How many people do you know that play the organ? I'm talking about the old school instrument you find more commonly in churches than in homes. Sure, if you play the piano you can also play the keys of an organ, but the "King of Instruments" is far more complex than grandmother's spinet. There are foot pedals that look like piano keys, and depending on the organ, dozens of controls to create a myraid of sounds. There are small electric organs and formidable pipe organs in cavernous cathedrals and movie houses around the world. During this time of year, we associate organ music to scary old movies like The Phantom of the Opera.
If a family calls me to sell grandma's house and there's an organ sitting in the living room, I can tell you it's almost impossible to get rid of it. I throw it up on KSL. I post it on social media. Nothing. It's just not a sexy instrument that people run to play anymore and it's a bitch to move. My grandmother had a piano and an organ in her living room, and watching her play the organ reminded me of an octopus with many appendages moving in different directions—both hands running over the keyboards with both feet dancing lively over the foot pedals at the same time.
The most famous local organ is in the Tabernacle at Temple Square. It's one of the largest in the world and has a younger, smaller brother inside the nearby Conference Center. The Tabernacle organ is showcased during daily half-hour recitals. You ought to wander over sometime to Temple Square (even during the remodeling and upgrades) and listen to the behemoth. It's all free and fabulous. The original Tabernacle organ was built from 1863-67 by an Englishman and contained 700 pipes, but was then rebuilt several times and restored in the 1980s. Sitting before the massive piece of craftsmanship is humbling—the pipes are made of wood, zinc and alloys of tin and lead. It was initially powered by humans who hand-pumped it, but now it's electrified and has 11,623 pipes, 147 speaking stops and 206 rows of pipes.
Once you hear it played, your hair will stand on end—it's a big sound. Full-time organists and guest artists have performed on this famous instrument. The first woman to be a regular organist within the Tabernacle walls, Bonnie Goodliffe, is retiring. But don't fret, there are others who will slide onto the bench and take on the gauntlet. If you have friends or family come to town for the holidays, consider a visit to the Tabernacle. For more info about the organs and organists and when they play, go to thetabernaclechoir.org.