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Shocking how little the organ can be valued in church...

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  • jbird604
    replied
    Thanks for those observations, Max. Yes, it must be admitted that some of the damage done to the reputation of the classical organ in church has been done by those of us who play them. I'd "like" to think that I'm a nice person, eager to talk to anyone who shows an interest in the organ, gracious when complimented, etc. But I'm probably not that way all the time, and have probably come across as aloof and rude at times, even if it was unintentional.

    And I have certainly known a fair number of organists who were indeed quite aloof. Perhaps even anti-social (or in the worst cases, snobby). At least some of that may have to do with the grueling life that a person may have to live in order to become a great organist. Many such folks have lived very isolated lives, practicing alone in big empty church buildings for hours a day, years on end. Even with an organ at home, a person may feel compelled to shut out social contact for a big part of every day, and then be too tired after practicing to engage in much socializing. So it may be true to some extent that learning organ can encourage a person to become less social, less friendly and outgoing. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it just happens that the personality traits that contribute to being a professional organist (drive, discipline, single-mindedness, concentration) just happen to be more common in people who aren't terribly outgoing.

    So I'll have to add "rude organists" (to put it bluntly) to my usual list of reasons for the organ's decline -- bad organs, badly installed, badly played, plus the relentless trend toward secular-style entertainment in church.

    We should all take these points to heart. If we have been rude or cold to people, we need to practice some warmth. If we play badly, we should work on our skills. If we play a bad organ in a bad installation, perhaps we can lobby for getting something done about it! Only when we attack these core obstacles can we expect to see respect for the organ in worship returning.

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  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    Good points, all!

    Michael

  • Max the Icie Owner
    replied
    Something just occurred to me. We can talk about the demise of traditional organ playing all we want. I agree it is somewhat of an issue. I also know that generally, growing up, the organists I met were some of the least friendly people in the church. If you ignore and look down on the kids who ask questions about the instrument/music, how are they supposed to grow up having an interest and wanting to play it? If your first impressions of people, say, driving modified cheap Japanese cars, was that they were reckless drivers and liked drag racing down neighborhood roads with little kids walking around (true story), you would dislike seeing those types of cars driving around because you would wonder if the drivers were bad and were going to get you in an accident. Not a perfect parallel, but I think it explains what I'm trying to get at. Being someone who plays both organ when I can and keyboards/accordion/piano in contemporary music, I think there is a place for both. Think about it...attitude of the musicians goes a long way towards generating interest from others. More often than not it seems that people, teens, kids can ask the guitar player or bass player or drummer or keyboard person, and those people are generally willing to talk to them, vs ask the organist something, or even say you liked the music, and generally they ignore them. Which means that lots of kids get turned off to the organ. Just what I've observed. If we want to get the next generation interested, quit treating them like idiots. Now more recently I have met a few really helpful people. So this does not apply to everyone at all. Just what I have noticed in my life.

    The other thing is that gospel organ is it's own thing entirely. So a church may have a B3 or something like that but no classical organ. But I don't think that it means that their music is inferior; I think it is simply different. I don't think most of us would go to other countries and question their musical customs in that way. "Why do you play those Zurnas? Only piccolo and flute is acceptable". This I fear is the impression that we, even inadvertently, give off sometimes.

    I will say this: traditional hymns often have a deeper theology to them than much of the modern stuff. My view on contemporary vs traditional: what matters are the words and the message. As much as I like music it only takes a few words to make it secular vs religious. A hymn with very little message vs a contemporary song that reaches people and brings them closer to God? I'd go with the contemporary option. Balance is necessary though.


    Sorry for the long post.

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  • Dutchy
    commented on 's reply
    Thanks for the explanation!

  • Admin
    commented on 's reply
    And the biggest drop off is people under 50.

  • myorgan
    replied
    Dutchy,

    Thank you for your observations about churches and worship styles in your country. Unfortunately, I suspect it will only be a matter of time before your country goes the way of the U.S., as is common of many trends.

    Your comments do make me wonder, though. How many of the changes we see relate to an over-saturation of the "market?" Too much of any one thing will eventually result in change. It's only a matter of time before changes take place. The question is whether those changes are more or less conservative vs. different. Also, how stable are quick changes vs. those that take place over time?

