Thursday, July 20, 2006

Organ music

Our first night in St. Andrews, we attended a concert at the Holy Trinity Church of organ and choral music. It was a beautiful venue, and the music was good, too. The organist was excellent, and he played some Vierne, along with several other pieces by lesser known composers, among them one by the choral director, David Gascoigne.

It's a beautiful instrument, with amazing French-influenced stops besides the "Bobby Jones Bombarde" (donated by the golfer's widow), well-suited to the Vierne he played, Clair de Lune. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although it was rather lengthy. Amy, on the other hand, did not enjoy this Vierne (although she did like the other pieces). And, as I glanced around the audience, it appeared she was not the only one. Granted, most of the attendees had gotten off a plane that same day, and were fighting back jet lag, but I saw several people "praying" or nodding in agreement.

So, Amy said to me, that that was why people don't like organ music—organists play long pieces that don't quickly move through expected cadences and melodies, but rather are a bit "noodly," as my first composition teacher would call them. My first thought was that people just don't understand music, and this should help them in their music education. But, then I considered that perhaps she's right. I've always tried to play easily apprehendable pieces for church, but, sometimes I know that I think, "well, this could be a little strange for people, but, they should be exposed to new things." Maybe this isn't good, though. In 2006, pipe organ music is definitely on the decline, if not at the bottom.

We went to a concert in Ocean Grove last summer, which I found to sometimes be a little cheesy, although that organist and organ were quite fabulous, too. But, maybe that's the idea. People don't want challenge in their music listening—they want to be entertained. That, however, goes against what I think about music in the church. It's not there for our entertainment, but rather, for the worship of God. So, if a piece is well-crafted, maybe it should be played regardless of whether or not people like it. I think that is what I wonder about organ music, however. Some pieces, like those by Vierne, are wonderful to show the colors of an organ; their form, however, might not be incredibly sophisticated, often being through-composed (realizing, that many do follow standard forms—I'm not doing a music theory analysis here). Is that a well-crafted piece? I tend to like pieces that do use a standard form, because I fell as if those forms give pieces a continuity that is sometimes lacking otherwise. But, the beautiful tone colors that arise from French organ music could possibly make up for this lack of form. Is all French organ music good for church? I'm undecided.

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