By Barbara Wilson
On the first Saturday in February, I took advantage of a continuing education opportunity provided by my chapter of the American Guild of Organists. It was held in Raleigh, N.C. at White Memorial Presbyterian Church, which was the venue of several years of organ lessons for me. In addition to offering a varied selection of workshops, all presented by chapter members, the day-long meeting allowed for the renewal of old acquaintances with friends and colleagues from the Raleigh area.
Among the topics explored was Organ Registration, or how to use the sounds available on the organ to best advantage. Another was Balance and Alignment at the Organ Console, and how it affects the ease and accuracy of playing. A third offering was Pedal Techniques. Did you know that lots of notes in organ music (usually low notes, but not always) are played by the feet, on a large keyboard-type array called the pedalboard? (This is in addition to the two or more stacked keyboards, called the manuals, for the hands.) The pedal class was taught by a person with great mastery of advanced pedal techniques. After her sharing and demonstration of some tips and instructions, attendees put on their organ shoes for immediate application of new skills, or attempts thereof!
Of great interest to many attendees was a presentation about the new Presbyterian Hymnal, Glory to God, published in 2013. The large Presbyterian church where the event was held was an “early adopter”, and they have already placed the new hymnal in use. It is an attractive book, available with either a red or purple cover. Arranged differently from the current hymnal, the new book’s theme is “Salvation History”, and it is organized in three sections. The first is “God’s Mighty Acts”, and the last is “Our Response”. In the middle, where we meet, is “the Church at Worship”. The group enjoyed singing at least a dozen hymns from the new book. More information, including a listing of the included hymns, is available at http//www.presbyterianhymnal.org.
At the final session of the afternoon, participants offered ideas for enhancing interest in the organ and its music within our congregations. I was able to speak with pride and appreciation about the ways in which our pastor, Bradley Long, calls attention to the role our organ plays in worship. I welcome comments and questions from the congregation about the organ and its music, and would like to know of your interest in the music and your “favorites”.