How to argue organ over piano
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,390
    Yes, that seems completely reasonable.
  • Yes, it is a J.W. Walker & Sons of 1875, though the design of the organ isn't much different from a typical small English church organ of 1775 or even 1675, except for the addition of a 20-note pedalboard.

    And on Harmoniums, there were even ones which had electric blowers and 32-note AGO style pedalboards and up to 3 manuals. They even made ornamental pipes to add to the illusion that it was a pipe organ.
  • Except that they didn't have keralophons in the 17th and 18th centuries.
    Should we assume that your high Victorian instrument is in pristine condition?
    We have a Walker of some 25-30 ranks here in Houston, at St Stephen's Episcopal.
    A very fine and versatile tracker instrument, a neo-Baroque tonal design through an English looking glass. It's about 20 years old now.
  • I suppose what it means by "Pristine". It is nearly all original save for the fitting of a separate electric blower and a new light. The "new light" is no longer functional (spare tubes/globes are no longer available for it) and so we're waiting on a consulation with the organ builder to look at options for fitting a new one. I wouldn't mind having a light over the pedalboard installed while he was at it! The instrument is 100% functional. The key covers on the manual are worn, but add to the whole lovely antique feel of the instrument.

    The Keraulophon stop is something of a horn-sound. It is a little slower in speaking, so I usually play it with the stopped diapason to fill out the sound.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,010
    Used to have a Jardine tracker at a school in their gorgeous little chapel where I once was the director of music. still has train station written on the side of the case when it shipped in
    the mid 1800s. was about 10 ranks

    was restored while i was at post

    loved it
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • B. Ruelas Ford;
    With regard to songs such as "On Eagle's Wings', those aren't hymns. "On Eagle's Wings" in particular stole its melody from a pop song in the movie "Gigi" [a young Parisian girl being trained to be a High Class prostitute]. The melody is from the song Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier sing while reminiscing about their past, the chorus is "Ah, Yes, I remember it Well".
    You might try to educate the priest you're working for in the differences between these "religious songs" and real "hymns". [but it's usually hopeless, if you're male you have a chance, if you're female, the priest won't listen at all].
    A hymn is a poetic text in praise of God, with a regular meter so that it can be sung to tunes written in that meter, and the verses can all be sung to the same tune. That's what makes them so useful, the meters are regular, and can be used for many different texts, and the congregations can really SING them.

    I don't understand why this discussion includes all this talk about the use of piano OR organ "TO ACCOMPANY" hymns. The organist LEADS the congregation's singing, the only person being ACCOMPANIED would be a professionally trained Cantor or other soloist.

    It's the organist's job to set the phrasing and the pace of the hymns, and to lead the congregation into keeping up that pace; the organ is able to do this because it can be heard by any size congregation whereas the same can't be said for the piano.
    The piano's good for 'accompanying' a Cantor, but not for leading the congregation, a loudly singing congregation can't hear the piano. And if it's amplified it produces cacophony, no help to anyone: the organ can lead a congregation in song, the piano can't.

    But, like my experience has taught me [60 yrs. of it], unless you're working for an exceptional pastor who knows his musical and liturgical limitations, there's not much hope of improving the music he's choosing. Liturgical idealists can't survive in regular Catholic parish churches, it's easier to work in another denomination, because you don't really care what music they use, or how they butcher their services, or if they follow their liturgy or not!

    Thanked by 3Jam Organist27 dad29
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    You might try to educate the priest you're working for in the differences between these "religious songs" and real "hymns". [but it's usually hopeless, if you're male you have a chance, if you're female, the priest won't listen at all].

    Wow. That's a pretty insulting generalization (towards priests.)
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  • And painfully accurate.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    And frogman, you've experienced that personally? ;-)
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,124
    I have seen that generalization over and over. Yes, it is insulting and yes its true in a number of cases.
    Thanked by 3Gavin Ben Yanke Jam
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    It would be wonderful if this forum could consistently seed hope and inspiration, rather than despair. Just sayin'.
  • I am the music director for a church that has a beautiful pipe organ and on top of that a beautiful 7' Steinway Model B. So which one do I choose? The answer is both. I am trained in both organ AND piano and so I am not biased when it comes to choosing which one to play. I use my ears and my judgement to make that decision. Some pieces are meant for the organ, some are meant for the piano and some are meant for neither. Don't fight it.

