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Uniquely designed to take us to an ethereal realm

In regard to Jennifer Graham’s Oct. 25 op-ed, “Save the church! (kill the organs)”: Traditional churches use an instrument that is not featured atop the iTunes pop charts for the same reason that they construct church buildings that look very different from the house Graham probably lives in, or the office building from which her opinion piece was published, or the local department store. The issue involves the distinction between the natural and the supernatural orders, and how that distinction may be reflected in worship.

Why the organ? Because it can continually sustain a note at a constant volume level. Stringed instruments run out of bow, brass and woodwinds run out of air; even a pedal-sustained piano tone gradually fades away. Hence, the organ has a unique capacity for suggesting the eternal realm. That is precisely what we connect with when we worship, through liturgy, sermon, and sacrament.

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Last, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor has an expressive content that has ranked it as a world-acclaimed masterpiece. Like any other masterpiece, it may acquire irrelevant associations (for example, as soundtrack music in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Fantasia”). If most worshippers at a given parish have these associations, then the organist can play something else.

John Harutunian


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