How do we procure an organ for our church? What is the best criteria for choosing a piano? How do I more effectively lead congregational song? What are effective uses of a digital instrument? How do I find good Prelude and Communion solo keyboard repertoire? You’ll find answers to these important questions for the church keyboardist here in the near future.

Above all else, the organist’s (keyboardist’s) role should be to inspire, to lead, and most of all, to make His praise glorious. – Jason D. Payne

To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable. – Ludwig van Beethoven

Ours is an age of global and stylistic broadening. It is not the first such era, and not likely the last. We are stretching as a church, as we should, and not yet quite sure how to react. No longer does all church music come from northern Europe, the primary source of professional music training for generations. Hymns and songs from other places and times often cry out for something other than a four-part setting or for instrumentation other than the organ. Although I still believe that the organ is one of the best instruments for helping larger gatherings in song. The organ produces tone in the same way as the human voice, air vibrating through a tube. It can evoke the fullest praise and the quietest prayer. It also provides for the largest variety of inspiration within one instrument! However, the use of the organ for all music does not make sense.

Some of us are old enough to remember with amazement the first time we saw color television after years of seeing only black and white. The picture was the same, but with more life and detail than we had seen before. It is this role of turning on the color that I find increasingly important in church music. I am speaking of the church musician’s treatment of text and melody through the introduction, harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment, and through the instrumentation and registration of the organ and other accompanying instruments, all which have a large effect on how the congregation is encouraged to sing. Musicians have the opportunity now more than ever, to provide a variety that continually strives for meaning, for freshness, and for deeper insights – David M. Cherwien: Let the People Sing!


Video on effectively accompanying Contemporary Songs at the piano from a Lead Sheet –

A How To on Voicing Organs (pipe and pipeless). See link below.


Let the People Sing by David M. Cherwein (available on Amazon and Concordia Publishing)

A keyboardist’s creative and practical guide to engaging God’s people in meaningful song. The goal: To give the people permission to sing out, and to give them permission to sing with deeper meaning.  Among the finest books in print for pianists and organists on more effectively leading hymns.

The Organists’ Manual: Technical Studies & Selected Compositions for the Organ by Roger E. Davis

The purpose of The Organists’ Manual is to provide, within a single volume, technical studies, diverse compositions, and technical information for beginning organists. (Worth every penny.)

ALL ABOUT HAUPTWERK by Kenneth Spencer: a viable and affordable option to purchasing a pipe organ (available on Amazon)

This review is reprinted by courtesy of The Organists’ Review journal and was written by James McVinnie.

is a program which allows the playback or live performance of sound samples of real pipe organs. Kenneth A. Spencer’s book All about Hauptwerk does exactly what it says.
This is a must-have book for all those who are thinking of building their own Virtual Pipe Organ at home, widely acknowledged as the next best thing to a real pipe organ.
The author suggests that one should read the book ‘rather like a novel’ before attempting anything; it is indeed easy to read, detailed and informative and offers a comprehensive, step-by-step guide in layman’s terms as to what the program is, how the program works and what you need to buy to make it all work.
It’s a persuasive read, too: you will find yourself eager to explore the possibilities of this powerful program, but the book also offers some thoughts of a more philosophical nature on the often thorny issue of where digital instruments stand in the realm of the real pipe organ.
The book first offers an introduction to the pipe organ for those who may have come to the program without prior knowledge of how a real pipe organ is constructed. It then goes onto describe what Hauptwerk is, how it works and how you would obtain it (the program is a commercial product, but is also available with limited functionality for free), the hardware needed (computer capacity, MIDI keyboards and pedal-boards and how these talk to the program, audio playback requirements etc).
It also goes into building your own console and how to voice your instrument for the room in which it is placed.
The book also touches on how the instrument could be used in a studio context with Digital Audio Work stations such as Logic and ProTools. Thoroughly recommended.

WEB RESOURCES:  Dr. Les Deutsch was the project manager for JPL for the Mars Rover.  Although his father invented the first digital organ for the Allen Organ Company, Les has turned to use of Hauptwerk in the years since. Les is also a fine church musician and instrumentalist and has designed several large free instruments for Hauptwerk on his website.  Also check out the substantial user-friendly information there on voicing an organ. Christ Church Anglican in Savannah chose one of Dr. Deutsch’s custom designed Hauptwerk organ samples along with a fully redesigned Schantz organ console to great success. Marshall & Ogletree, LLC  was founded in 2002 by two concert organists. Their company, based in the Boston, MA area, has been honored to receive commissions to build high-profile digital organs for some of the most discerning clients in the world, customers who were in a position to choose any organ they wanted – and they chose Marshall & Ogletree. The Falls Church Anglican, in Virginia, is among their many happy clients.


Classical Music for the Church Service (piano solo, comes in three volumes)  Edited by Maurice Hinson

A three-volume series that provides the intermediate-level pianist with classical music that is appropriate for the worship service. Pieces are arranged in each volume alphabetically and by classification (Preludes, Offertories, Solos, Postludes).

The Peace of Christ – Ten Pieces for Piano and Solo Instrument – Kevin Keil (also see Kevin’s See Amid the Winter’s Snow (Advent/Christmas pieces for piano and solo instrument) and Seasons of Grace (piano solos based on Chant melodies).

Essential Keyboard Repertoire, Vol. 7 (Spanning Seven Centuries)  Alfred Masterwork Edition

This volume of 84 early-intermediate selections compiled and edited by Willard Palmer offers the pianists an introduction to easier keyboard music of various composers spanning seven centuries and embracing the following periods: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern.  (This is the last of a 7-volume series from Alfred Music Publishing.)


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