    We are a huge church and the piano can be heard just fine. If you know what you're doing and have the proper microphones, you can also mic the piano and not have any negative repercussions. We are constantly checking and rechecking the sound. I never just let the sound be. I am always tweaking. But that is all I am saying on the matter. It is what I say next that is important.

    I cater to the youth, the old and everyone in between. I don't choose the music or the instrument I play based on my likes alone. I am very observant when it comes to our congregation and our pastor. I know when a piece works and I know when it doesn't work. We use chant, contemporary music (Matt Maher, Fernando Ortega, Hillsong etc.), the schmaltzy 80's music, standard hymns etc. We use everything whether I like it or not. I know when to play the piano and when to play the organ and when to use neither.

    But if you really want to know the truth it is really not about me, the congregation or even the pastor. The truth is it's about God; plain and simple. If I can in some way bring people closer to God through my music than I have done my job. My pastor is an amazing man. He has opened my eyes to so many things and I think it took me awhile to realize what is truly important, but now that I know what is important the rest really doesn't matter.

    Thanked by 1elaine60
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,659
    Pegwhit, that is the key, I think. You have to know your congregation and pastor. Mine would run me out of town over contemporary music and pianos. Evidently, it works for your people.
  • Peg Whit's post should be required reading to all on this list as a way of seeing how the focus of musicians in the liturgy that for centuries was to serve God and trust and follow the leadership of the church fathers as being led by the Holy Spirit has, in a very short time, totally reversed focus.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    The best argument I have made for organ over piano has been to use the organ. The congregation hasn't heard much of it for a long time (just one other organist, who is a sub, not a regular Sunday musician). Many people have commented on how they find the organ much more reverent and how the music is so much more beautiful with the organ involved. I've received zero complaints about it, which is odd, because usually the whiners are the loudest ... so I can only assume good things from the lack of complaints so far.

    The best way to argue beauty is to present beauty. It speaks for itself.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,659
    Our organ conked out for two weeks a couple of years ago, when we had a roof leak in the swell chamber. It ruined a windchest and killed the power supply. The congregation was quite worried about it, and many told me how happy they were to have the organ back when it was repaired. No one said they missed the electronic piano we used during the organ repairs.
  • ex-user
    Posts: 12
    I came for the answer, "how to convince pastor that organ and not piano is liturgical instrument".
    I expected the documents, and they are existing, but in USA there are "smart" documents of Bishops that intentionally leaving the hole for a commercial use of liturgy.
    Sorry for a bitterness. The architecture of Altar and Sanctuary never meant any instrument especially baby grand piano even to be able to have a spot. To play PIANO as PIANO in a big hall it designed only to have the desk to be opened! Also I do not know a SINGLE piece of music WRITTEN as a sacred music for a liturgy. I do not take poor composers as pop/rock etc , OCP guild etc, nor I mean Protestants. But even Protestants did not forbid use of piano as strict, I do not see a composition written for PIANO. The arrangement of orchestral music is another situation!
    I was expecting the documents, and was expecting that the cultural level of priests would let them to understand, that piano as upright is no use in Sanctuary, piano as baby grand C,D, or any possible size has a history of developing a CONCERT instrument, has obviously a great sensual quality unless organist playing it:-) and I just have now a dilemma: I am ruining liturgy even if I use it: after Communion; with only classical music selections; as an accompaniment- no matter: I am put in a position to make the distraction from praying and from religion.
    What I am trying:
    1.I will leave stupid priest- hah , where for God sake the intelligent one?
    2. I will better to do it after Communion with classical music- at least to educate the big mall, the big church McDonalds
    3. well, I will IMITATE organ, as best arrangements, I will imitate a harpchichord...
    ALAS: they all saying after Mass: "It was SO beautiful when you played piano, we enjoyed"-
    and I am cursing catholic priests who made me to be an abuser for a privilige to pay rent and bills.
    It is my ESL , do not pick on grammar, i will delete anyway soon.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,586

    We all feel your pain.

    There is a HUGE probem with conformity today. Priests who use the organ and Gregorian chant are heavily pressured by other priests to drop it - causes too many complaints from people who hewar this and then ask their pastor why they can't have it.

    At a Catholic high school graduation Mass, the plan was to do the lovely a capella Gospel Alleluia from Africa the school chaplain from Africa loved and the students were proud to sing it. For more than 6 months thec choir sang (and after the 3rd week, themselves pointed the chanting) of the responsorial psalm in Anglican Chant - choir singing in parts. They were very proud.

