Magazine article The American Organist

Henry Ward Beecher on the Prelude

Magazine article The American Organist

Henry Ward Beecher on the Prelude

Article excerpt

The great preacher Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, from 1847 until his death in 1887, wrote considerably on the organ; but perhaps none of his prose was as astute or so applicable to the organist's weekly performance as the following excerpt.

What is the use of the opening organ-piece? Is it amusement-a musical luxury?

When people enter the house of God upon the Sabbath, they come from care, from business, from secular pleasures and duties. And the two things needed at the beginning of public worship are, first, a transition from ordinary thought and feeling into a higher and more devout frame of mind; and, second, a unity of feeling, a fellowship in the whole assembly. Now, it is in the power of music to arrest the attention, to change the current of feeling, to draw off the thoughts from common things, and to give to the mind, if not a religious tone, yet a state higher than before, and from which the transition to worship will be easy and natural. Nothing will bring worshippers into a state of feeling common to all sooner than fit organ music. This, then, is the object of the openingpiece. Upon entering the house of God, there is, as it were, a screen of sound rolled down between the audience and the outward world. Every susceptible nature is drawn out from sordid or sad thoughts, the careless are interested, and the attention of all is attracted to a common influence that is molding them gently to holy thoughts and feelings. Of course, this object will determine the fitness of an openingpiece. …

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