Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 9, Issue 30
A majestic soundAn organ spectacular brings together worldwide enthusiasts to promote and enjoy the instrument
With its unforgettable sound, an organ can be a majestic centerpiece to a concert or worship, but it can just as easily be used to bring a new element to ordinary music or even provide amazing sound effects. The instrument’s versatility is often underestimated, probably because it’s been used to such great effect: Listeners may notice the overall impact of the instrument, rather than the instrument itself.
As part of the yearlong schedule of events, worldwide chapters will take part in an “Organ Spectacular” on Oct. 19. Locally, the American Guild of Organists’ Central Coast Chapter will host its own spectacular at First United Methodist Church, featuring and showcasing the Wesley Pipe Organ—as well as some guest musicians. The event, organized by Kathy Wilding and Marvin Stilliens, will go beyond the organ and include ensemble pieces incorporating trumpets, handbells, violin, cello, and percussion.
“It will be more contemporary and meditative and moving music,” Wilding said.
The local event is part of an expected 250 organ concerts planned worldwide. The idea is to have organ music playing around the globe all that day. The guild’s goal with the year-long event is to promote awareness of the organ to new audiences, as well as organ enthusiasts.
“The organ is kind of becoming an instrument of the past,” Stilliens said. “I think that’s what the American Guild of Organists wants to bring out: the viability of the organ used in worship.”
But the organ also goes well beyond worship, appearing in concerts, rock music, and on soundtracks. While there’s a challenge in blending what can sometimes be an overpowering sound, it’s just as challenging to play the music in the first place.
Wilding said that an organ—especially a pipe organ—is something to behold as well as hear.
“If you’ve never been exposed to it, never sat down to play this powerful instrument, you don’t know how powerful it is, and how complicated,” Wilding said. “You’ve got both hands and both feet going.”
That’s perhaps why Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dubbed the organ the King of Instruments. It’s also likely that their size had a lot to do with the moniker. Though organs come in many forms, like smaller chamber and electronic organs, they can also be enormous, pipe-bristling instruments that fill the stage at a concert hall. Some organs boast 64-foot pipes.
Stilliens said that the local Methodist Church’s organ was once the largest on the Central Coast. Increasingly, churches around the country are trying to revive organ music and are adding pipe organs to their worship once again, which is also true on the Central Coast, Stilliens said. Maybe it’s because the organs offer an element of nostalgia in their sound, though they also add a twist. With help from a device called a MIDI, the organ can play a variety of sounds, from birds chirping to the sound of a helicopter overhead. The MIDI gives the organ a different dimension.
“It’s modernizing the organ and bringing it up to what people are used to hearing,” Stilliens said.
The sound has been featured in its various forms in everything from theater to early soap operas to rock music. Pink Floyd and Deep Purple used the Hammond organ in their music, Dennie DeYoung of Styx used the pipe organ at Chicago’s St. James Cathedral on the song “I’m O.K.,” and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke played the organ on the Kid A album, most notably on the song “Motion Picture Soundtrack.”
“There are endless capabilities,” Wilding said. “When I go to practice, sometimes I don’t get any work done because I’m fiddling around.”
Though modern technology has allowed the organ to replicate many sounds, there’s one that can’t be duplicated: the sound of wind being carried through the pipes, Stilliens said.
For that, you have to hear it in person—which is what the organ spectacular is all about.
INFOBOX: How grand
The organ spectacular will be held at 4 p.m. on Oct. 19 at First United Methodist Church, 311 S. Broadway. A reception will follow. The concert is free and open to the public.
Arts Editor Shelly Cone has an unforgettable sound. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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