It is no secret that I dislike Facebook. I used to have four accounts. There was my real one where I had about 250 "friends," my dog had one and she had about 300 friends, my porch had one and it had about 500 friends (it posted a lot of pictures), then I had one named after a famous witch and she had 300 friends. The reason I had the fake accounts was because I didn't want to share personal information on other websites and I didn't necessarily want everyone knowing where I was making comments or what I may have been liking. I would often use my porch or dog to like things in order to get coupons or enter contests. I would also use these accounts to fill out profile information. For instance my dog made over $80,000 per year where as my porch made only $7,000. The witch always declined to answer, as did I. This way I could keep my real account pure and clean from the Facebook spy-bots looking to steal my data, profit off of and profile me.
People today are too sozzled by Facebook, Twitter and texting. I recently sat down with a mother and daughter for an hour of chat. The daughter rarely took her face and thumbs off her phone. The only time she looked up was to take a selfie.
Forbes reports that nearly half a trillion dollars is lost in productivity each year due to employees reading their Facebook pages, texting and not working. The average users spends a cumulative amount of about two hours each day taking occasional peeks at their pages and stalking others.
In string theory, the impact of Facebook on our lives is mind boggling. First, if a person was not spending so much time looking at what other people were doing, they could be outside actually doing something themselves. And, not sharing it would be a plus, too. Nobody really cares what that pizza you are about to destroy looks like.
Other alternative realities which could transpire because of Facebook is that you might post a comment on your homepage which your boss doesn't like and he fires you. Maybe you call in sick but then post a picture of yourself at the beach, your boss then sees it on one of his friend's page and you're fired. Maybe because of you "liking" certain things or commenting on other peoples' pages, a prospective employer takes a look at it and passes on you for employment because he doesn't like your likes or sees you spend a LOT of time on FB or doesn't like some of your friends. Maybe an old high school friend makes contact with you through Facebook and you meet and have an affair. Maybe an old high school friend contacts your spouse, they meet and have an affair. What if someone ignores your friend request? What if someone unfriends you? The alternative realities of this one site and how they can change the direction of our lives are staggering.
I prefer the zugzwang option and not to make a move. In other words, not to have Facebook at all. That eliminates a lot of string theory options which are not in my control. An example of zugzwang would be two parents of a 16 year old child who are getting a divorce and the child is given the choice of living with either his mother or father. Either choice will change his life drastically. Instead, he chooses to run away and live on his own. Not to decide is to decide. Just look it up. It is a chess term.
So the next move is in your hands: Read Facebook each day and watch the lives of your friends unfold or don't read it. Another option is zugzwang and just close your account and go live life yourself.
-Malcolm (who realizes that he could be out on the lake skating but is inside blogging) Kogut.
An organist friend of mine who plays for a Roman Catholic Church in CO told me that his pastor asked him to help in the planning for an emergency prayer service in case there is a terrorist attack in Sochi. They even have the press releases all prepared to inform the public that there will be a service for peace, healing and comfort. I'm wondering why they are not meeting now to pray for safety and that no disaster occurs. As William James once said, "The world is all the richer for having a devil in it, so long as we keep our foot upon his neck."
I'm praying that Shaun White can land that triple cork he is planning to execute. His first attempt didn't go so well. Bring it home, Shaun.
A friend of mine has a 12 year old daughter who is absolutely enamored with Justin Bieber. I received the most daggerous look when I opined that he was a terrible singer. Okay, maybe he isn't "terrible," but he doesn't sing from the soul.
Kids today have significantly less interaction with real people as they are too mired in the fake world of the internet and Facebook. This was so painfully obvious during church last Sunday when my soloist must have texted a dozen times and took three selfies of herself.
The youth of today idolize anyone who gets air time or who is idolized by others; they are very much lemmings to pop culture. Anyone who can discern two pitches would not idolize Bieber as a musician but, kids do because he is who their peers idolize.
