This contribution was submitted by a long-time, and accomplished, church-organist in the Protestant Reformed Churches. We honor the author’s request to remain anonymous in The Standard Bearer.
The most important part of a church service is the preaching of the Word of God. Another very important part of our church service is the congregational singing. Because the church organist aids the congregational singing, he or she is also important.
In the past we have become increasingly aware of a decreasing supply of church organists. Perhaps organists become threatened by unsympathetic music committees and critical church membership.
The service as church organist is a wonderful service. Even though one is paid little or nothing, there is pleasure in knowing that one’s God-given talents are used for His glory.
Words and music should touch the hearts and emotions of the congregation in their worship. The organist is to serve and assist in the worship service, not to “perform.”
It is common knowledge that the capacity to play an excellent organ recital does not guarantee the performer to be a good church-service organist. A recital glorifies the organist and the composer. A church service glorifies God.
In the proper playing of a psalm, the church organist becomes at once not only the accompanist, but also the leader of the congregation in the singing of that psalm. The organist should lead the congregation, stirring them up in the singing of the psalms to very joyful or prayerful praise to the Lord. The organist serves an important role in the worship service.
How does the organist accomplish this goal? How does an organist play aggressively enough, with neither too much nor too little tone? How does the organist keep the congregation moving at a reasonable pace without dragging? How does he or she help express the meaning of the psalm? How does he or she inspire the congregation to sing enthusiastically or prayerfully?
The organist should announce the psalm with an introduction, set the pace, and hold a steady rhythm. The organist should lead and direct the congregation with correct timing to sing each song with enthusiasm so that they become very cognizant of the words, so important to God’s praise.
The singers should be allowed the opportunities to breathe (especially between stanzas). The organist should give adequate tonal support to the congregation ‘but without drowning their voices in a loud sound. However, the psalmist does state “Sing unto Him a new song; Play skillfully with a loud noise” (Psalm 33:3).
Identify the mood of the text or tune—prayerful praise, rejoicing praise, etc. The tempo must be vigorous, steady, and sharply rhythmical. The organ must lead at a tempo neither too slow nor too fast. Tempo is extremely crucial to praise. Praise-worthy tempo helps us make good the gift of our singing praise to the Lord our God.
Preludes, offertories, and postludes have an important part in our worship services. Let us choose, practice, and play these with a prayer that it will open the door to the blessing that awaits those who seek it in true worship. Let nothing break the communion between our spirits and God.
Our songs then shall arise to heaven, and our joyful noise will please our God. Then we will walk out with the doxology and postlude in our mind and soul, and we will go through the entire week, until the next Sabbath day, singing!
Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to men that they should proclaim the Word of God through music. (Martin Luther)