This morning our Iolani School Chaplain, the Rev. Daniel Leatherman (whose mom, by the way, studies organ with me) and I worked on configuring the school’s Virtual Organ which we use in the gymnasium for four All-School Chapels a year. It consists of two keyboards and a pedalboard and uses software called Hauptwerk on a Macintosh computer to generate sampled pipe organ sound.
What was exciting to me was that for the first time, we recorded my playing of the Doxology and then played it back through the system. On the playback, I said, “Oh wow, the next time I’m out of town, I could just record my playing, and then you wouldn’t need to worry about getting a substitute!” But Chaplain Leatherman said he would rather have a human play, even if it was one of my students in case we couldn’t get another professional.
I directed him to a previous post I had written, called Replaced by technology? and people were thrown into a panic when I got sick. As you will read in that post, Church Music Solutions provides “a versatile digital device that can be used to assist congregations that lack an in-house musician. The Virtual Organist can either function as a stand-alone 25-rank digital organ or can play back your church’s existing instrument.” Their slogan is “The organ bench is one bench that should never be empty on Sunday.”
I just now replayed the promotional video and was very surprised to hear that the background music behind it is from Bach’s Great Eighteen Chorales, Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, BWV 664! This is the piece that I had to spend all of Lent learning! And just think, you could have the Virtual Organist play it for you on your Virtual Organ!
With the passing of Canon Organist and Choirmaster John McCreary, we are reminded that organists are getting fewer and farther between and we will have to think “out of the box” to solve the organist shortage. I’m just not sure that “the box” (in this case, the Virtual Organ and the Virtual Organist) is the solution.
As you may have read on the invitation to the party to celebrate my years at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu (April 14th), donations will be received for the scholarship program of the American Guild of Organists. (By the way, all this was news to me!) If you can help us think of creative ways to get more people interested in playing the organ, please contact me!