Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I was at church this morning to practice on the pipe organ and thought I'd share some pictures so you have an idea just how grand this organ is, and how exciting it is for me to have time on it.

The organ has three manuals, each of which has its own section.  Here's the "great organ":

And the "swell organ":  The swell and the choir divisions have expression pedals, meaning you can "swell" the sound or diminish the sound.


Behind this grid is the "choir organ."  I learned just this past week that it's called that because it faces the choir.

These "divisions" of the organ are not always in these relative positions.  Sometimes one of the divisions is up in what we would call the balcony at the back of the church.  Sometimes the console is there also.  This is a pipe organ, so all the sounds come from these pipes.  An electronic organ would have speakers placed strategically around the sanctuary.

This is the console at which the organist sits and makes music! The console sits on a movable platform so it can be placed off to the side or in the center, for instance when an organ concert is given. 

This is a view of the "choir loft" in this particular church--not a very "lofty" loft.  This is where the choir sits during the service, and that's where you'd find me on a Sunday morning.

There are three major choirs in our church, the A Capella Choir, the Celebration Choir and the Chancel Choir.  I sing in the Chancel Choir.  There is also a bell choir and a "visitation" choir that goes to sing in care homes.

On the weekend there are three identical (almost) services held, one at 5 p.m. on Saturday, one at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday and a third at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.  Chancel Choir sings at the 8:30 service the first two Sundays of the month and at the 10:30 service the third and fourth Sunday of each month.  If there is a fifth Sunday perhaps one of the choirs takes the service or other "special music" is provided by a small group or a soloist.

There is a lot of music at each service.  We begin with a prelude, usually organ, but sometimes an accompanied solo or a piano solo.  I've played preludes on the violin and viola, accompanied on piano or organ.  We have a nice way of presenting a prelude: shortly before the service begins the pastor comes out and makes the announcements.  Then the pastor asks that all cell phones be turned off and says, Now we will listen to the prelude.  Everyone sits quietly attentive while the prelude is played and then the service begins.

This part begins with a "gathering" song from the hymnal.  Then because this is a liturgical service there are sung responses.  These are followed by the "special music" interspersed with the three readings from the Bible.  There is an offering with an offertory of some sort, a sermon, a "hymn of the day" and a communion service.

For the communion there are four "stations" at the front of the church, each consisting of someone who hands you the communion wafer with the words, "the body of the Lord for you."  Next in line is someone with a chalice of wine.  You dip the wafer into the wine and are addressed with the words: "the blood of the Lord is shed for you." There is a third person with a chalice of grape juice if you would prefer that.

The ushers conduct the people by rows to the front of the church where they are served the communion, which we immediately eat while we return to our seats.

Both pastors are good preachers and give us something to think about beyond just the morning service.  The senior pastor is particularly adept at looking at a text from a fresh point of view.  We are blessed to attend these services.

This coming Sunday, for the first time, I will play the organ--just for the postlude.  I was supposed to play during the communion also but backed out of that.  It was a little too intimidating!  I haven't played organ in church services regularly since we retired, seventeen years ago.  I feel I need more practice before I'm up to that.  But a postlude is the least "nervous" part of the service.  People are leaving and chatting.

I will play "Shepherd's Noel" by J. Wayne Kerr.  It's a very bright, cheerful piece, and short--just three minutes worth of music.  Short because although it's four pages with several repeats, it goes by very quickly.  I hope that I can just relax and enjoy playing it!

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