Yesterday, a warm sunny day here in Romford, saw me presiding at the Parish Mass for the first time for several months as I have been playing the organ at St. Augustine’s since before Easter. I was most grateful to Father Martin for allowing me to do this. In fact, I’ve really enjoyed playing again on a regular basis but also greatly missed standing at the Altar. It’s been something of a dichotomy.
When I went to Theological College, having been an organist non-stop for many, many years I was firmly told that those days were now over. Wrong! Within weeks I was regularly playing for College, accompanied the College Choir at Salisbury Cathedral on several occasions when they sang Evensong, played for a Save the Children Fund Service in the Cathedral and helped the organist at St. Martin’s where we went to church in Salisbury so he could conduct from time to time. In fact, since those days I’ve played at quite a few churches, some with great organs, some with good organs and some with diabolical instruments and, no, I’m not going to say which is which.
Over the years I’ve been responsible, or partly responsible, for the installation of new organs in 4 churches. For me, music is one important way of expressing my devotion and the organ, the King of Instruments, the most suitable for accompanying worship. It therefore saddens me when I hear that churches have abandoned their organ for a “group”. I’m not saying that there is no place in worship for that style of music although, I must admit, much of it does little for me. I’ve heard of one recently where there is a fine two manual pipe organ which is no longer used and the organist has been discharged in favour of a “group”.
Music needs to be worthy to be used in worship and some of the modern words and music used by some churches are often just repetitive ditties which are trite, sentimental doggerel sung to abysmal music accompanied by banging drums, twanging guitars, a group singing (bawling) and the whole lot over amplified.
In a service, in a packed Cathedral not so long ago, an electric piano, guitars and drums with a group of singers had been imported to accompany the service. During that service the anthem by S. S. Wesley “Lead me Lord” was sung accompanied by the band jazzed up to make it “modern”. Why? And why not use the very fine Cathedral organ at all. Even the entry and exit was accompanied by the group.