Playing the Piano as Substitute Organist
Written by Donald Moro   
Monday, 27 August 2012 21:36

As a substitute organist I am often called on to play both the organ and the piano for worship services.  I am comfortable playing both, but have found remarkably different opinions on the use of the piano in the services.

I was thinking about this today as I sat in the congregation at St. Edwards Catholic Church in Richmond.  The organist there favors the piano and has a wonderfully gentle touch.  She plays the organ when certain pieces (like today’s “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”) demand a more pronounced musical leadership.  People just seem to sing louder when accompanied by the organ.

As a recent substitute at a Church of Christ Scientist, I was asked to accompany a soloist who presented me with piano music to play on the organ.  When I asked the chairman of the music committee why there was no piano in the church, she told me that “pianos were for saloons, not churches.”

I also recently substituted a Presbyterian Church in Richmond, where the new organ sits proudly in the choir loft at the rear of the church.  The piano, however, sits on the ground floor in front of the congregation!  It would have to be a very special event for the organist to travel downstairs, slip out a door, and reappear in front of the assembly to play the piano.

Different churches have different musical opinions, different beliefs, and different customs.  As a substitute organist, it’s not my position to judge.  Rather, it’s my job to adapt to the way they do things, and keep my mouth shut!