I just read an article from a blog that has a very traditional and conservative point of view called “A Case for the Pipe Organ”. In it, the author explains his reasons as to why churches need to have and use pipe organs. I’ll add my two cents to this conversation, even though I wasn’t asked. Just as it it is the prerogative and viewpoint of the original blogger that worship should only be with hymnody and the pipe organ, my prerogative and viewpoint is that all instruments and all styles of worship can and should be used to worship God. My reasoning is quite simple. When you look around at how creative God is, just with looking at humanity, our response is going to be creative and unique.
So, here are the reasons for the pipe organ:
- It sustains and strengthens congregational singing. Somewhat. His reasoning is that music decays. With the organ, yes, you can hold the key and as long as you have electricity, yes, you could sustain the sound as long as you would like. However, it all depends on the space that you are in. If you are in a space designed with acoustics in mind, that sound will continue to reverberate. Most sanctuaries now aren’t really designed for acoustics….more for comfort. That’s another discussion for another day. But, with the less acoustically engineered rooms, the organ’s sustaining and strengthening power doesn’t always work like it used to.
2. Ir fills a room naturally. Again, same point as number 1. Acoustics in the room drive how much or how little it fills up a room. And I’ve played on organs that, while they were pipe organs, and were celebrated because they were pipe organs, should have been trashed because they were incapable of congregational leadership in how they were designed.
3. Its range is massive. Agreed. It wasn’t called “King of instruments” for nothing!
4. It facilitates a wide range of musical styles. Yes, it does, except he doesn’t go to the widest range that could help to bridge some of the chasm between “contemporary” and “traditional” worship. Yep. The organ can be used with the worship band. And it works. Well, in fact. But you have to have an organist with the open mindset to doing it, the musical flexibility, and most importantly, who doesn’t think that the worship band is full of stupid, incompetent musicians who just know how to play a few chords. Yes, I have seen this attitude displayed in plenty of organists. This works even better with a digital organ, because of MIDI capability, but it can work with a pipe organ as well!
5. Organs are relatively inexpensive. WHAT? That’s a huge stretch, especially when you’re talking about a PIPE organ. His argument is that it’s cheaper than a sound system, mics and everything else for a sound system. OK….so, a quick Google search nets (from the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America) that you could spend about $30,000 for a used organ that you would purchased and move to your sanctuary. Or…for a small to medium sized church, $200,000-$850,000 organ. Now, I don’t know of many churches that spend that much initially on their sound system, let alone budget that for years to add to the sound system. And while we’re on that topic, do these churches have the pastor speak without a microphone? You’re already spending the money for a sound amplification system, so it’s not like you’re doing something completely redundant. Now, you could go with a digital organ, which gives you more range of sounds, MIDI capability and the ability to adjust the volume on the fly without adding or subtracting stops, and you’re looking at $50,000-$75,000 on the higher end. But, for the pipe organ aficionados, that won’t do. It’s not the same. Nevermind that it is a digital recording of an actual pipe organ. And then you’re talking about tuning costs, heating/air conditioning costs, depending on where you live, and because it is a mechanical thing, things do happen. This is an insane and pointless argument.
Now, before you get up in arms…..you may not have read my previous blog posts. Or you may not know much about me. I grew up in a very traditional congregation. Started taking organ lessons on a pipe organ when I was in 7th grade. I’ve played on many instruments, pipe, digital, electronic. Some were amazing, some were decent and some were pitiful and frustrating. I love and see a value in the organ and organ music. I also love and see a value in “contemporary” music as well. While it may not be someone’s personal preference, there needs to be an understanding that (as I said before), when we look at God’s creation and see His unique creativity, the response of that unique creation is going to be just that. Unique. I know there are plenty in the organ world who disagree with me. That’s fine. I know there are plenty in the “contemporary” world that disagree with me. That’s fine, as well. Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve found plenty of folks who see things from my perspective, and enjoy all music made to the glory of God. And those are the people I write for.