A $150 Organ Library

Last year RW provided lists of organ music based on hymn tunes. The compositions listed were found in all sorts of publications. No organist could possibly get his or her hands on all those publications without spending a fortune—not to mention putting in a lifetime of practice to prepare the pieces.

But organists do need to build up a personal library of music, and many of them aren't sure where to begin. To give direction to musicians who want to get the most for their investment, RW talked to five experienced organists: Marian Allen, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Kathy Erikson, New Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church, South San Francisco, California; Marilyn Mulder, the Reformed Church of Palos Heights, Palos Heights, Illinois, and Calvin Christian Reformed Church, Oak Lawn, Illinois; Gloria Norton, United Church of Spring Valley (RCA), Spring Valley, New York; Henry Sybrandy, First Presbyterian Church, La Grange, Illinois, and Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Berwyn, Illinois. We asked each of them the following question:

If your whole organ library suddenly disappeared (horrors!), what would you go out and get first? Stated another way, what organ music have you found most helpful as you serve week after week as a regular organist for church services? One restriction: you may "spend" only $150.00.

Although our five respondents agreed on some things, the variety in their answers was impressive—as were the prices. One commented, "It's appalling to compare the current prices with the prices I paid for some of these items years ago!"

The only composer that all five organists included on their list was Johann Sebastian Bach, who, after two hundred years, is still at the top of the list in terms of compositional excellence and profound theological and spiritual insights in his music. Bach's complete organ works can be purchased very economically in one large volume (Dover Publications); however, that edition is not convenient for laying open on an organ rack or for turning pages. The new Concordia edition of the Orgelbuchlein (Little Organ Book) is filled with excellent notes and keeps the performer in mind; there are no inconvenient page turns.

The list on page 25 includes a few recommended editions of music by Bach and other composers chosen by more than one respondent. Respondents commented that they tried to keep in mind the "average" church organist and listed what they considered practical and accessible literature.

Anyone can calculate rather quickly that this list exceeds $150.00. Keep in mind that it's a composite list, a selection of those collections most valued by all five respondents.

Several respondents had a hard time ending their list and mentioned many "essential" books that we were unable to include in our abbreviated list. Some of the composers mentioned who are not listed on the next page are Johannes Brahms, Raymond Haan, Robert Hebble, Wilber Held, Herbert Howells, Herman Keller, ed. (80 Chorale Prelude), Gerhard Krapf, Paul Manz, Felix Mendelssohn, Kevin Norris, Johann Pachelbel, Piet Post, Sue Michell Wallace, Ernest White, ed. (Graveyard Gems, "a reference to pre-Bach music, not funeral music!"), and Healey Willan.

The above list of composers along with the detailed information below, will provide an opportunity for organists to evaluate their library and assess their needs. Some will want to examine their personal and church music budgets and then head for the telephone or the nearest music store. Others will have to temporarily limit themselves to writing a wish list.

Once your library is in fairly decent shape, examine schedules to find more practice time to work on your new purchases. Eventually your congregation will be able to worship with new and fresh sounds of praise from your expanded repertoire.

Composer Name Title of Collection Publisher Price
Bach-Gesellschaft Edition J. S. Bach Organ Music Dover Publications No. BKDO 00059 $8.95
Bach, J. S. Orgelbuchlein Concordia No. 975774 $20.00
  Presser (Riemenschneider) No. 433-40030 $9.95
Bach, J. S. Eight Little Preludes Peters $4.95
and Fugues No. 4442  
  Kalmus, Vol. 8 Bach Organ Works No. 03077 $7.50
  G. Schirmer No. 1456 $5.25
Bach, J. S. (Biggs, ed.) Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring Belwin Mills No. GSTC 00700 $2.50
Biggs, E. Power, ed. Treasury of Early Mercury/Theodore Presser $4.95
Organ Music No. 453-00258  
Fleischer, Heinrich The Parish Organist- Concordia Publishing  
Parts 1,2,4 No. 97-1145 $6.50
  No. 97-1151 $4.50
  No. 97-1157 $5.00
Gotsch Concordia Hymn Prelude Series (24 vol.) Concordia Publishing $7.50
Johnson, David N. Wedding Music, Augsburg Publishing  
Books 1-4 Nos. 119523, 119524,  
  119525, 119526 $ 6.75 ea.
Lang, C. S. Twenty Hymn Tune Preludes Oxford University Press  
Sets 1 and 2 No. ISBN 0193755238 $7.75
  No. ISBN 0193755246 $6.00
Peeters, Flor Thirty Short Preludes on Well- C. F. Peters  
Known Hymns, Opus 95 No. 6195 $10.20
Pfatteicher & Davison, ed. Church Organist's Golden Theodore Presser  
Treasury, 3 volumes No. 433-40021 $12.95
  No. 433-41033 $14.95
  No. 433-41005 $14.95
Reger, Max Thirty Short Chorale Preludes C. F. Peters  
Opus 135a No. 3980 $6.60
Trevor, C. H., ed. Old English Organ Music for Oxford University Press $ 7.75 ea.
Manuals, Vols. 1, 3, 5 No. ISBN 0193759245 No. ISBN 0193758261 No. ISBN 0193758288
Vaughan Williams, Ralph Three Preludes on Welsh Stainer & Bell/Galaxy  
Hymn Tunes No. 1.5087 $3.95
Concordia Committee Wedding Music, Parts 1, 2 Concordia  
  No. 97-1369 $6.00
  No. 97-1370 $4.75

Emily R. Brink (embrink@calvin.edu) is Senior Research Fellow for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and former editor of Reformed Worship.


Reformed Worship 5 © September 1987, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.