Shortage of church pipe organists

Tuesday, April 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

There was a time when Sunday mornings were filled with heavenly music wafting through churches.

But not as many people are taking up the pipe organ these days. One Tulsa man is doing something about it. “You create the mood and the style and the sense of reverence for the whole congregation through the music that you play."

There's nothing quite like the sound of a pipe organ to let you know something glorious is about to happen. "There's also candles and incense and vestments and all those things, but the organ is a sound that we don't hear every day, so it brings you into that sacred place." Casey Cantwell has been playing the organ since the sixth grade. He says it's his calling; he's concerned there aren't more like him.

The number of pipe organists has been declining over the last 20 years. "At the same time that's happening, there's never been a higher quality of students in the schools of music to study organ. There are just fewer of them."

Cantwell says churches are turning to different forms of music, lifting their voices toward heaven, rather than pipes. But Casey is making sure he's not among the last of a dying breed, he's teaching others to love the pipe organ.

One of his students is pursuing a degree in organ performance. "And then I have a beginning student right now who's only studied for five weeks.” Casey Cantwell knows he'll never get rich as a church organist, not with money anyway.

Casey Cantwell plays each Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church.