Playing the Organ for Pianists

Playing the organ both fascinates and terrifies me! I must admit knowing a bit about this instrument has gotten me quite a few more church and wedding gigs than I would have had if I just stuck to the piano. Perhaps this is because there are so few musicians who are bold enough to play such a powerful and intimidating instrument?

When I was 15 years old my father quickly taught me poor man’s organ from a pianist’s viewpoint (he performed as a hotel pianist 5 nights a week, and then on Sundays was a church organist and Mondays was choir practice night). I don’t think there were many organists available or willing to play 7:00am Sunday Mass in the San Francisco Bay Area, and as soon as I got my driver’s license I drove myself to St. Celia’s  to rattle the statues with my pedal work once a week in the old Catholic church. From then on, I have filled in on organ at various church services, weddings, and family events.

My latest church position is being the pianist/organist for Goleta Presbyterian. They have an impressive 3 manual instrument with a heavenly multitude of stops, pedals, knobs, and buttons. I am replacing a well loved and highly accomplished organist who recently retired – she even has her name affixed to the instrument on a plaque! Although I see myself first of all as a pianist, I need to keep the congregation happy by playing the organ at least part of the time.

For today’s Sunday prelude, I chose my own composition, Pastor Al from my instructional book The Complete Church Pianist: A Piano/Keyboard Method with Tips for Inspired Improvisation and Worship. This piece is a pianist’s ‘no brainer’ because it uses only one bass pedal, the note “F”. I stepped on the low “F” pedal, played the piece, and stretched it out with improvisation until the pastor came in and sat down about 12 minutes later. So far, so good (I was told it was lovely) but God only knows what I will play next Sunday!

Click below to see the music, and find The Complete Church Pianist for more helpful tips!

Find the music for Pastor Al under Downloads

 Complete Church Pianist CD cover

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