    In Germany, for example, it used to be the state-sponsored denominations would have the attendees, but in recent years, the "free" churches (some consider them "cults") are gaining in attendance while the state-sponsored denominations are losing attendees. I'm not sure if its related to theology, music, or freedom. Any way you look at it, change is occurring. Only time (and results) will tell.

    Michael

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  • voet
    replied
    This thread is taking an interesting turn. Thank you, Dutchy, for your perspective on the religious scene in the Netherlands. Thanks also to you, John, for a good description of the American religious scene.

    The fastest growing religious group right now in the United States is the “nones”–people who claim no religious affiliation. While evangelical churches escaped the decline that “mainline” Protestant churches experienced for many years, evangelicals are beginning to be affected by this trend. In a massive study released in September 2017 by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the number of white evangelical Protestants fell from about 23 percent of the US population in 2006 to 17 percent in 2016. That is a 26 percent decline. According to a report issued by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2017, their membership has declined for the 10th straight year and baptisms dropped to the lowest level in 70 years.

    Clearly these trends have an impact on the use of organs in churches. Like the old Bob Dylan song says, "The Times They Are A-Changin.'"

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  • jbird604
    replied
    Thanks for the observations, Dutchy. Some of the same things could be said in this country, with some differences. Churches here are truly varied in their worship as well as in their theology and their social positions. We have very traditional liturgical churches (in several denominations -- Episcopal/Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and others I'm sure) with robed clergy and choir, grand organ and choral music, rich full-featured liturgy, "bells and smells" and all the rest. And at the opposite extreme are the "anything goes" worship-style churches with rock bands, singers wearing blue jeans and holding a microphone, singing contemporary pop or rock-style songs, where there is absolutely no liturgy of any kind, just a music fest followed by a sermon.

    Theology and social positions are also all over the spectrum, from the most rigidly conservative to quite progressive, and everywhere in between.

    While in general, the churches with highly traditional liturgical worship are more likely to be progressive in theology and social practice, and the contemporary-music churches likely to be quite conservative in theology and practice, there are many exceptions, with some that have both traditional worship and rigid conservative views (such as the Anglicans), and some with contemporary worship paired with liberal theology and social outlook.

    Another variety of church that doesn't really fit either description is a sort of old-fashioned free church or evangelical church with roots in the American pioneer days, where worship is certainly not liturgical in any way, but not contemporary either. More of a "song service" (a time of almost random hymn or Gospel-song singing) followed by a sermon (often lengthy), and these churches tend to have VERY rigidly conservative theology and social outlooks.

    And while it seems by most measures that the fastest growing, most successful churches are those with contemporary music paired with a fairly conservative theology, there are certainly other churches that are doing well while offering strictly liturgical worship and liberal theology, though they are surely outnumbered quite soundly. And there are apparently growing and vibrant churches in the "song service with a sermon" category too.

    One can only say that there is no single "style" of church that succeeds in the USA. But it is undeniable that many of the "mainline" denominations (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and my own Disciples of Christ) and shrinking, some rather shockingly. And the largest churches in the country right now are certain totally contemporary churches and a few of the "blended" style churches where the music is at least partly contemporary but the style is still quite traditional (such as certain big Baptist churches in the South).

    It's just a mixed bag out there.

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  • Dutchy
    replied
    This is a very interesting discussion. A few thoughts about it from Holland (for what it is worth).

    The traditional "Reformed" churches in Holland remain to do better than more 'liberal' churches here, when counted by Sunday worship attendants.
    In this traditional worships:
    - there wille be sung some 4-6 Psalms, maybe 6-12 stanza's in total (so the singing doesn't take much time).
    - there will be a long sermon (one hour or so)
    - the total time of the worship will be one hour and 30 minutes
    - there are many children in there, from as young as 6 years old (mostly they are in all the time)
    - mostly there are two worships each Sunday (attended both times by mostly the same people, exept parents who has to care for their little children)
    - mostly all the churchmembers actually attend to each worship (including myself, as organist one time per Sunday)
    - the organ is played some 15 minutes before start of the worship, during which time the people come in the church
    - the organ is the only instrument played during the whole worship
    - mostly there are well maintainded pipe-organs in it, and plenty of young people will want to play it, although I must confess that the last 10 years or so the enthousiasm for organ playing is decreasing.
    - there are even pipe organs new build or enlarged in those churches, sometimes really expensive ones I.e. €500.000

    In 'liberal' churches the situation is mostly much worse in this respect: churches are closed, the (mostly few) worship attenders are mostly 50+, there are little of them, and a good organist not seldom cannot be found (especially in little churches - the great town churches mostly has a professional organist, if there is still worship in them, which is increasingly not the case any more).

