SPLIT: Organists' influence on liturgical music

Windmill, bless your heart.

I am very involved in music in my city (pop. 150,000), and I don’t know one single child or teenager who is taking organ lessons. I am involved with our city’s music club, which is quite vital and active, and I don’t know of any young organists.

I said on another thread that there are more bassoonists in my city than organists.

What are your ideas about where the organists will come from who will be involved in this “liturgical renewal?”

(There is another thread about instruments in the church that has a rather extensive discussion about the scarcity of organists.)


I think it is up to the people to inspire youngsters to try pipes. If a parent comes up and compliments your playing after a Mass, suggest to them that their child consider pipe organ lessons. If you know any pianists, broach the topic with them.

Parents need to also realize that they hsould encourage this instrument - especially if their children start on piano. They may even try to take their kids to a local AGO concert to hear pipes well done.

Parishes should try to HAVE a pipe organ because 1) it is given pride of place 2) you can’t stick a pipe organ in an average living room at home for your kid to toot around on. Parishioners need to be on board with this, too.

I think a lot of the younger generation is embracing more traditional forms of Catholicism, and they would be very open to having their children learn this instrument. I know both of our boys (and future children) will, at minimum, take piano. We will always be encouraging pipes, too. Thankfully, we have a couple of great pipe organ teachers in town, so that support is there.

People need to know that pipe organists do not have to be prodigies, they just have to be dedicated. For some reason, I think people look at all those registers, pedals, stops, and lights and think, “No way my kid could play that thing!” It’s not like that at all. It just takes a little time.

Windmill, I sure hope that you’re right about kids and tradition.

By the way, forgive me, but I have NO LIKING for the AGO. In our city for the past three years, they have blacklisted our parish because a homosexual music minister was fired after he made his active sex life public. (The Church was given the impression that he was celibate when they hired him.)

No AGO organist is permitted to play at our church, and we have the finest pipe organ in the city.

There is no sign that the boycott against us will end anytime soon.

If you have any influence, please use it.

I personally think these so-called “professional” musicians should be lined up and given a good kicking. They are depriving thousands of people of great organ music played on a great organ, for the sake of a politically-correct, immoral position. How does not playing our organ help this homosexual man, anyway? And do they honestly think that their pathetic little “protest” against our parish is going to change the dogma of the Catholic Church?

Frankly, windmill–and I hope I’m wrong–I fully expect that the time will come when AGO will boycott ALL Catholic Churches in the U.S. to try to blackmail us into accepting the sexual practices of their homosexual members.

So Catholics, start taking your kids to organ lessons NOW so that when the vote comes up, most of the organists in AGO will be Catholic (solid Catholics) and will vote against blacklisting the Catholic Church.

Out of curiosity, what is the AGO’s demands to resolve this? That he be reinstated? If he has since moved on to another job, what are you to do to make it right?

I honestly don’t think the AGO has an action plan. They just want to fuss. After all, within a day after he was fired, one of the extremly-liberal United Methodist Churches hired the man to be their music minister–and PROUDLY announced that they were THRILLED to welcome him AND HIS PARTNER and their ADOPTED CHILD :eek: to their Church and that the United Methodist Church has OPEN MINDS, OPEN HEARTS and OPEN DOORS unlike all those other homophobic churches like ours.

He probably got paid a whole lot more by the UMCs than he did at our church, and probably had a whole lot more freedom not only to live his life, but also to play more music venues. He was one of the best local organists I’ve ever heard, BTW. There’s only one other man in the city that I think could compare to him, but that man was too old to play some of the difficult works.

Interestingly, he played CHANT and TRADITIONAL MUSIC and CLASSICAL MUSIC rather than contemporary. Oh, well.

And a few years ago, he got a dandy job in the Really Big City and moved out of our city. So he isn’t hurting for work at all.

I think that one of the reasons the AGO is continuing the boycott is to convince talented musicians in the city to leave the Catholic churches and come on over to the “real” churches where they can be free to be you and me. A lot of musicians and other artists and arts supporters in our city are practicing homosexuals and are therefore not able to receive Communion in the Catholic Church. I think the AGO is trying to get these people and their supporters out of Catholicism and into the “inclusive” churches.

