Balanced Observation on the Organ in Churches

Pipe Organs Hit High Note Despite Challenges

You may not have or have had the experience of Katie Scott of The Catholic Herald, but you will enjoy reading her article on the pipe organ and its place in the church today. For my taste, she strikes a good balance in positive and negative.

From the softest pianissimo to the most dramatic swells of sound, the pipe organ’s range and capacity to lift the voice and spirit accord it “pride of place” among instruments used in Catholic liturgy. It “gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation,” said Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 during an organ blessing. “The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.”

But recent headlines strike a somber note for the majestic instrument: “As number of church organists declines, fears of a dying art”; “Soaring instrument appeals to fewer churches”; “The decline of the church organ.” Although some trends support this bleak outlook, the status of the pipe organ in the U.S. church is more nuanced and optimistic than the headlines suggest.

Thanks to Steve Williams and Pam Smithey for suggesting this article.

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