This morning, the cartoon below was posted on the American Guild of Organists FaceBook page:
It seems that having quiet for the organ prelude is a universal and never-ending challenge!
Even back in 1949, Donald Kettring in Church Week, wrote:
Recently I attended a panel discussion on church music in which a brilliant and accomplished instructor on the music faculty of a large university made the statement that an organ prelude should always be quiet so that the organ tone would not intrude on the private devotions of worshipers waiting in quiet ness for the service proper to begin. This statement was made with an intensity, idealism, and a point of view which greatly appealed to me.
As would be expected, the instructor’s assertion struck some sparks in the gathering. Some felt he was not realistic. “Walk into a typical Protestant Church on a Sunday morning before service” they countered in effect, “do you find quietness or hubbub; do you find people in private devotions or chatting?” In the heat of the discussion the question was punctuated with an exclamation point rather than a question mark as though the answer were obvious. Personally, but this was only my opinion, the answer to the question is not obvious. One never knows how many are engaged in silent prayer, and a very few people talking can do more to create the impression of hubbub than a thousand people listening. We can hear the hubbub but not the silent devotion.
(Read the entire article by clicking this link.)
Kettring suggested that the organist start playing very quietly, then begin the prelude as announced in the bulletin, making sure that “a stirring climax is reached.” Then he or she can start gradually getting softer, modulating to the key of the introit. He says that this formula satisfies people who like preludes soft and others who like them loud.
Some day I wish I were brave enough to just stop playing in the middle of the prelude and see if anyone notices!