When *I* was a kid, I had a lot of idols; The vegetable man who came twice a week in his truck selling his own farm grown vegetables and fruits. He always gave us kids free samples as dozens of neighbors descended upon his truck when he parked on our street. The butcher at the slaughterhouse would also give us free samples of his honey, cheese and hot dogs. The garbage man who drove his own truck and picked up the trash by hand was an inspiration as he looked like He-Man from all the real life manual labor her relentlessly performed on his daily route. There was no need for him to have a gym membership. Ed the cop who was always walking the streets and talking to people was a person of awe, also. Everyone seemed to enjoy seeing him and he got everything for free as he entered the stores and coffee shops.
I grew up on a lake and we kids always swam at an open area near the dam because that is where most of the land locked people swam (until the public pay beach owner convinced the town to blockade that section - as it attracted undesirable people from the city - but it was okay if they paid to swim at her beach). One frequent visitor was Earl who was the town historian and he would tell us stories of the town and its people. He riveted us with tales of who died in which house, which houses had tunnels or hidden chambers and which denizens became famous or infamous. There was also old man Wilson who used to travel with the circus and at the age of 80 could still perform magic tricks to amaze and amuse.
All these people had two things in common; they were hard workers who provided a good example of dedication and love for what they did; and they were real. They interacted with the community. They provided services and loved to share those services with everyone. Kids don't experience that today because their faces are glued to things like the fictional world of Facebook - a breeding ground for stalking and pretending you have a life.
So, those were my heroes not because they rescued anyone from burning buildings or died fighting in a war or stood on a stage, but they were real. Bieber is real but he probably could care less about his individual fans and although you may be entertained by his music and antics, he has significantly less impact on our lives than the people who live in our neighborhoods and provide food, heat, shelter, stories, inspiration and care. It seems that only when a community experiences widespread disaster do they recognize what is important and real.
A public hero of mine is Oscar Peterson. Not only was he one of the world's greatest jazz musicians, but he suffered persecution, hate, ostrasization and unfair treatment because of the color of his skin. Rarely did he recoil from prejudice. He faced it, stood against it and demanded equality. He didn't always get it but he didn't quit, either. Although he had every right to be an angry black man, he wasn't. He knew that the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. He was very much "color blind," too. As a teenager, I didn't even know he was black until someone pointed that out to me. I didn't look at Oscar differently, I did view that other person differently, though. As they say in the constructed language of the fictional Na'vi, "Oel ngati kameie."
If only the young could realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the elastic state. Not a single one of them will turn fifty wishing they spent more time idolizing Justin Bieber.
On January 19, at nine p.m., four girls were crossing a busy four lane intersection in the city of Troy, NY. They were between the ages of ten and thirteen. Since state law and parents teach their children that they have the right of way, children often exercise their right to step into of traffic and expect it to stop. It's the law.
In this case, the traffic light turned green, the crossing sign blinked "Don't Walk," and still, the girls stepped into the crosswalk. There were three cars in the right lane and the first driver who had the green light stopped for the girls to cross the street, again, despite the crossing sign blinking "Don't Walk."
The third car in line saw that the light was green and his lane wasn't moving so he turned into the left lane and continued. Just as he approached the crosswalk the first girl emerged from in front of the stopped car and the she was hit. She is fine, a little banged up, but not seriously injured. The driver was ticketed for failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.
I was raised in an age where we were taught to stop, look and listen, then look again and continue to look both ways while crossing. I don't quite understand the logic of a slow moving flesh and blood pedestrian having the right of way over two tons of steel and velocity. Even today I have no desire to take up the practice of challenging a 4,000 pound vehicle against my unprotected body. Even if a driver of a vehicle slows down, I wave them by because that driver may recognize my authority over him but that doesn't guarantee other drivers, as in this case, are cognizant of my ability to part a sea of vehicles in my path.
When I was a teen on a bike, I witnessed a pedestrian stepping onto a street forcing a car to come to a stop. As she approached the other lane, a car across the street was pulling out of a side street and he was looking to his left for oncoming traffic. There was none coming and no need to look to the right since it was his lane he was turning onto. As he pulled onto the street and looked to the right, it was too late. Compound leg fractures ensued. The car was fine.