    I have no guess why this is so. May be because the Bible is taken literal and Sin and Grace are tought in a traditional way?

    So far my little observations from Holland. May be it is of some interest for somebody.

    Disclaimer: I don't intend to say things are better in Holland. Or to say that traditionel "Reformed" churches are better than 'liberal' ones. I only thought it fruitfull to share the observations.

    Dutchy.

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  • davidecasteel
    replied
    Originally posted by sweet melody 79 View Post

    I will have to check them out David! Many thanks!
    You're welcome. Central UMC was my sister's church and I attended a service there in September 2017--it was awesome!

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  • sweet melody 79
    replied
    Originally posted by davidecasteel View Post
    I don't think you will find a more Traditional service in Phoenix than the one at Central UMC. They have a marvelous pipe organ and several terrific choirs (that sing many of the old masters). The service itself is quite liturgical. (I wish my church here in Dallas were like that.)

    David
    I will have to check them out David! Many thanks!

    Leave a comment:


  • davidecasteel
    replied
    Originally posted by sweet melody 79 View Post
    It does not surprise me at all. It is the same with my baptist church, they have a small Allen organ that has not been used for at least 15 years. They would sooner get some guy on a acoustic guitar. I am from England and moved to America nearly 5 years ago. I really miss my local little church in Devon England with its wonderful pipe organ, stain glassed windows and old oak pews. There are no "traditional" looking churches here in Phoenix AZ. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things i much prefer with baptist churches here in the U.S. but a powerful and robust organ with old hymns sung.... nothing better!
    I don't think you will find a more Traditional service in Phoenix than the one at Central UMC. They have a marvelous pipe organ and several terrific choirs (that sing many of the old masters). The service itself is quite liturgical. (I wish my church here in Dallas were like that.)

    David

    Leave a comment:


  • voet
    commented on 's reply
    Do you possibly mean the Frazee organ company? There was a Frazee in Park Street Church in Boston that was replaced by an Aeolian-Skinner in 1960.

  • Larrytow
    commented on 's reply
    When doing your organ research, you may want to look at the OHS ( Organ Historical Society ) database website. Not all organs by all builders are listed there, but yours might be.

    Also, I think the correct name of the builder might be Frazee, not Frasee.

  • Vibesmom143
    replied
    Thanks for sharing Larry, I agree the music is fundamental to worship for me personally and I love that we take the approach that the music is not separate, but one thread of the fabric of our service including prayer and preaching. Music sung at me instead of with me would not work for me personally. Loud faith style singing is not my cup of tea, although it may be for some on the forum so I say that as a personal reflection rather than a commentary. Some may find that music very inspiring and I can respect that even though I would not seek out that type of worship myself personally.

    What is so special to me is our organist/piano/choir director works so hard with the choir, children’s choir, and soloists to bring in a variety of music pieces that represent the liturgical seasons. She also chooses hymns we can all participate in. Some of us may grumble at times when she opens us up to new hymns that are harder to sing, but as our preaching challenges us to grow and explore our faith, our music ministry provides us the opportunity to grow as well with a nice mix of the hymns we know by heart while introducing us to new hymns.

    i also acknowledge that not all members of the church May feel as I do. I see some enthusiastic singers and others who listen but don’t participate, even some who may have come over to the Protestant church from the Catholic Church and wonder why we must sing every verse. But I do believe we all share the knowledge that the commitment and dedication to the work that our choir and musiciscians put into the service are not lost on anyone.

    Our organ was installed by the Frasee company when our church was dedicated in 1951, and our piano is a Baldwin. As church historian I am working on a written history of our organs in both our old and new building. I’m happy to be a part of this forum as I work through that process, diving down into the stories of the members who chose the design and played the instrument for past congregations.

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