In the realm of instruments, how wild is the organ, I mean seriously? I’m a self-professed organ geek. I proactively and on a rather regular basis download organ music from itunes onto my electronic devices and then listen to them voluntarily. Perhaps it is the complexity of an instrument with multiple levels of keyboards, all kinds of buttons to push and pull (they call them “stops”, I know, right?) which give the keyboards all kinds of different sounds. And then there’s the whole foot pedal deal. It’s like a keyboard for the feet while the hands are concurrently playing all the keyboards above at the same time. What happens to an organist brain with all that going on? Maybe it’s better we don’t know. It’s like, ‘Here is your brain, and here is your brain on organ.’
The first organist with whom I worked was a guy name Roger Arbuckle. When I asked him how he chose the organ, he said why focus on any single instrument when I can have access to them all? That sounds great I think, you know, having it all. For him, having access to all the sounds of an orchestra, a symphony, and a band in one instrument was having all the musical world at his finger and toe tips at the same time.
What would it be like for us to have it all? To have all the time we need to spend with family and friends in quality conversations and meaningful interactions? Pull and push a stop, and concurrently to have all the time we need to do excellent work with the vocations and avocations that pique our curiosity and fulfill our passions. Pull and push a stop, and concurrently to have all the time we need to walk and run and play games and watch movies and build relationships and parent our children and laugh ourselves silly and cry enough tears to cleanse and heal our griefs. Pull and push a stop, and concurrently to have all the time we need to mow the grass and do the laundry and go to the grocery and finish school projects and vacuum and bathe and sleep. Pull and push a stop, and concurrently to have all the time we need to volunteer as advocates for children, as allies for those not treated equally, to help build houses for the homeless, to write our legislators about our strong beliefs, to serve some meals and sort some clothes, to tutor and read stories and walk with students toward maturity. Pull and push a stop, and concurrently to have all the time we need to deepen our faith with reflection and prayer and study and WORSHIP ATTENDANCE? Pull and push a stop, and concurrently to have all the time we need to educate ourselves about choices for political leadership at the national, state, and local levels and to VOTE at the national, state, and local levels?
Wow, how wild is the organ indeed? I mean seriously? But all those push and pull stops aren’t meant to be pushed and pulled at once. Organists choose what sounds they want at what times during the course of a masterpiece like Widor’s Tocatta at Easter, (Lynn Alfers, retired organist at Grace, you rock!) or during the course of a hymn where they are accompanying a congregation and choose how best to help the gathered community participate in singing as well as inspire our spirits to soar (Keith Sandrock, current organist at Grace, you rock!). How do they decide where to stop with the stops? Snort, see what I did there? I think they immerse themselves in the knowledge of the literature, consider their experience in practice of what has worked and what has not, call on what they’ve learned from other leaders in their field, and finally, at least I imagine, they listen to the music muse of their own hearts and trust the creative spirit that lives in each of us. Maybe a weee bit like Wesley’s quadrilateral? That’s your call you United Methodists!
Yup, I love me some great organ music from some great organists playing on some great instruments using the stops that allow the music to move souls. Maybe we all can have it all in the process of pulling and pushing and choosing when and where to, well, just stop.