WORKSHOP TEACHES LANGUAGE, LOVE, FOR THE ORGAN
Three musicians have gathered near the pipe organ in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church to talk about an upcoming organ workshop.
And though they may prefer the focus of the interview to be the workshop, the women themselves are fascinating.
They even have their own language Â— the great and the swell, the manuals and staves.
They talk about playing the organ, and the spiritual connection each finds through this particular musical expression. It is part of the allure in playing the organ.
"Certain pieces just impart the Holy Spirit. (Playing) is definitely a spiritual experience for me," says Mary Helen Garoutte.
It is obvious that the common bond they share Â— their love for music, particularly organ music Â— is a driving force behind the upcoming workshop. As well as a desire to see a tradition continue into the future.
"So many churches have gone to pop and contemporary music with bands and there is certainly a place for that," says workshop organizer Garoutte.
"But nothing can compare with the experience of hearing certain hymns on an organ. There are just some pieces that demand that big, strong sound. Â‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God!' Wow! No matter how much a person pounds on a piano, you can't make that sound like it does on the organ."
Garoutte has been the organist for First Presbyterian for many years. She began learning the organ from Lynnetta Paul in the late 1970s.
Fellow organist Marilyn Muller has played since junior high school.
"I remember when children weren't allowed to touch the organ at all. That's a shame," she says.
Youthful enthusiasm for making different kinds of sounds is a perfect fit with the organ, she says.
"I don't see another generation growing up to play the organ," says First Christian Church organist Liz Cooper. "It would be a terrible shame if this is lost. An entire body of literature came down through the ages because of the organ."
So much of historical church music Â— even the church itself, especially the Presbyterian Church Â— revolves around the organ, agrees Garoutte.
But that's not to say organ musical composition stopped with Bach. There are a plenty of contemporary pieces being written by some very talented young composers, Muller adds.
And by showcasing not only the traditional, but also contemporary organ music, these women hope the workshop will spark a renewed enthusiasm for an instrument they know some think is outdated.
"Playing the organ really is a lot of fun," says Garoutte.
The workshop is for anyone whether they have piano skills or not.
"It's easier if you know piano, but people can learn to play the organ without that," says Muller.
"We just want young people especially to discover the organ. As long as they can reach the pedals, they can come to the workshop," Garoutte adds.
Â— Story and photo by Mardi Ford