The organ was sentenced to the dumpster. A dying church tossed out its organ without a hope of future use. Now, it draws in an audience for concerts every month.
Making a cross-country journey to Kansas, the pipe organ is the center of a concert series that spotlights local organists and the return of organ music.
The budding concert series began recently when Kevin Vogt, director of Sacred Liturgy, Music and Art at St. Michael the Archangel’s Center for Worship and Sacred Art, approached the pastor of Holy Angels Catholic Church, Basehor, Kansas, with the idea of a concert series featuring local organists. The performances would present the organ to the public and build up Holy Angels Church’s reputation. The concert series began a year ago and continues every month on the third Sunday at three p.m.
“There has been a resurgence in organ performances for more than two decades as the tradition of the liturgy is reclaimed”, Vogt said.
Professor Lara West will be melding theology and tradition in her concert centered around 12th century Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a musician, mystic, and abbess. The concert promotes Benedictine College’s organ program and the return of tradition in the Archdiocese of Kansas City’s liturgical music.
“When we think of tradition, we think of old things,” Vogt said.
“Tradition is not about the past, it is about how we use what was handed down to us. The organ is a way of helping carry tradition forward in time,” Vogt said.
In creating her program, West combines pieces she learned over the years and a few pieces she wanted to learn.
For West, how the piece sounds on the instrument is very crucial in her planning process.
“Playing the organ is like an orchestra, at any time I decide which instrument I will play,” West said.
The concert is on Saint Hildegard’s feast day and centers around her.
Since Saint Hildegard lived during a period that favored chant over the organ, West is using quotations of her writings to frame her pieces.
West said the pieces she is performing hold themes of human nature and Saint Hildegard’s idea of the “Living Light”.
“I feel it expresses our struggle in human nature, and the Spirit coming into us, trying to work through us. The reuniting of the Spirit in human nature,” West said.
For West, God is the Living Light, and she hopes the music brings the Living Light into the hearts of everyone attending. For her, the organ can transform both the musician and listener.
“When we listen to pop music, we consume it from electronic devices. Church liturgical music is not just to be consumed but what we make for the glory of God. No one person owns it,” Vogt said.