impression. I get the whole tongue in cheek humor, but the substance under it is ridiculous. The Church is clear that the pipe organ will keep its place of pride. Priests have the option of doing what they deem best for their parish. When the priest uses the organ, it is best to accept that this is best for the parish, even if it is personally distasteful.

The idea that people leave the Catholic Church over music is absurd. Anyone who thinks that, or says he does that, has a profound lack of catechesis. In any such case, the reason for defection is ignorance of the Faith.

The piece is nothing but nonsense designed to provolk and drive readership.

The Boston Globe is hardly in a position to tell the Church how to save itself, nor is it in the position to tell the Church what it’s Mass is and is not and how or why it became what it is. Catholics “who have been driven away” are not problems, nor is music a problem. The only problem the Church has is a lack of virtue - humility being primary among them - in her individual members.

Linking the Year of Faith with organ music is simply a rediculous waste of words with no other purpose than to get people upset, have them post about the article on forums like this, drive clicks to the Boston Globe website, and ultimately to increase advertising revenue.

It is a waste of words, time, engergy and hard disk pace. The Holy Father could switch to bongo drums and trombones tomorrow, and it wouold do nothing to my faith in God as the creator of the univers and Jesus Christ as its redeemer.



I love the organ. Sadly, the church I now go to doesn’t make use of theirs T_T

lol…This would place you in great company.

We have 2 services. I think the 8:30 one makes use of our electric organ and piano, and the 10:30 one has a guitar mass. Maybe all Churches should do the same to make everyone happy. :shrug:

I don’t know what to be offended by more, their want for removal of the Organ, or their bad understanding of Evolution. :blush:

What is ridiculous about this opinion piece is that the writer obviously did very little or no research on the history of church music and instruments and Vatican II. On top of that, Ms. Graham didn’t place much thought into the numerous reasons why people are “driven away” from the Catholic church. If she really believes organ music is the main reason, her eyes are closed shut and makes her look like a shallow-thinking journalist.

Oh, and as much as I love a good string quartet or harp even at mass (she seemed to believe that the evolution of church instruments should have led to them), having cantored masses that used those instruments (and I’m talking special Sunday or holy day masses… not wedding masses), they don’t support congregational singing. Perfect for solo or maybe small choir singing, but not for a packed church - even when the harp has a little amp connected to it.

I understand and respect someone not liking the sound of the organ. You can’t help what you like or dislike. I understand her critique of people seemingly having less “tolerance of the banal”. At many Catholic churches, the organ can definitely sound dreadful, so I can also understand Ms. Graham’s disdain. But other instruments at mass can sound just as dreadful. Any instrument, including the voice, is only as good as the musician using that instrument. All instruments also have the potential of sounding horrible even on the hymn choice. Ms. Graham’s did not take any of that into account, which further showed her ignorance in musicianship and music in general. Honestly, at many Catholic parishes, the musicianship is poor, mediocre at best, and this includes any instrument and voices. We could follow her line of thought and just kill it all, including Gregorian chant, because poorly sung chant is just as awful as a poorly played organ, piano, violin, guitar, etc.

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I agree with Cat in encouraging organ lessons with our young (and older) Catholics and creating easier access for them. And it can’t be half-hearted encouragement. Kids will read through that. When obstacles are continually made and poor playing of any instrument are continually portrayed at mass, it’s no wonder children or adults would not like the instrument or want to learn how to play it. Unlike other instruments, it’s more difficult to go out and hear a great organ played by an equally great organist musician. Most people’s experiences are just hearing a bad or poorly played organ. They often will think it’s just organs are dreadful. When they hear a poor singer or pianist, for example, they usually have enough listening experience to know that what sounds bad may be the musician or the individual instrument. Not all voices or pianos, or any instrument are equal.

In larger cities, the problem with organists won’t be as bad as it is the smaller cities and villages, but we shouldn’t to leave the organists or excellent musicianship, in general, to the major cities. If people place their money where their mouths are, they would do something at their own individual parishes and families to encourage children to learn music and to learn how to play the organ. They would bring decent organists in to teach and maybe even pay a decent living wage to get the ball rolling. When people hear good musicianship, they want more of it. That musicianship may even inspire little ones to want to become a musician and want to play for their parishes.

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