If relevance is based on cultural trends rather than congregational engagement—it’s easy to see how the organ can get pushed out the back door. However, if relevance is based on congregational engagement—the organ will beat out all other instrumental choices hands down.
Recently, my children and I watched the Atlanta Braves take on the Houston Astros in the 2021 World Series. As committed Braves fans, we’ve waited a very long time (predating my children’s birth) for the Braves to make it back to the fall Classic.
As we’ve watched the games each evening, one thing that I’ve noticed is something that transcends baseball. It has to do with music. Specifically, it has to do with the use of the organ as a ballpark staple. The Braves, along with a number of other MLB teams, have a staff organist who sits in a room high above the field and plays an organ during the game. And the organ is used for far more than “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
The instrument was first introduced into professional baseball back on April 26, 1941. A pipe organ was installed behind the grandstand at Wrigley Field, and during the game organ music echoed out across a baseball stadium for the first time. Soon the trend of a ballpark organist was one of the game’s most recognized players.
Matthew Kaminski (@BravesOrganist) who plays the organ for the Atlanta Braves selects pieces of music intentionally designed to keep the fans engaged in what’s happening on the field. During the fourth game of the 2021 World Series, Kaminski began playing “Rock-a-Bye Baby” as Luis Garcia came to the plate.
What’s the reason? It’s connected to the fact that the Astros’ starting pitcher has a very unique windup in his approach to the plate as a pitcher. It looks like he’s rocking a baby in a cradle-like position with his hands. So, this prompted Kaminski to call attention to that reality by using music which caught the attention of many fans—in person and on television.
Beyond the noticeable eclectic style of some organists who play for MLB teams, the real question is why does Major League Baseball view the organ as relevant while many local churches continue to view the organ as irrelevant? After nearly 80 years, more than 50% of MLB teams have a live organist at the ballpark and a good percentage of the other teams pipe in organ music through prerecorded musical pieces. Why has the organ fallen on hard times within the church?
The Organ Is Better Than the Band
In recent months, we have purchased and installed a new organ in our local church’s worship auditorium. In fact, I would urge you (if you’re a pastor) and your local church to do the same. You ask, what’s the big deal about an organ? The fact is, the organ as a single instrument is far superior than the modern praise band.