Regarding Jennifer Graham’s Oct. 25 op-ed “Save the church! (kill the organs)”: One can understand a journalist’s point of view, reflecting impoverished musical experiences at liturgies combined with a heartfelt concern for the revitalization of the Catholic Church. One can also understand that journalists are compelled to write pieces that they feel particularly passionate about, at least that day or week. But what is most disturbing for me and for many colleagues and friends is the dismissive manner in which Graham treats such a venerable instrument and its rich tradition of music making.
Even a modicum of research would reveal an entire world with which Graham is clearly unfamiliar. She could find numerous parishes with vital music ministries that make use of the organ and a skilled organist, who also doubles as choir director, pianist, cantor, and general musical factotum.
It is ironic that such an opinion should be expressed in a part of the country that has had perhaps the richest organ culture in the Western Hemisphere. Many of us who identify as organists came to study here, and subsequently stayed, because of the abundance of organs, conservatories, colleges, and universities that have provided organ study.
As in every profession that does not require a professional license to practice, there are also those who make a living at it, but lack the capacity or the training to do it well. Likewise, there are instruments whose condition or tonal aesthetic do not make a strong case for the instrument as a whole. Nevertheless, what should be stressed is that organ playing and organ building are complex, interwoven, and living and thriving arts that require the greatest synthesis of love, prayer, engineering, and musicality.
The writer is organist and music director at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Dover, lecturer in musicology and music education at Boston University, and executive board member of the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.