    When it came time for this mass the students (who normally are proud and excited about showing what they do that is different and "better") flat refused to sing this music and HAD to sing the poor responsorial psalm and gospel alleluia they sing in their parent's church...

    Absolutely floored me.

    It is not that they do not like the organ - many of them (priests) have never heard one played - or it is played, played poorly. But everyone else uses the piano, so....why be different.

    An entire series of stunnign videos of the Mass with the organ and choir singing chant flooding YouTube would be one way ty educate people...

    The Catholic documents changed over the last 50+ years.

    They used to tell us what we could not do to remain Catholics.

    Today the tell what we can do...and have little to do with establishing a Catholic culture in Liturgy and Music.

    I woudl suggest to anyone in your situation that they sit down and get the priest to agree to one Mass with organ of those vigil masses of early masses...that woudl make you happy (and me) and get the organ back in their ears. That should open the door to using the organ at other masses as well.

    noel jones

    PS: I am writing this as I go to meet with a church whose organ died and should not/can't be resurrected (1970's Baldwin drawknob with a fine walnut drawknob console - keyboards and drawknobs were built by a pipe organ supply house so it's still a great console - taking offers...) but the point of this is that it diad last week and they are working hard to replace it right now. They HAVE to have another organ - they rented a loaner to get them through.

    You may have guessed is NOT a Catholic Church.
  • donr
    Posts: 949
    We have a very small community. We can only fit approx 180 people in the church.
    When we first arrived we used a small Yamaha piano and guitars. Someone donated an organ but no one ever played it.
    For Easter I talked my wife (pianist) to play the organ every Sunday. Now that she is used to the sound, when she does sit down to play the piano it sounds very weak. There is simply no better sound than an organ for Mass. It fills the church with beauty and just makes you want to sing.
    The Organ is a "Lowrey" so its not perfect but it sounds way nicer than the keyboard.
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  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,586
    Sustained tone over percussion tone.

    An accordion accompanies liturgical song better than a piano.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,390
    I have a hard time thinking that a Lowrey would be a better instrument than a well played Yamaha (real) piano. Or is the Yamaha an electric keyboard?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I am likewise skeptical.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 843
    Perhaps this is the answer. It's got something for everyone: organ, piano, percussion, and it's "upbeat" or "spirited" or whatever other adjective you prefer to indicate non-sacred entertainment:
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • ex-user
    Posts: 12
    The problem is clergy who only thinks to please a givers, bigger church, bigger collection is the indicator of Faith! - for dioceses.
    In my experience, parishioners are easy switching to mighty organ even if they are shocked first time,sure,cosmic size of sound,not comparable with any other instrument, thats why it is Organ! but in 2-3 months they start to tell they can not even imagine to hear piano AFTER organ at church.
    Clergy: poor, financially dependable, uninspired creatures.If parishioner "immortalized" his name by buying or donating for parish a piano (hah, why no one donating a pipe organ?!)- then priests are in slavery, they need to please a contributor, so he continue make a fat contributions.
    Also, if some fat contributors just like "piano sound" because it is a nostalgia for youth and church of 70-80th, priests are, again, in slavery, they are saying "those people are a huge givers, we need to please them".
    Priests are completely obsessed with a collection : "you did not obeyed to play piano and collection is down".
    "Ladies told they are switching to another church, where there is no organ".
    Well, I am saying to myself only: God with them, ladies and contributors, who comes to enjoy karaoke singing their trash favourites of 70-80th, let them go.
    But priests are saying : " ..and then you have your check out of what they like, and they will not like that convent/monastery music".
    Sure, why, of course they need sex and drugs, such is a human nature, sure.
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    Much to my disappointment, a local church of mine has a hybrid organ (diapasons from 8' through to mixture and a festival trumpet are real pipes, rest electronic sounds), but the darned thing is nearly never played. I demonstrated my ability to play it and the parish priest didn't want me there because of the risk of turning parishioners away who didn't like traditional music...

