to sing or not to sing…the power lies with the organist

I am first and foremost a pianist, but I absolutely LOVE playing the organ.  I believe if a congregation is not singing, at least 50% of the blame goes to the organist.  If the organist plays with confidence using correct registration and volume the congregation will sing out.  I have seen evidence of this in Sacrament Meetings all over the world.

There are two Arizona wards I attended last year that I’ll use to demonstrate the importance of a good organist.  The first ward was small, maybe 100 people total in Sacrament Meeting.  Their organist had been an organ performance major years ago.  She played on a tiny organ but used an intelligent combination of stops that was inviting to the congregation.  The members sang as if they were truly praising the Lord with all their heart and soul.   The second ward was enormous, at least 600 people in attendance at the Sacrament Meeting.  The organist used all flutes in her registration for all the congregational hymns, playing softly, at a slower tempo than the metronome markings in the hymnbook.  She used the bass coupler instead of the foot pedals which kept cutting out every few notes (a problem with bass couplers).   The congregation sang at the soft volume of the organist, those who were even singing.  I was amazed at the many people who didn’t even open their hymnbooks.  This left me wondering what would have happened if the organist from the tiny ward were playing for the large ward?  Would the tempo, volume, registrations, and confidence of that organist help invite all members to participate in the singing of the hymns?  I believe it would.

My organ knowledge is limited, just what I’ve learned from organ classes and lessons as a BYU student.   My first performance was as a student playing the organ for a Stake Conference in the Provo Tabernacle.  From that first thrilling experience to the present, I have spent countless hours at the organ preparing Hymns, prelude, postlude, and choir pieces for meetings as well as practicing other music just for fun.  I have many memories of dragging my babies along with me to the chapel as I practiced.  I have tried to include organ resources that would be helpful to Ward and Stake organists at every level.

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