Baltimore Chapter of the American Guild of Organists
Enriching lives through organ and choral music

Dear John

John Walker, DMA is Artist-in-Residence at Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore, having served earlier as Minister of Music at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and The Riverside Church in New York City. He is a member of the organ faculty at Peabody Conservatory of Music and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Organ at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, following previous teaching positions at Duquesne University, Manhattan School of Music, San Jose State University, and the American Conservatory of Music. His active performance schedule has taken him throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Dr. Walker has recorded frequently on the Pro Organo, Gothic, and JAV Recordings labels. As a student of Herbert Nanney, John Walker earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stanford University, where he was also Assistant University Organist. He holds two Master of Music degrees cum laude from American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where he was later a member of the faculty. Dr. Walker was the 1984 alumni recipient of the Professional Achievement Award from Westminster College. A Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, John Walker was elected President of the AGO in 2014, having previously served the Guild in numerous other capacities including several terms as Vice President and Treasurer.

In our "Dear John" series, Dr. Walker answers questions from our Chapter members. An experienced, knowledgeable, and pastoral member, he has graciously accepted the board’s invitation to lead an “advice” column for our chapter newsletter. Many thanks to Dr. John Walker for taking up this challenge. If you have an organ, choral, or church music question, please use our contact form to submit your question to Dr. Walker. He will then choose one question to answer each month.

Postludes Discontinued?

For years, congregants have tended to jump up and exit during organ postludes. The rector of the church I serve is now requesting that postludes be discontinued for that reason. Is this a modern trend or is my church an exception? --           Post-luded Postluder

Dear Post-luded,

Thanks for your fascinating question. Confessing my initial inability to find a good answer, I discussed the topic with Dr. Douglas Moorhead, my lifelong friend from graduate school. Here is a portion of his response:

I have never heard of a church abolishing postludes. I am totally against this idea, because a postlude is the connection between worship experience and secular world experience. I find that walking out of a church with a crowd of people in silence or even engaged in amicable chatting without a music background is just too sudden a change from a holy and sacred sound environment.

The purpose of a postlude is to send people on their way into the world. It might be preferable for people to leave during the postlude than to feel that they have to sit there listening to the music just to be polite. Some churches have set a precedent of having excellent music at the end of a service, and people want to remain in the pews listening.

Continuing with Doug’s rationale, the Latin words “pre-lude” and “post-lude” mean to “play before” and to “play after.” The intent of each is to form an effective transition between secular and sacred environments. If most congregants arrive during the prelude, we might likely expect most of them to depart during the postlude. If they do so, the postlude is still serving its intended purpose: to form a bridge between sacred and secular space. Of course it is splendid if worshippers wish to remain seated for the entire postlude; but technically the service ends with the benediction, followed thereafter by postluding.

If your pastor continues to discourage postludes, perhaps you might suggest that, following conclusion of the service at the benediction, you would then immediately begin to practice the prelude for the following Sunday!

Happy Pre- and Post-luding to you!

John Walker

Louis Gephardt