From the September/October, 1999 issue of Touchstone
Death of the Organist by Joseph Swain

Death of the Organist

Joseph Swain on Church Music

Traditional organists are fast disappearing. The decline of this once thriving species began about three decades ago and is now precipitous, noticeable everywhere. What is the number of advanced organ students attending the “highly selective” college where I teach? One. Next year, in all probability, zero. What is the problem here?

Let us be quite clear about the term “traditional church organist.” This is a musician, many years in the making, who is trained to meet the precise demands of “a well-appointed church music,” in the words of its most outstanding exemplar, J. S. Bach.

Foremost among these demands is the accompaniment . . .


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