Friday, February 17, 2006

Remarks for the Organ Committee

NPC, San Diego

Leah Chang, February 2006

Any decision to change or expand the scope and potential outreach of the church's ministry is exciting! The Organ Committee's chairperson, Loretta Vogel, and other committee members have been researching potential new instruments for NPC and now are well qualified to convey particulars of Allen Organ's current series—in the case of our church, specifically one of the Protégé models, ideally configured for a congregation with an average size worship space and a non-extravagant budget! Because Loretta (especially) can spell out broad specifications, finances and delivery, I will mention some musical and artistic advantages of the Protégé organs.

To begin with my qualifications and experience: I have a Bachelor of Music in organ and piano performance from Boston University's School for the Arts; I spent a summer studying piano as a Tanglewood Fellow; and I hold a Diploma from the International Summeracademy for Organists in Haarlem, The Netherlands. In the course of my studies and experience as a sometime church musician, as a recitalist and as a choral accompanist, I've had the privilege of hearing, playing and performing on a number of the premiere organs in this country and in Northern Europe—centuries-old instruments as well as those built during the past half-century or so. In other words, I recognize responsive key action, superior instrumental voicing and appropriate tonal ensemble. I also can tell you that until approximately two decades ago, no organist with professional skills would have considered accepting a position in a church with an electronic organ, because earlier technologies – including Allen Organ's – were not developed to sufficient sophistication for an accomplished musician to consider any of them except in an actual emergency! In fact, a number of musicians typically would refer to earlier electric and the later electronic products as appliances rather than instruments.

However, the times have changed indeed! A tremendous benefit for any local church – but above all for one with limited resources – is that Allen's Protégé (and, of course, the larger instruments in their Quantum series) organs ship with digital enhancements that not only make it possible for an unskilled keyboard player proficiently to lead the music for worship; the church also can purchase pre-recorded hymns and service music from Allen Organs (all with adjustable volume and tempo), an organist can prerecord suitable music in advance of a scheduled worship event, and there are downloadable options on the internet.

However, beyond those immediate advantages, today's Allen Organs are phenomenal musical instruments in every possible meaning of the word musical! Having even a relatively small and compact organ such as the 2-manual Protégé means NPC will be able to attract worshipers who value and appreciate what might be called serious, formal or traditional church music—though over the past few decades a lot of music that's been written for traditional worship is harmonically discordant, rhythmically asymmetrical and sounds very unlike many people's idea of conventional church music. Finally, a musical instrument of the caliber NPC is considering will attract exceptional performers to serve as the church's resident musician, expand its musical offerings, and draw other vocalists and instrumentalists into the church's liturgical life and related ministries.