Contemporary Music and the Organ

This weekend, First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is hosting Horizons of Faith, bringing in people from across the country to hear guest lecturer Dr. Joerg Rieger.  It is my pleasure to provide music for this event, and it gives me the opportunity to engage in one of my favorite creative challenges:  playing contemporary music on the organ.

You see, I’ve loved the organ as an instrument for a very long time, (especially a grand one like at First United Methodist!), and one of the reasons for this is that a good pipe organ allows me, as a performer, to be able to create so many different kinds of colors, layers, moods, and effects.  To assume that the organ must be limited by assumptions about how it’s “supposed” to sound does not, to my way of thinking, do honor to its splendor.  Too often we have allowed it to be put into the “traditional” box, while we put other instruments into other boxes, thereby never allowing them to interact with each other.  However, with a palette of sounds as varied as any orchestra, why not adapt music of any type to the organ?  Why not include the organ on our list of “contemporary” instruments?  Why not approach this instrument with daring and panache?

So, I am looking forward to this weekend, both for the wisdom that will be imparted and also for the creative spark it will encourage.  As the church looks to new horizons, I hope to encourage all of us who are church musicians to continue to look forward to new and interesting ways of providing worship leadership, with the organ sharing all of its exciting potential in a spirit of collaboration with all other musical expressions.

Won’t it be fun to see what is going to happen?

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