At twelve years old, I started learning how to play the organ. Sitting before such an enormous instrument at such a young age was certainly intimidating, but also one of the greatest experiences as I can recall how it would shake the ground beneath my feet with its thunderous sound. Referred to as the "King of Instruments," the organ is one of the oldest and most complex instruments ever created. As playing the instrument is becoming a lost art in which there are fewer and fewer organists, I would like to share why the organ is my favorite instrument.
How the Pipe Organ Works
Pipe organs are unique because they are essentially a box of whistles. They are constructed so that each pipe sits above a hollow wind chest that is filled with compressed air. In general, there are two important components to the organ:
The pipe organ is played from an area called the console in which there are levers or "stops’" that represent a set of pipes and produce a particular sound.
There is also a series of valves connected to the keyboard that direct the flow of air to each pipe and only make a sound when a key is depressed and its related pallet opens. This allows the compressed air to pass up through the pipe for that note and create a beautiful, enchanting sound.
The Era of the Pipe Organ
During the Baroque era, the organ reached its popularity and found its most important composer in a man named Johann Sebastian Bach. The organ helped characterize the excessive and extravagant style of art of this era and provided the primary music for church services.
Bach was the most distinguished organ virtuoso in Europe and was highly skilled in playing this instrument. He used one set of keys for the hands and the other for his feet to engage a different group of pipes and produce a distinct timbre. Equipped with arguably the greatest musical instrument invented, Bach composed his legendary Organ Fugue in G Minor.
Lastly, Bach applied a technique particularly suited to the organ called the pedal point, which helped sustain the pitch while harmonies changed around it. The idiomatic writing, which is so brilliantly composed by Bach, makes this organ fugue one of the most appealing musical pieces to be performed and heard.
“How a Pipe Organ Works.” www.pipedreams.org, www.pipedreams.org/page/how-
“Organ | Musical Instrument | Britannica.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2020,