I walk at about 2.5 miles per hour and a car can be going about 30 miles per hour on the average city street (c'mon, who are we kidding - 40). At my pace I can stop in about a foot. A car may take several feet to stop. If someone steps in front of a car, several feet may not be enough. The law may be on the side of the pedestrian but the laws of physics is not.
Residents of the community are very upset about this recent hit and are demanding that the city do something to make this busy vehicular intersection more safe, at taxpayer expense. Good parenting is free.
No pedestrian should suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk in the path of a moving vehicle which constitutes an immediate hazard. You may disagree but I think that that is just insane regardless what the law says. So parents, decide what you teach your children: Stop, look and listen or, stop traffic. BTW, where is your ten year old at nine p.m.?
Why do some artists not care if you illegally download and steal their work? It is probably because the typical record deal goes like this. The label gives an advance of about $250,000 to the artist to record the album. The album sells about 500,000 copies at $10 a piece. This yields $5,000,000. The label takes their cut of 85%. The artist gets $750,000 but first, the label deducts the advance leaving the artist with $500,000. The label then recoups production costs which are about $300,000. Then promotion costs of about $75,000, then video costs at $300,000 an then tour support at $250,000. This leaves the artist $425,000 in dept to the label and that dept gets carried on to the next album which the artist is usually contractually obligated to produce, and then the next album, then the next album. The artist is trapped in bad contracts and debt to the label while the label continues to get rich.
When a congress person writes a law, there is the main law, but they then throw in about 25 smaller laws which get carried over with the main legislation and most voters don't even notice those ancillary laws getting passed. Just like Congress and bad legislation, music label contracts also have little things thrown in. For instance: Damage fees. These are left in the contract and if a lawyer or artist doesn't catch it, the artist pays for them. Most sales today are digital downloads making "damage fees" irrelevant but, they are still in most contracts. Other hidden items are packaging costs which are about 25% of the artist's cut. This is even attracted to digital downloads where packaging is non-existent. 10% is deducted to cover breakage costs during shipping. This started in the vinyl era and continued with CD's and still applies today with digital downloads despite the fact that an mp3 download can't get damaged during "shipping."
10% of the artist royalty gets deducted for an antiquated system where retail purchasers will purchase 100 albums but get an additional 10 for free. Since the artist is only paid on what is sold, they are not compensated for the free items which are non-existent in the digital download market yet deductions still continue for the "free" products in the digitally dominated market. As you can see, artists generate a lot of money for people not involved in the creative process at all.
Music will never die. It will always drive industry, it will always drive innovation and will always be available. Everyone wants and loves music. Many artists feel that if five million people illegally download their album, that is still five million people they touched and that is a value far greater than money. Especially if the artist will never see any of that money in the first place.
A band named "30 Seconds to Mars" asked a sold out audience at one of their concerts how many of them had a copy of their new album "This Is War." The audience roared. The lead singer, Jared Leto then asked how many people illegally downloaded it and the audience roared with increased volume. "This is War" sold nearly two million copies and 30 Seconds to Mars sold out all of their tours. 30 Seconds to Mars is still in debt to EMI for $1,700,000. The band has never been paid for their two albums. When 30 Seconds to Mars tried to get out of their black hole of a contract, EMI sued them for $30,000,000.
Major artists have been rapidly severing ties with record labels and some of the big labels are beginning to suffer for it but, who's fault is that? If every time I walk past your house you come out and punch me, I'm going to stop walking past your house. The labels have screwed over the artists for so long that the artists are beginning to find new ways to sell their art and craft. The industry is suffering because the artist is not going to take it anymore. Several artists have even sued EMI such as Kenny Rogers, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, Graciela Beltran, Yoko Ono, Poison and even bands from the 80's such as The Motels are launching lawsuits.
