Working with Church Leaders

Most of the organists I know who have taken any type of lessons through schools have learned to be creative, enhancing the text with registration, proper use (or non-use) of pedal, volume, soloing out a part on another manual, key changes, etc.  My ward music chairman has asked me to be VERY conservative and feels that most of the things I do are calling undue attention to the organ, which is not my intent. What should I do?

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7 thoughts on “Working with Church Leaders

  1. I’m horrified that this is even a topic of discussion. It is truly down the rabbit hole that anyone would be concerned about how the organ is being played let alone worrying about addressing someone who has concerns about it.

    • Do what the Lord prompts you to do, remember that you are playing for him, and then sustain your leaders the best you can. One of our stake presidency members says he appreciates the improvisations I add to hymns while trying to not conflict with the hymn parts. If a
      coda is needed while the priests finish preparing the Sacrament, I
      use that as a time to play the melody with the right hand and a 16′ & 4′ stop, lovingly called by an organ technician The Tabernacle Organ
      Sound, accompanied by the alto and tenor parts with a soft stop on the other manual with the left hand and the bass with the pedals. Choose different places where you can end it appropriately. If it is carefully prepared, perhaps it will be acceptable. If not, find a way
      that you can sustain your leaders, even if they have different
      preferences. As far as drawing attention to yourself, I often wish
      for an organ loft or a curtain where I wouldn’t be seen.

  2. Before Sacrament starts, I try to talk to the chorister about the tempo of the hymns that I will be playing. Usually though, the chorister slows the music down. I get frustrated. What can I do?

  3. I have played in church for about 35 years. I have a degree in music which included training from a nationally known organist. I maintain tempos within the ranges given in the hymn book and set the registrations as appropriate for the hymn and where it occurs in the meeting. It takes skill to keep a group of untrained singers at the proper tempo. It’s the dirty little secret of playing for congregations. Anyone can play a hymn at home, but it takes real skill to keep 200 people from slowing down to 40 beats per minute by the second verse. I no longer follow most choristers except to begin and end a hymn. I don’t remember reading anywhere in the church manuals about the ward music chairman having the authority to tell me exactly HOW to play the organ. After more clueless suggestions than I can count from people who have no music training whatsoever, I now take direction only from my bishop. I’ve never had one complain.

  4. I had exactly the same problem when I first started playing in my ward. The best thing that I found was to invite the ward music chair to come over to the church during the week and show her what I had planned to do. Once she was comfortable with it, it ceased to be a problem. Now that I am the ward music chair, I only need to ask myself. I have the full support of our Bishop, as long as it remains in harmony with Church guidelines, and adds to the spirit of the meeting

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