Sunday, March 06, 2011


The phone rang. It was my successor and friend Mark Pattie on the line. "Do you have a few moments?" he asked. I say yes and listened as he walked into a room full of noise, no, not noise, it was an organ, it was Cindy Reents on the organ practicing Widor's "Toccata and Fuge" for her Easter postlude. Mark told Cindy to not stop as he held the phone in the air. I listened through the tiny speaker of my phone to the transcendent spiraling ascent of the music, then the reverberating pulse of the low notes...and I wept standing alone in the courtyard in California as the music played in Minnesota.
I was not homesick as much as deeply stirred and blessed by a friend giving me the one gift I missed so much: the transcendent sound of a pipe organ played really, really well. That will never be the case in California. Our sanctuary is not designed for nor has an organ. We have a wonderful Yamaha piano and acoustic and amplified instruments. We have over 40 different musicians who play regularly and delightfully together, weaving a broad tapestry of sounds and styles. There is no battling here between traditional and contemporary, no sense of entitlement or resentment. The spirit of worship is sweet.
I'm not sure why the sound of a pipe organ stirs me so much, Maybe it's the fact that in the church in which I grew up, First Covenant of St. Paul, Bonnie Opel played with equal fervor in my childhood. When I was cleaning the sanctuary for my dad Saturday mornings for my allowance, it would be to the sound of the mighty pipe organ playing. I've never played piano or organ, but have always been stirred deeply by those big, big sounds. On our first trip to France, I was similarly overcome at St. Germain de Pres (sp?) where we walked in to the church where Widor was organist and heard the pipe organ playing and another day in Notre Dame cathedral.
So, bless you Cindy an all other dedicated pipe organists as you bring sounds that stir hearts.


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