Two years ago, over 7 million Internet users helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) -- a bill that would have censored the web and impeded innovation. They also killed the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Since SOPA and PIPA have been stopped, creativity has continued to thrive -- both on and off the web. Of course, piracy remains a major concern but, two years after SOPA, it's clear that the Internet has been really good for creativity and entertainment. There have been countless studies proving that online piracy actually promotes the sale of movies and music and merchandise. There have also been studies proving that the people who illegally download would most likely not buy the product anyway so there is no revenue loss either way - but there is still promotion.
Go to websites such as IMDB and check out the movie and album profits over five years old and study the profit margins. Despite having hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads, a movie which costs ten million to make still ends up with a profit of hundreds of millions. How can this be if piracy is such a problem?
Singers, filmmakers, and comedians today have more outlets for creativity online than ever before. Thanks to the Internet we have so many more choices for entertainment, including YouTube videos, online-only movies and TV shows, and online-only releases of popular music. Dinosaurs go extinct for a reason.
The only thing SOPA would have done is restrict creativity, collaboration, and freedom of speech. The world wide reaction demonstrated the power of regular internet users to affect policy -- and it's a tradition we should continue and employ for other bad legislation.
Kirstin Gillibrand co-sponsored PIPA which is no surprise considering she was the happy recipient of more than $610,000 from the Hollywood entertainment industry last year and they can't seem to figure out why they are losing money, artists and being sued. Even more troubling is Ms. Gillibrand refusal to state whether or not she even read her own legislation before co-sponsoring it. Instead, she posted on Facebook (which, ironically, was staunchly opposed to both PIPA and SOPA) "I agree there are real concerns with the current legislation and I'm working to make important changes to the bill." Isn't this the kind of thing you ought to consider BEFORE co-sponsoring legislation and presenting it for a vote? Did she even read her own bill before signing off on it? Why would she co-sponsor a bill which could have decimated the film and music industry? Oh, $610,000 reasons.
These bills were written by the lawyers of the film and music industries and our legislators were going to blindly sign off on them. They later backpedaled admitting that they had no idea how destructive these bills could have been. Why are these people in office to begin with if they don't know what they are doing and they blindly accept the word of lobbyists? Gillibrand wasn't the only one. Chuck Schumer was also blindly on board. Most of the senate was going to pass those bills until 7 million internet users took the time to read the bills themselves. Why do we have to do their jobs for them?
After Gillibrand and Schumer's bill was essentially killed, Gillibrand took to Facebook again saying: "While many of my colleagues and I have worked hard to address concerns with the current bill, it is clear this proposal will not create consensus on how to crack down on the real problem of online theft that threatens tens of thousands of New York jobs in a balanced way that ensures our tech companies will continue to flourish. It is time for Congress to take a step back and start over with both sides bringing their solutions to the table to find common ground towards solving this problem." Nice backpedaling, there. Why can't our elected officials see that the root of the problem is not a few PirateBay Users but the industry itself?
The real problem is that the artists are getting raped by the industry fat cats. The politicians only listen to those with the money: the labels and their lawyers. As long as we have stupid politicians writing stupid laws and not even reading them, is it any wonder that artists themselves are promoting piracy and dumping their labels and promoting themselves? Again, whose fault is that?
Comedian Louis C.K. had enough with the corporate and political greed so he made his own video, promoted it himself, posted it online and asked for a $5 donation. I'm sure a lot of people "stole" it and Louis didn't mind because he made 1.34 million dollars in ten days. How much of that did he have to share with greedy corporate fat cats who have no input in the creativity of his art? If Gillibrand had her way, Louis C. K. would be in prison for promoting piracy of his own work.
Check out this video created by an artist who posts his work freely:
If the text doesn't make sense to you, watch the video where Jayme and Joe share how they made the video. Therein they explain some of the words, phrases and their thoughts on the topic:
Greed and corruption has existed too long in the music and film industry and all that is about to change. The greedy corporations have discovered that they can't effectively buy Senate votes, although senators are still trying to find ways to "protect" the music industry but maybe they should first protect the artists.