And it’s working. Many of my musician friends no longer attend our church. At least a third of our choir left after the homosexual minister was fired, and many of the members spoke to the media about the need for the Catholic Church to change its policies on homosexuality.

It was a MESS. I’m sure you can see that from my post. And I’m not sure how it will be solved, because frankly, if I were an organist, I would publically and vehemently REFUSE to join the AGO and I would start a separate organists organization for CATHOLICS and others who don’t approve of holding a church hostage in order to push the homosexual agenda.

BTW, this whole thing is NOT helping me and others to be more sympathetic toward homosexuals. Quite the opposite. I try hard to love them as individuals, but I hate their sin more than ever.

As an AGO member, and a musician, I can respond, allthough I do not presume to speak for the organization; my opinions are mine, and mine alone.

This really isn’t about the Catholic Church “accepting” anything. It isn’t about the homosexual agenda. It’s about not firing someone for simply “BEING” something.

Now, maybe I missed some facts or read wrong, but he was simply fired because of some knowledge that he was in fact gay and was not celibate, correct?

So he didn’t come to church and kiss his partner in front of everyone, discuss their sex life, or have sex with him in his car in the parking lot?

If he had done any number of those things, I don’t believe the AGO would have had a problem with him being fired. But he wasn’t fired for anything he DID. He was fired for being something that he IS.

This policy is consistant with the AGO’s discrimination policy which includes sexual orientation.

By the way, you are only kidding yourself if you think that large numbers of priests are not of this orientation.

He was fired because he and his partner were planning to adopt a child and announced it publicly. That’s what he DID.

The Catholic Church is one of the most tolerant churches when it comes to homosexuals. But they do not support the idea of homosexuals adopting children and bringing them up with a daddy and a daddy. This is contrary to Catholic Church teaching, and a person in the employ of the diocese cannot do this and keep their job.

If that is indeed the case, then his actions were improper, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the AGO’s position is theirs to hold …

It’s pretty sad. I think the saddest thing is that these organists have shot themselves in the foot (bad news for an organist). In order to play the pipe organ, they have to have pipe organ. There are several old churches in our city that have pipe organs, but none so fine as ours. So they don’t get to play it.

And people don’t get to listen to the best organists in the city play it. Our organist is so nice that I really don’t care that he isn’t as good as these union guys.

But it seems to me that for a musician to refuse to play is really really sad.

I think that AGO should have just written the church a really nasty letter, and then forgotten the whole thing.

I’ve never joined the AGO just because so many professional organists I’ve met are musical snobs who seem to be more concerned about stipends, wind pressures, and under whom one has studied, than in using their talents for the praise and worship of God. Y’all have given me another good reason not to join them.

Compared to all of the non-professional “musicians” out there who don’t know what a testitura is, sing with technique they picked up from Tuesday night’s American Idol, and know 4 chords that they can strum?

There’s nothing wrong with musical excellence and scholarship.

I have no argument here. It is when musicians and choir directors want to be the center of attention that is my issue. Serving as a Christian musician demands a certain amount of humility, and I have struggled with musician’s ego myself. Perhaps some my posts have betrayed a bit of this, and for this I apologise. Any liturgical music must be subservient to the Holy Sacrifice and should never be allowed to dominate the Mass or distract from it. Nevertheless, our music should be of the finest quality.

If it is any consolation or any sign of hope for your parish, Cat, I was speaking with one of my organist friends, who is in his early 30s, a while back about the AGO and he was telling me that the younger generation of organists (20s/30s) that he knows don’t really have much to do with the AGO. It’s kind of an “old-person” guild and not something they care to be a member of.

The people in the Church definitely need to foster and promote the learning of the organ with our children. It just doesn’t happen by itself. Parents need to be supportive of it with their children. Catholic schools need to promote it. Many organists started out on piano first. So, if a kid is learning piano, encourage the organ as well. Other organists kept up their piano and organ skills together so that when they play the organ, they play with such a lovely legato and line for both instruments. Sometimes, organists whose main instrument is just the organ, don’t really play the piano so well in terms of legato and line.


