Converting: Piano to Organ

When I came into the Catholic Church in March of 2013 I had a variety of fears. I was leaving a successful music ministry position behind in the Presbyterian Church that I left. True, I was only a pianist (with a small amount of organ playing) in the church, but I had a great dynamic relationship with the music director and the avid support of many friends that I had made over the course of eight years. It was also the staple of my income. As a freelance musician working in a large city, I am accustomed to seeking out extra work where I can find it, but I had become quite relaxed in this area because of the financial stability that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church provided for me and my wife. 


At the time of my conversion, I was aware that I would soon be looking for a similar position within the Catholic Church. Fortunately the music director at my parish was open to giving me a chance at playing! This was truly a blessing from God, for my transition was a fairly painless experience! I was grateful that I didn’t have to go without a job for an extended period of time. 


One of the more challenging aspects of this transition however was moving from full-time piano playing to full-time organ playing. The organ has several major differences from the piano. Firstly, there is the presence of multiple keyboards (called manuals) and a pedal-board (basically notes for the feet to play). Secondly, the action of the manuals is significantly lighter than the keys of a piano. This basically means that they are much easier to push down. The drawback is all the weight distribution that one becomes used to at the piano must be re-evaluated when playing the organ. The third and most profound difference is that that there is no way to control the volume of the instrument by merely playing softer with your fingers. The volume is controlled by the number of pipes that one has activated at a given time. More pipes equals louder; less equals softer. The difficulty arises when you begin playing and realize that your volume is not what you thought it would be. This is especially problematic when you are attempting to play a soft communion hymn but instead the bombastic sound of a plenum (full pipes organ) is produced. Once you begin though, you’re somewhat committed!

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