In that space between the physical world and the intangible mystery of beauty we only know for moments at a time, there is the hierarchy of needs. Music is one of those needs, circuitously networked with our being. It is part of our everyday lives, it is primal, energizing, it moves our body, mind, spirit and soul, it tells our story, and most importantly, there is a heart behind it and its creation. It is one of the most powerful forces in the world which can inspire love, rage, revolutions and passion (suffering). Out of what we live and believe, there is music.
Playing the organ as a profession is quickly disappearing and even organ programs at colleges are dwindling or closing. Most organ clubs and guild memberships have an average age of about 60 so there is a strong possibility that in ten years, fifty percent of the organist population will be gone or retired.
There are several reasons why young people don't choose the organ as a musical instrument to study. First, most people don't own or have access to an organ. Most churches have organs but they also have policies which deter people from obtaining access to them.
A second reason is we don't have any mainstream "rock star" organists out there playing the instrument and inspiring people to explore it. There was a day when Virgil Fox took his touring organ to college campuses and wowed the students with laser lights, fog, his dizzying technique and unique interpretation. Cameron Carpenter is our newest star of the organ world but he moved to Germany and tours in Europe and Asia where organ music is more appreciated. I spoke with an organ builder a few weeks ago and he said that there are more pipe organs being built in China right now than anywhere else in the world.
A third reason is the antithesis to the second reason. There are so many bad organists out there who are either dull, uninspired, really pianists or have been trained to be boring and predictable. Some friends attended an installation recital of a new four manual Allen a few months ago and while the organist was technically proficient, his interpretation, registration and repertoire were dry, predictable, uninspired and esoteric.
A fourth reason is that organs have been replaced in many churches by pianos, keyboards and guitars so many kids today never get to hear an organ, let alone a good one nor someone good playing at one. I was inspired to take up the organ because the Roman Catholic Church near my home thankfully closed. There we only had an out of tune folk group with guitars which did nothing to inspire me. My parents then took us to a Wesleyan Church where I first heard the organ and fell in love.
A fifth reason is that churches tend to hire organ players rather than liturgists. An organist who worships the organ and is hired to come in, do his job, then leave, will actually do little to inspire a congregation and promote growth. An organist whose ministry is people and music is a vehicle to that ministry, will flourish and inspire the masses. From there the potential for growth in a parish is unlimited.
Organist salaries are another reason people don't take up the instrument and it is time for churches to recognize this. Pastors can make anywhere from $40k to $90k depending on the size of the church. Pastors can also be boring, uninspired and have little imagination or even the skills for promoting growth. I worked 15 years in a Roman Catholic church and the priest took his homilies from several books of canned homilies. Every three yeas I heard the same one. In fact, because of that and I took notes each week, I was able to choose music that corresponded perfectly with his homilies. He thought it was the Holy Spirit at work when in actuality it was his his uninspired predictability which made my planning capabilities genius in his eyes.
A church recently advertised for an organist and they were paying $11k per year and for qualifications they listed that the applicant must have a Masters degree. Do you know how much a Masters Degree costs? This and many other churches are so out of touch with reality. Their second flaw in logic was in thinking that someone who spent time in a classroom is qualified to pastorally minister or is even a good musician. A good musician usually spent more time behind a keyboard than in a classroom. A pastoral musician loves people more than music and churches don't realize that that passion, or suffering, is reflected in their music. Much as a saint was first a criminal or an opponent of war was a person who fought in one and saw how futile and destructive it was.
When people walk into a church on Sunday, they don't hear the pastor. They hear the organ. In fact, the organ sets and maintains the mood and energy of the entire service. When people leave a church service, they aren't humming the homily. The organist salary should be at least equal to that of the pastor. Music has the power to move, inspire, motivate, energize and affect emotions. A homily can, too, but how often has that happened in many churches?
I know of a Presbyterian pastor who preached the most boring homilies and for the five years he had served that church, he lost members and rarely came out of his office to minister to the community. The organist did more to attract people and promote growth in that parish in one year than the pastor did in five. Which person do you think was more valuable to the church? A good organist doesn't play music, they inhabit it, live it, breath it, share it and they don't seek praise or worship for themselves. They seek to inspire praise and worship. Some pastors do, too, but they often resort to gimmicks and other people - such as the organist, to do it for them.
