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

Pipe and Pedal

The Pipe and Pedal is the monthly newsletter of the Baltimore AGO. For past issues, please visit our Historical Archives. If you wish to submit an article for the Pipe and Pedal, you may visit our submissions page.

March 2019 Issue

Dear Colleagues,

Ash Wednesday has arrived once again meaning that the season of Lent is upon us and for many is recognized as a season of preparation for Good Friday and Easter. For those whose music ministries are in liturgical churches, it conjures up different feelings though many responses I get from colleagues are less than enthusiastic. Some of these feelings are rooted in the need for the music of this season to be reflective and penitential. At one level this is good since it provides a more clearly defined framework within which music is selected while at another, some feel constrained by that very framework. Defining these themes and the music which is appropriate is a challenge since how music is received differs from one person to another. It leads me to that old, tired saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”….(beauty is in the ear of the listener).

How do we minister to those who hear reflective music as sad, dull and depressing; a ‘downer’. Music for reflection does not of necessity have to be quiet and slow as we have learned from those who devote time each day to reflection and meditation. They use whatever helps them to relax in order to effectively meditate. Some prefer no music at all, or quiet, background music while others are helped by pop, hip-hop and jazz. Much of the former is not based on particular themes or melodies but rather improvisational, ethereal harmonic progressions, sometimes labeled as ‘wave’ music. The spectrum is very broad. But in our churches, what can we do to help foster an atmosphere of reflection during the season leading up to Easter? The worship tradition in your congregation usually provides guidelines for how far ‘out of the box’ you can reach. A candid conversation with the pastor or priest can provide some important guidelines. Refer to the hymnal being used, searching for hymns based on these themes, though in surveying some of today’s recently published hymnals, there is little or no reference to penitence. Most have hymns for the pre-Easter season or for Lent. Use those along with organ and choral music based on those melodies and texts. Whatever we can do as worship leaders to help our congregants have a meaningful, meditative pre-Easter experience will provide a deeper appreciation of Easter Day and the weeks which follow. The following hymn text is included here for meditation.

O for a closer walk with God. A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road That leads me to the Lamb.
W. Cowper

Blessings to all for a spiritually edifying Lenten season.


The March 2019 Issue of the Pipe and Pedal is now available.

Louis Gephardt