Why the organ?


#1

I wonder who it was that thought the organ was suppose to be “churchy”-like music to be played in a church?

If so, how does it sound “churchy”?

Anyone have a clue?


#2

Bach, I suppose. Who could do better than most anything Bach wrote?

“Sheep May Safely Graze”, on a great organ, is a transcendent experience, with innocence, beauty, worship and wonder woven through it.


#3

[quote=Paris Blues]I wonder who it was that thought the organ was suppose to be “churchy”-like music
[/quote]

It’s hard to imagine an instrument (without electronics) which is more versatile than an organ. It has eight octaves of range, multiple registers and voices, and can be scaled (in terms size and acoustic energy) to accomodate a small room or a huge bascilica (without electronic amplifiers).

So I don’t think it was a case of somebody deciding that the sound of an organ was “churchy.” I think someone asked, “now what sort of instrument can fill a bascilica with a wide range of music?” and (500 years ago) the answer was obvious. So a lot of liturgical music was composed for organ, and the instrument became strongly associated with church music.


#4

great organs in Cathedrals had a feature called “vox humana” or “human voice” which emulated the sound of a choir of thousands of voices singing. the range and versatility of musical expression of the organ surely make it most suitable to express the range of emotions and types of prayer expressed in worship, from despair, mourning, anguish and sorrow to joy, rejoicing, thankfulness, etc. My problem with organs in Catholic churches has always been that they seldom are played by someone with more than basic training, and seldom used to their full effect. It takes a good Protestant congretation to pay someone enough to make an advanced music degree worthwhile, and to really rock with the organ, let out the stops, and let the organ do what it does best: express the full range of human feeling that emerges in encounters with the Divine.


#5

[quote=Paris Blues]I wonder who it was that thought the organ was suppose to be “churchy”-like music to be played in a church?

If so, how does it sound “churchy”?

Anyone have a clue?
[/quote]

I have had similar problem. I love Baroque music and many pieces written in that period had the organ as part of it. (Organs were also prominent instruments in theaters.) My Uncle walked by my room and asked why do I always listen to church music. I told him that it wasn’t church music. Most of Handel’s Oratorias have the organ in it (because they were played in theaters.) The silent movies of the 1920s had an organ accompaniment and if you ever watch a rerun of a soap opera from the 50s or listened to an old radio drama from the 50s or before, you would hear the organ in the background. The organ is also a secular instrument as I have demonstrated. The reason is because, as other people have stated, it is a very versitile instrument.


#6

[quote=Paris Blues]I wonder who it was that thought the organ was suppose to be “churchy”-like music to be played in a church?

If so, how does it sound “churchy”?

Anyone have a clue?
[/quote]

I once tried to find the source of organ music in churches and learned that the earliest record dates from the 4th century (sorry, can’t remember where I found that). But clearly, this was not the organ as we know it in its full-blown baroque majesty in the 18th century. Did you know that in the 18th Century, the great cathedral organs (many of which are still in use) represented the most complex technological achievement ever known?

As for “churchy” – I prefer plainchant. Early Presbyterians in Scotland referred to the organ as “unholy whistles.” But the grandeur of a big organ in a stone building with a reverberation time of, say, 3 seconds – when you can feel the floor tremble beneath your feet – certainly expresses the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans” better than anything else I have come across.

One of the problems today is that most people have no exposure to “serious” pipe organs. Most parishes make do with the electronic counterfeits. No comparison!

If you have never experienced an “important” organ played by an accomplished organist, it is worth traveling for. I would suggest starting with a recital rather than just showing up for Mass in a big church. In a recital, the glory of the instrument is showcased for its own sake and is not subordinated to the Mass.

For more on the glory of the pipe organ, go to the web site, Pipe Dreams. pipedreams.publicradio.org/


#7

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