Monday, May 23, 2005

passing on

Last Friday, the New York Times ran this story about James Weaver, an organist who has taught at Curtis and Julliard. He is retiring as organist of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York.

The story highlights important organs in this artist's life, and how the role of pipe organs are diminishing in America and our churches. It's a bittersweet story.

"My very first church job, when I was 14, was in a downtown church in Baltimore where I think I was their last organist, on a wonderful two-manual late-19th-century Johnson & Son organ. I went back just this past Christmas, after visiting the reopened Baltimore & Ohio Railroad museum a few blocks away, and found that it was not in good shape."

The Pentecostal congregation that took over the church from the Methodists preferred the jazzier sounds of a Hammond electronic organ, the pastor told him, and the pipes remained silent.