In First Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul uses the analogy of the human body to describe the Body of Christ, the Church. He points out that every part of the body, be it a hand, an eye, an ear, and so on, is indispensable for the good of the entire body. If one part suffers or fails to function, the entire body is adversely affected. Paul instructs that the same holds true for the Church: every member has a role to play; if one suffers or fails, the whole church will be affected in some way.
This analogy can be applied to the pipe organ, such as the magnificent instrument we are blessed with at Broad Street. Think of how our worship would be with no organ, no piano, no choir, no other musical leadership.
Let’s consider the pipe organ.
The organ is an extremely complex assembly of components that represent trade skills, such as pipe making, that date back more than five centuries, to the most up-to-date computer and digital technology.
The most visible part of the pipe organ is the console, the control center of the organ, with all its keyboards, pedals, stop controls, buttons, and internal electronic components. But by itself, the console is useless. It is connected to the rest of the organ via fiber optic cables. These are connected to digital relay systems, which in turn direct electric signals that tell the pipes when to play or stop playing.
Speaking of pipes, there are about 4000 of them in the BSPC organ. Even pipes have parts that relate to our discussion, such as body, foot, toe, mouth, lip, tongue, ear, even occasionally a beard!
But the pipes will remain mute unless there is compressed air to blow into them. Thus, we have the wind system, starting with the blower, a large electric motor that drives fans inside a large turbine, producing compressed air that is delivered through a series of wind tunnels to reservoirs or bellows which make the air steady before it is directed into the many windchests upon which the pipes sit.
The windchests are airtight, but have holes on the top, one for every pipe, under which valves are attached. When open, the valves admit air into the pipes so they can “speak,” or seal the air off when they are to be silent. These valves are operated by various complex mechanisms that involve air, electricity, and a mechanical means of opening and closing. Remember, there are some 4000 pipes, each controlled by its own valve.
In addition to all of this, our beautiful pipe organ also has several stops that are entirely digital. The sound is produced by computers connected to amplifiers and speakers within the organ.
The pipes are arranged by groups, each comprising a “stop” which represents a sound, such as flute or trumpet or clarinet. The stops played by the hands usually have 61 pipes, one for each note of the keyboards, or 32 pipes for the pedals. Each group is called a “rank.” If one or more pipes fail to play, there will be a “hole” in the melody or in the harmony.
It comes down to all these systems functioning properly in order for the organ to fulfill its job. (Did we mention there must be an organist to play the organ and technicians to make sure it continues to function properly?)
Actually, you can apply this discussion to just about anything else, say your vehicle, your home, your family, your circle of friends, or, to circle back, to your church. Are you doing your part to keep it running smoothly and effectively?
-Written by BSPC organist, Jim Hildreth
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