Raising the salary isn't the answer, however. More money will only attract more bad organists looking to make more money. If they abandon their current community for more money, they will eventually abandon you, for more money. I recently encountered an organist who not only gave her church less than a weeks notice on Christmas Eve, but she lied to them telling them that she was quitting because the commute was too much for her. She however took a higher paying job just as far away. A church shouldn't just blindly raise the salary looking for better musicians. They need to raise their expectations along with the salary. They need to assess what they want to achieve as a church and how music can help achieve those goals. If it is to have quality music, then by all means, worship music. If it is to promote growth, they need to ask how can music do that. If their musical goal is to minister to the community, to heal and serve, if the church wants to be an organism - not an organization, a movement - not a monument, if it does not want to be part of the community - but the whole community, if the church wants to make society uncomfortable and like yeast, unsettle the mass around it, if the church wants to make the invisible kingdom visible - then, they need to hire the right person. That right person isn't necessarily influenced by money but, you don't want them struggling to survive when it should be their job to struggle to help the church to survive.
Indeed, the organ is the King of Instruments. Pipe organs, the great breathing giants of the keyboard world, swelling and singing and trumpeting and are capable of a vast array of dynamics, tone colors, articulations, sweeping crescendos, joy, praise, adoration, supplication and contrition. It can be at once labyrinthine, elemental or sonic. It can rumble and rattle the pews, walls and floor or, be still, quiet and sweet. With all its stops pulled it can rival the overtones of a screaming guitar at a rock concert. No other instrument is as versatile as the organ. It is an instrument capable of augmenting, supporting and leading congregational singing or delicately following a soloist. That is why it is well suited for church use, much more than a guitar or piano.
Pipe organs are a part of the building. They are physically and sinuously networked from the basement to the rafters of the structure. Pipe organs cause the building to stir and vibrate and it wrests sleeping motes from their settled places. The organ breaths and exhales the same air as the people in the pews and can provide vibrations to the seat of an un-padded wooden pew. Electronic organs are sufficient facsimiles thereof and capable of the same if installed properly. When played to their fullest and daily, a pipe organ can also scare off bats, birds, mice, carpenter ants and homeless people residing within its chambers.
Why are many organists boring? First, they are trained to sound alike. Deviation from traditional playing, techniques and registration is frowned upon by those incapable of such exploration. That is one of the reasons Virgil and Cameron are the superstars of the organ industry; they're different. They give the listener something new to hear especially on works from the traditional literature that the audience can recognize. Many organists only play music that they personally like while the average listener may not be able to get into or appreciate that style or idiom.
A lot of our Sunday organists can be quite boring to listen to and it is not their fault. Either the music they are capable of playing is banal, they don't have the courage or imagination to try something new and exciting, or, they don't have the time to tackle works beyond their current capabilities because their week is spent trying to earn a living that the church isn't giving them. Many organists don't have the imagination to test the organ or literature to its boundaries so, they settle for easy pieces which are generally insipid. They also don't have other good organists to listen to or interact with for inspiration. The organ community can be quite prissy, backstabbing, arrogant, insecure, possessive and exclusive. They fit right in to many of our churches.
It is my opinion that every organist at every skill level should be offering a recital at least once each month. If they don't have the time to work up a program each month, invite a neighboring organist to do half the recital or all of it. There is also nothing wrong with repeating repertoire. We love hearing our favorite songs on the radio and we don't buy a CD to only listen to it once. There is nothing wrong with repeating music that you like and the congregation likes. There is also nothing wrong with changing how we play something. We don't have to play the same piece exactly the same every time. From day to day we are not the same person.
An organ recital has four types of audience members: The person who loves the sound of the organ, organists and other musicians, people who love music and the man dragged there by his wife.
Of the organists, there are three types of them: Organists who play for themselves, those who play for other musicians, and those who play for the audience. It is the last one who generally has the largest following yet, other organists don't like them.
