Sunday, October 16, 2016

October 16-Island Church Service

There is nothing to playing the organ. You only have to hit the right notes at the right time and the instrument plays itself.

- Johann Sebastian Bach

Oh, Mr. Bach, you do simplify things too much. Unlike the piano, there are no ways to sustain the sound, so finger pedaling, in sometimes awkward ways, must be used. And, the keyboard under your feet can be the source of great mental confusion. Is middle C under my right foot or my left foot? I have the upmost respect for organists.  

I know five or six organs well. Those would be in the chapels of my youth until now. When I was twelve, after taking piano lessons for four years, my Bishop asked me to be the organist in my church. I looked at him with horror. 
  "Well, it can't be that hard. can it?" he said without any knowledge whatsoever. "I predict you will be in music service the rest of your life."  
   He was right. Worshipping on the island put me front and center, at the organ. When my kids were little I enjoyed that my husband had to settle the unruly flock while I sat serenely "at the bench". Later, I found worshipping to be heightened by the spirit that moves in and through music. 

   I owe Sister Verena Hatch a great debt. An accomplished organist, she offered free organ lessons to those of us playing in church service. We came to her unique home and learned the techniques of excellent playing. I can still see the vaulted ceiling of her front room, with organ pipes from the floor up to the ceiling. Yes, she had a small pipe organ in her home. I think of her often when I feel I've improved at a certain skill. I use her example as I invite younger piano students to learn in my congregation. Live organ music may be dying in churches all over the world. If you are lucky enough to have musicians in your church who freely offers their abilities, don't let them go unnoticed. They will be uncomfortable at your appreciation but it may be just what they need that day to keep going on. And if your church pays their musicians, they need the appreciation still.

The organ is the grandest, the most daring, the most magnificent of all instruments invented by human genius.
- Honore de Balza

I am writing for 31 days this October about Island Life. Click here to see the other days of writing.


  1. The Bach quote made me smile- he makes it sound so easy! I attempted to learn the organ for a year, but I have small hands so coping without a sustain pedal was difficult, and having to think about the foot pedals as well that was just too much and I decided to stick to piano!

  2. (Finally catching up.) My mother was an organist. I tried to learn, but wasn't entirely successful. I did dabble long enough to know that many people can play, but being a good accompanist requires much more.


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