    Just going to wait for him to retire, or stick with being in a Cathedral Church choir.
  • donr
    Posts: 949
    Adam, the Yamaha is a keyboard... however the Lowrey does have one setting that is very full and way better than the keyboard and I would assume a real piano as well. I am sure my wife would rather play on the real piano over the organ, strictly because of fact that she is a pianist, but the organ definitely has a nice full sound that any piano just could not produce. Understand that it is not a home model Lowrey it is a commercial version and there is only one setting that appeals out of almost 40 or so.
    Take it for what its worth.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,909
    "Also, if some fat contributors just like "piano sound" because it is a nostalgia for youth and church of 70-80th, priests are, again, in slavery, they are saying "those people are a huge givers, we need to please them"."

    This strikes a chord (no pun intended). I also support the theory that some people are anti-organ (or anti-anything else inserted here) because they have a preference for something, or as Sigrid mentioned, it reminds them of something else and they would prefer not to have the reminder in their face every weekend. We have a little Hammond organ where I am the music director, and it actually doesn't sound bad, especially with an actual organist playing it (used to be pianist who refused to touch organ but the choir director convinced her to try it). However, I played it two weekends in a row and then Father asked me not to play it anymore: we have a Roland keyboard in the front of the church that we just purchased about a year before I took over as director. Sigrid would also mention that this is also about the money spent on the keyboard ("Why is our director not playing the keyboard we just bought? Didn't we buy that to replace the organ?") This really reminds me of a passage from a great book that I'm reading "Why Catholics Can't Sing" by Thomas Day. Specifically, I'm reminded of the passages on de-ritualization regarding the High Mass: two examples given, both examples included people running in fear from the Latin High Mass. These days, the organ and chant remind some of our older parishioners of exactly that: the "horrors" of the High Mass, and they want nothing to do with it. Therefore, they kick and make a scene because Vatican II was supposed to "do away with all of that" (even though V2 didn't say anything of the sort).
  • ex-user
    Posts: 12
    OK I need really to mention it: to play organ being a pianist means to do wrongs!
    The organ under hands of "pianist" might be somehow at least smoothly played: but the mystery not happened if registration wrong and pedals omitted.
    Even under hands of a concert pianist who never heard about registration and articulation and pedals etcetc,- organ became NASTY UGLY monster,and the unbelievable combinations that pianists set by "hit and miss" can resurrect a Devilishness in Sanctuary!
    but if it is a good pianist, he rather will ashamed by majesty of possibilities and more often will to diminish volume, adjusting it to a weak harp sounds. The feeling of pianist on organ bench are same as a dog on a wall, so they using a swell pedal as a piano right pedal.
    Without Pedals, the low base sound which is a concrete of overtones,is not bring to work a manuals, well, organ can be used without pedals of course (manualitet) ONLY if one who dares to touch KNOWS what to do.
    " choir director convinced her to try it"- common situation. But usually a "pianist" is a "keyboardist", lady who either High School Band and Choir conductor, or - taxi driver and policeman who plays at local bar: the 70th, 80th, Octavo Series and tons of a "sacred " free samples are just the same pitiful 3 chords with arpeggio as accompaniment (and choir proudly saying, we sang sacred music " God So Love The World by Stainer "- Geezzz, it was in arr. Leavitt of however did it- POP chords- all of that is keyboard arrangements for a taxi drivers at best.
    Thats why congregations afraid of organ: ONE needs to be organist! Piano skills are not a help: organ is nothing about piano. The organ registration is everything, it has a code, it has a chip of Holiness once it right. The transformation of parish follow immediately, i swear.
    Even digital organ can pipe organ imitate well, if used well!
    But still somehow there are rednecks, who wants saloon piano and banjo, alas.
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    Just to comment on the above post, I often tell people that the difference between playing organ and piano is like the difference between playing tennis and squash. Both games involve hitting a ball with a racquet, but the technique is very different.

    I particularly make the point that the way the piano and organ sustain sound is different. Sustain pedals do not exist (well, not on church/classical organs anyway), and it isn't just a matter of loud/soft, but of tone colour (ie registration).

    Another way to put it is that it's like watercolours and oil paints. Both involve using brushes to put paint onto a surface, but the techniques are very different and you can make a real mess of it if you don't understand this!
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  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,909
    I'm often asked the question of the difference between organ and piano. Sometimes, I am unable to adequately answer the question, especially when someone is complaining about the organ sound. Father has asked me why I insist on playing the organ, and I stated that the technique was different, and that the use of pedals makes the bass parts more effective. As you can see, I didn't really have a good answer for him.
  • We just fired our Music Director who insisted on using an electric piano on virtually everything and only used the organ when threatened with their position. This MD had NO concept of organ registration and apparently had no feet. The 4th grade level piano parts were taken over directly from piano to organ and occasionally the "Manual to Pedal" coupler was used. This MD also rode the transposer control like American Pharaoh. No wonder the organ was not better received.

