"Pulling out the stops" to Save Organ Program

Church organs may be losing the so-called "worship wars" to guitars and praise bands, but they won the news battle this week.

The proposed cancellation of the organ major at Northwestern University has caused quite a stir. So much so that the Chicago Tribune ran three stories about decision this past Sunday. Music school dean Toni-Marie Montgomery says the program draws too few students and costs too much money. An number of alumni disagree.

Richard Webster, an alumi and president of Advent Press recalled the memory of the post 9-11 service at the Washtington National Cathedral to emphasize the emotional power a pipe organ can summon.

He wrote:

On Sept. 14, 2001, a nation frozen in shock and grief watched
our country's leaders, including four presidents, gather for a service
of prayer and remembrance at Washington's National Cathedral.
Representatives from three religions offered words of comfort
and hope to a world struggling with the meaning of Sept. 11.
Punctuating their words and our weeping was music--the
universal language.

The massive ship laden with this cargo of words, music and grief was
the great cathedral organ, which thundered and embraced us all as the
congregation rose to sing: "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Sacred
music doing what it is supposed to do--point people to God. At times
of tragedy, trivial music cannot carry such profound sorrow.
But the organ can.

The final decision on the future of the Northwestern organ major, first begun in 1895 rests with the university's provost.

In Pittsburgh, home town of Mr. Rogers a new organ requiem in Rogers' honor premieres this month.

The composer is 21-year old Luke Mayernik, 21, the organist at St. Justin Church, a Roman Catholic parish near Pittsburgh

"Anyone who watches his show immediately feels the invisible arms just wrapping you," Mayernik told the Associated Press.

And, in a story reported last fall but worth repeating, those who say they can't worship without hearing an organ may be on to something, according to the BBC.

British scientist discovered that "People who experience a sense of spirituality in church may be reacting to the extreme bass sound produced by some organ pipes."

Some pipe organs emits sounds that are lower than 20 Hertz is largely inaudible to the human ear," reported the BBC.

"It has been suggested that because some organ pipes in churches and cathedrals produce infrasound this could lead to people having weird experiences which they attribute to God," said Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from University of Hertfordshire.

"Some of the experiences in our audience included 'shivering on my wrist', 'an odd feeling in my stomach', 'increased heart rate', 'feeling very anxious', and 'a sudden memory of emotional loss'.


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