It is difficult to find a balance to please everyone but knowing our audience is very important. I love the music of Shoenberg and I played one of his pieces - once. At least ten people came up to me afterward and said that they hated that piece. A few others commented that it was their least favorite piece in the program. If I play a Bach piece which I enjoy, I may get polite applause. If I play the William Tell Overture and they jump to their feet, which piece do you think I may repeat at the next recital? Why wouldn't I?
I once had an organist criticize my playing because I made every effort to use all four manuals of the organ. She said I could have made a more efficient use of the instrument's memory and pistons. Instead of reaching way up to the Solo manual I could have coupled it down to the Choir or Great and avoided an uncomfortable stretch. For you non-organists, the best analogy I can come up with is instead of going down to your basement to wash and dry your clothes, put your washer and dryer in your bedroom for more efficiency and you won't have to climb the stairs.
I project all my recitals on a large screen so the audience can see what I'm doing. They like to see me reach for different keyboards and the more manual gymnastics I employ, the more intriguing and interesting it is to the non-musician. Plus, it challenges me to be more creative. I personally don't play for other organists, I play for the man dragged there by his wife. If I can please him, the rest will follow suit.
I recently participated in an American Guild of Organists trip to visit three large pipe organs where we got to crawl around inside each of the instruments and play them. One organist took about 15 minutes to register a rather boring classical piece and then he played it - all of it. When it was my turn, I threw on some predictable stops and played something just to get a feel for the action of the organ. I could hear it when other organists played it so I didn't really need to play it. The least trained organist of us all played two verses of a hymn. Every four bars he would add stops and at the end of the hymn, the organ was at its fullest and for the last chord he pulled out a bombastic pedal stop and the whole building shook. We all applauded not because he was the best, but because he did the unexpected, and he didn't play to impress us, or to challenge himself, or to show off his repertoire, he simply took the organ out for a spin to see what it could do. Every piece an organist plays on Sunday should be just that, something to test the limits of the instrument, the music and themselves. If we don't, we risk the loss of our audience and congregations.
That said, in many churches, a congregation will sing much better if the organist stays home. Organists can be boring, devoid of excitement, rhythm, variety and horrible at leading sung prayer. You get what you pay for. A lot of what our organists actually stifle sung prayer. Organists can play too loud, too soft, too mushy, too unpredictable and one mistake can be very unforgiving. Some organists like to show off on the hymns with creative reharmonizations and extemporaneousness but those meanderings tend to stifle vocal participation from the non-musician in the pew who doesn't know what is going on and needs the organ to be a foundation of support rather than it wandering off in a fugue of confusing harmony and counter-melody.
The organ is losing favor in many churches because we hire “anyone” to play them. A church should hire a liturgist who plays the organ before they hire a pianist who plays the organ. Predominately piano player organists are people who want the extra income or they seek performance praise, and they often think that a keyboard is just a keyboard. Anyone can paint, but will a museum display the work of uninspired painters in their galleries? Why do our churches?
I love the organ but, I don’t worship it. Music is not my ministry but a vehicle to ministry. When my mother was dying and in a morphine induced comma, I sat by her bedside and softly sang “Amazing Grace” and other hymns. Would it have been great to have a four manual 64 rank Cassavant with a 32’ bombard at my disposal? No. That was not the time or place. But, in everyday communal adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication happening in our churches, the organ is a great tool surpassed by no other instrument. Now if only our organists would play it with adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Adoration leaves no room for pride.
A church in search of an organist should ask themselves the following questions: Do they want an organist or an artist. Do they want a musician or a pastoral musician. Do they want a musician or a liturgical musician. Do they want someone to play their liturgy or play liturgy with excitement and joy. Do they want to grow a music ministry or a church. Do they want their church to be a monument in the community or a museum. Are they willing to pay a salary to get someone of unmitigating dedication or someone looking for the next job willing to do only what is in their contract. You get what you pay for and if your church isn't growing, something is missing.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.-Richard Buckminster Fuller.