    I was pressed into service as organist to fill the gap until a permanent organist is found. My first act was to help haul the piano out of the church.

    At our first 'organ only' choir rehearsal there was a little pushback, the choir wanted to use some of the 'canned' piano accompaniments, but I said "just try this, I'll win you over." For all the reasons some of our distinguished commenters brought up previously, the choir AND the congregation found the organ much easier to sing to. The organ's sustaining, 'breathing' like the voice, and lack of percussive attack were all apparently factors. Our deacon, reportedly the parish's most severe liturgy critic, said that it was the best music service he had ever heard at our church. Of course a lot of this had to do with the heroic efforts of our young stand-in choir director, but the switch from piano to organ made a huge difference, and comments from the congregation after the masses bore this out.

    It is my personal opinion that a piano makes a church sound 'small.' The mass, or any service of any denomination, sounds like a grade school play. The piano has many revered places in the world of music, the church just isn't one of them. The organ is such a versatile instrument that it can roll with any of the punches, you just have to know how to use it. It can be subtle with Salicionals and Celestes or Dulcianas, or majestic with full Diapason choruses up to the mixtures and chorus reeds. Contrary to many people's thinking, it can be used with traditional or contemporary music equally well. You just have to know how to do it.

    The use of the organ with traditional settings in the Catholic Church such as chant and old-school hymns is well known, and is a musical no-brainer. The best chant and small congregation registration is the old standby Great 8' Flute and 4' Principal (thank you Virgil Fox). You can build from there.

    I detected some negatives in this thread about some of the newer 'pop' hymns introduced into the church, and I guess this is a matter of taste which I would not criticize, each to his or her own. What I would say about the use of organ for this music is to play it more like a Theater Organ. If you have some large Flute ranks (especially with a good tremulant) and sharper Strings, use them in theater style registrations and change from single manual playing to a two-manual approach with block chording as is a common Theater Organ approach. We have also very successfully integrated the use of a more 'traditional' organ with guitar by using very neutral registrations as well as sustained, non-melody-driven accompaniments similar to those that a keyboardist in a pop band would play. Pedals come in handy when a bass player does not show up. These can always be MIDI-ed to a synth producing an electric bass sound if need be.

    Another argument against the organ appears to be cost. In recent years, technology has helped to solve this with computer programs such as Hauptwerk which can turn ANY MIDI-equipped keyboard into as large or small an organ as you would like. With a keyboard or two, MIDI pedals if you are so inclined, a moderate computer and the church's existing sound system, you can have a good sounding organ of any time period for your services, even switch-'em-up during your services if you want. Last Christmas, I played most of the mass in our auditorium (used for additional masses-church was full-happens every Christmas and Easter!) on a beautiful traditionally voiced English 'pipe organ' of some 25 ranks. During the more 'sappy' Christmas carols, I used a Mighty WurliTzer! If you want a good all-around service-playing organ, that comes with the Hauptwerk software, there's even a FREE version. Those who favor the Baroque have an entire palate of organ programs (called sample sets) to choose from. There are magnificent French Romantic organs available as well, all stored within a computer and available for less than the cost of an electric piano normally used in saloons.