I agree with PGA re there being nothing wrong with musical excellence and scholarship but I also share C-C’s opinion.

Secular organ societies exist to promote the cause of the organ for it’s own sake. The organ for them, quite properly, is king.

Problem: most of the world’s organs are in churches, where organ is not the king, but servant.

Some become organists because they want to use their talents to serve the church, others because they love the instrument and the repertoire and churches are only place they can find instruments and regular work. In the latter group, some do this with great respect for their congregations and employer churches even though they don’t personally believe. Others do not and manage to be spectacularly graceless about it. There were enough of this kind of organist in my local society that I let my membership lapse. Some organists seem taken aback to discover churches and individuals - even ones that really value good music - just might do without their brilliance if they are pains in the butt to deal with and they make everyone feel belittled. Of course there is great value in the work secular organ societies do, but organists need to understand their proper place in the scheme of things once they accept church employment.

I now just stick to membership of a church music society with a very strong organist membership and my blood pressure thanks me.

That said, even then there are some organists, singers and choir directors for whom music doesn’t serve God, it is God, and given any conflict between pure artistic standards and any other issue, music trumps all other considerations.

:rotfl: One of my friends, who is an older organist, doesn’t like most other organists because of the attitudes many of them possess. He can’t stand being around a group of them. Basically, if people think opera singers are divas (which they can be some of the cattiest people - mostly those with lesser talent. I’ve found the better the talent, the more giving and loving they are), organists, according to this friend, are even worse. I don’t think he is part of the AGO either, but I could be wrong.

I have another organist friend around my age who makes the joke, “I’m an organist… AND a musician.”

I know the organ is the preferred instrument for liturgical music but I think the blend of the organ and piano together sounds nice.

For that matter I think the French horn sounds great.

Is it OK to not be a fan of the organ producing 99 to 100% of the sound volume?

Gee, paid organists in church! I’ve sung with three different organists and not a single one of them got paid to play at church. One was a scientist who had a music minor, one (who now plays for the angels) had played since she was a child, and one played professionally at a local country club. There have been some minor kerfuffles between choirs; music stands not put away, that sort of thing, but we have avoid the troubles you poor folks have had to endure.

I hope a brave talent comes to your church soon, Cat. I love pipe organs and it seems such a shame that one has been silenced by unbending egos.

This mirrors my experience. I am of course not part of professional organ circles in my own right but good friends are, so sometimes I am directly and indirectly exposed. Exposure to one particular clique can make you really sorry you didn’t stay home to wash your hair that night. :rolleyes: They don’t just tear down fellow professionals. I feel particularly strongly about the open contempt shown by some of them for the lesser mortal amateur players who don’t get out much but get a real buzz out of trying out that famous trumpet stop or climbing round inside the works when a society outing gets them access to an organ they can’t otherwise play. I got sick of hearing these harmless people having innocent fun sneered at derisively as “train drivers”. How to encourage new players - have a peanut gallery at society outings. :frowning:

Of course I also know organists who are the most humble, delightful self-effacing people around. I would certainly be a bit choosy about which organists and teachers I exposed a potential church organ player to, though.

I so agree with you! :slight_smile: That older organist I am friends with is perhaps one of the best in our city and is one of the most artistic and musically sensitive musicians I know. He is also one of the most humble people I know. He’s a musician because it is part of his soul, which is what I believe a musician, whether professional or amateur, should have. He has so much respect for the instrument, for the music and for the people he works with and works for. He is a servant to the music, so no ego. AND he is a “servant” to the mass, so the repertoire choices are always made according to what is right for the mass and are always of the highest quality.

In regards to teachers, it is important to find ones that are filled with humility, talent and a passion for the music as well as the instrument. That will definitely pass on to the pupils. My organist friend, along with my voice teacher, are two mentors I am very fortunate to have had with me throughout my adult life. Both are possessed with great ability, great humility AND great spirituality, having incredible careers - one in church music and one on the international opera scene.

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