    We are blessed with an organ with some modest resources, definitely not an Allen or a Marshall & Ogeltree, but a workable service-playing instrument, fortunately with MIDI capability. Our sister parish 20 miles away is considerably more wealthy as indicated by the contents of its parking lot on Sundays. They have the same brand of organ as we do, but a 3-manual drawknob console version with about 5x the resources. I talked to them recently and they pretty much looked down their noses at our modest instrument. My comment to them was "It's not the size of the locomotive, but the engineer at the throttle!" So be it for ANY organ used in worship. In capable hands, most all, INCLUDING HAMMONDS, can be made to be musical.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,659
    I think a lot of this comes down to having musicians who know what they are doing, and why. There are too many out there who are not real musicians. They play, they sing, but they essentially have little formal training. They are also lacking the years of real experience that can make or break a musician. Salaries are not good enough in many places to attract qualified people. It is a case of, you can pay for the higher level of music you want, or get the low level of music you are paying for.
  • In our church, one of the directors for another choir was pushy and can't even read music. It is important to have adequate experience to run a church choir, and with proper style music. Also, I like Noel's statement "sustained sound over percussion sound". It works well when we have organ sound and we had more attendance when we started because we used organ.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,005
    At Our Lady of Walsingham, before moving into the new church (now the parish hall) we first had a two-stop US Army field organ. Then we used my own Hinners 6-octave, 8-stop, 1-manual reed organ (with electric vacuum blower). It easily lead up to 100 people. When we moved into the church we were given an Allen. After letting my in-laws' church try to use my Hinners (the didn't - preferring amplified piano) I sold it the Shepherd School of Music at Rice U. where it is kept with other historic, specialized instruments, and is used for historically correct performances. There is no excuse for using a piano because a church doesn't have room or money for an organ.
  • Some in my congregation tell me they like the piano essentially because they can't hear the piano, and like to hear the vocal harmonies alone. I don't argue with them, and then I do more stuff a capella. They appreciate this, as well.

    (And yes, I register the organ modestly when it is just choral numbers, but recall that many Catholics treat congregational hymns as choral numbers, as well, which is the group from which, I think, this comment comes).

  • Can someone help me understand the Eagle's Wings hatred? I am as tired of it as the next guy, but it is scripture based. Why is this song the hill to die on? I am far more concerned with hymns that have semi-heretical or theologically confusing texts than I am with the melodic gymnastics of On Eagle's Wings.
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  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,244
    Well, I hate to disagree with folks, but I prefer the piano (as long as it is decent and in tune) to an awful organ or any number of guitars.
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  • I am a pianist struggling to be an organist- not a pianist on the organ- and the organ can sustain hymns like no other. However, a well played, good-quality piano accompanies a Schutte song better than an organ. It's instrumentation. What about saving the piano for an offertory or communion hymn and using the organ for the rest? If you are the pianist, you do not have to settle for "sentimental" piano accompaniment. Use a lead sheet and make up your own more solid accompaniment.

    I am learning organ because it does add something to the liturgy. A lot, actually. However, I do not regularly use it at mass because I would rather play the piano well than the organ badly.

    Also, are you a newer director? It is so easy to thow the baby out with the bathwater. I know of a director that came in and did something similar. The people at the parish felt like he looked down on them. I am the MD that followed him, and many people had some soreness from that experience. Though I believe the previous MD and I have many similar beliefs, goals, and ideals for music in the liturgy, I am taking a "show them beauty" approach. When they hear the Durufle Ubi Caritas, then "whatsoever you do" pales. Like snow. Baby steps. I wouldn't throw everything out. Bring in beauty more and more. Play a prelude, even on piano, or one song, then show the beauty of teh organ on those other pieces.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,387
    PolskaPiano, the melody has to be much of the reason for disliking OEW. One could sing the verses on a psalm tone, and they'd be no problem (try it if you want).

    On the other hand, the refrain doesn't come from Psalm 91. It seems to be a few lines cherry-picked for sentimentality and consolation. That may appeal to people when they are feeling emotionally needy, but when they aren't, it can eventually come across as patronizing and annoying in a song that is so overdone.

    As an aside, though, your 'baby steps' approach sounds quite savvy.
  • Actually, psalm tones would be quite lovely. I can hear them in my head now.

    Good point on the refrain, though both Isaiah 40:31 and Exodus 19:4 reference being borne on "eagle's wings." The rest is quite fluffy. I never thought of it as patronizing (probably because I learned it as a child).

    The baby steps are quite practical for myself, as well. I graduated from a local catholic college with a degree in liturgical music, but was not taught chant or Latin! The exposure I got to good, beautiful liturgical music happened in College Chorus with the Congregational director.
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  • OEW is just poor music—it's not outright heretical like some of the more blatant Vox Dei ditties out there. I would certainly take it over many of the other sacro-pop travesties out there.
  • Schoenbergian,

    The composer does to that text what the Devil himself does, quoting it in the Gospel.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,917
    The entire body of music of the Catholic church eschews accompaniment by rhythmic instruments.

    (The HTML shortcuts are inoperative!)

    Yes, well, the entire body of Protestant hymnody is agnostic on the question, so the piano, like a dread disease, snuck in.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,137
    Which must be how Catholics got this two generations after Trent:
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  • jcr
    Posts: 90
    The fact that pianists are in far greater supply than organists has produced a remarkable result. Instead of organists coming into a period of great demand, the Church, in typical fashion, has simply turned to pianists to fulfill its music requirements. This is not surprising to me, but I do lament the fact since the loss has had a very negative result on several levels.
    I am aware of a number of rather poor pianists who have obtained jobs as "organists" (after all, the keys are the same on the organ and the piano") who play both the piano and the organ in the beginning of their employment. Soon, they play the organ less and less and the piano more and more. One day an announcement appears in the bulletin stating that the congregation will hear less of the organ in the future because the program will be taking a more contemporary direction and the music written for such music is written more for piano.
    The organ is not the same instrument as the piano, of course. My wife was an organist first and took up piano later. She plays both instruments very well, but the technique of each is distinct. I am a singer and conductor. Like many singers, I slipped through my piano proficiency examination by the skin of my teeth. I don't try to sell myself as pianist or organist-or even as a trumpet player although I did play professionally for the Army for a short time. A musician's skills are acquired through effort, submitting oneself to the direction of a teacher or teachers (which requires a degree of humility few people can understand), and the process takes many years to mature. The Church wants to take shortcuts (budgetary and in locating competent help) and the pool of good organists is not growing. Many able people simply find that the effort is not compensated for with the career possibilities before them.
    Thanked by 2irishtenor CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,659
    Let's face it. A good organ costs a heck of a lot more than a piano. Then someone has to be paid to play the organ. We don't spend all those years in school at great cost to work for nothing. There are more people who call themselves pianists even if some of them are not very good.

    I did all this a bit backward. I played organ and didn't have piano much until I got into college. I had enough piano background to read notes and such but not much more than that. I could do the 'proficiency' thing, but much preferred the organ. I took two semesters of piano to keep the department heads happy. I do not call myself a pianist and the voice went sometime in my fifties. Still an organist and do some conducting.
  • jcr
    Posts: 90
    Your "backwards" approach parallels my wife's. She was organist for a parish at the age of 10, but didn't start piano study until college.

    As a student (more years ago than I like to think about) in a rather large music school I never had any difficulty finding a fellow student who was primarily an organist. They were certainly outnumbered by violinists and pianists, but there were always some number of students who aspired to make Church Music a part of their career activities. It is now 22 years since I left my university teaching job (after 30 yrs. of teaching) so I'm not sure of the current situation, but I have heard rumors of music departments in colleges and universities reducing or eliminating organ programs. I think it has improved some lately.

    One point I wanted to emphasize is this. I have been accused of stubbornness (imagine!) and arrogance because I think that one who has studied music seriously for a long time has something to offer regarding music (imagine that as well!). It is never recognized that the self-taught (an incompetent teaching a fool) is the arrogant one due to never submitting to the humiliating as well as humbling instruction of a tough taskmaster of a teacher who has the growth into things that the student knows nothing of in store for the one willing to accept the discipline. I would never have put myself through some of the things some of my teachers insisted upon. However, in most cases they were right to push me like they did.

    Choose teachers well for this reason. It is always possible, of course, to be too loyal for too long and that can cost you time if not more, but the discipline is valuable more than you can know at the time.

    I digress too much. Keyboards are not equal. I think that a good electronic organ is still superior to a piano for church. We were able to obtain a Rodgers 676 Allegient. It has two ranks, AGO pedal, etc. With a good external sound system it would be an acceptable church organ. I believe it was in an Episcopalian church. Our cost was $5,000. It is certainly superior to pianos including some much more expensive than it was. A pipe organ, even a small one is to be preferred, but small things may lead to bigger ones later.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW hilluminar
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,917
    Piano player as organist? Sure!! There's one at a parish near me. Uses about 25% of the organ's stops and none of the shades or pedals. Coulda saved about $200K of the $300K cost of the instrument if the parish had know that in advance, eh?
  • One of my very best of friends was a pianist and piano teacher. Her pastor had recently purchased a unit organ for the church and asked her to be the organist. She was referred to me for lessons and intended only to study organ for a couple of months just to find out what all those knobs were for.
    Well, she ended up taking organ lessons from me for ten years, became a very fine organist, became the Houston representative of a major organ builder, and she and her family are to this day the dearest of friends. We often joke that it all started by a curiosity about 'all those knobs'.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen