The Lady Organist

an online magazine for organists

You’re not a proper organist until…

Becoming an organist is not just about getting some swanky letters to put after your name, you know.  Certain important life skills are also required, if you’re going to hack it like a pro.  See how you measure up with this check list.


Your organ shoes look like they’ve been in a tussle with an enthusiastic puppy and lost

You have a few improv tricks, which although they wouldn’t get you a job at Saint-Sulpice, get you through service moments

You have learned to ask Crimond or Brother James’s Air? Love Divine or Blaenwern? as soon as you arrive at a new church

You can survive for 24 hours on the broken biscuits lurking in the bottom of your music bag

You can choke up at a funeral but still carry on playing

You can book the departing sopranos for next week while simultaneously smashing through a Bach prelude and fugue at the end of a service

You always visit the bathroom before leaving the house, as you know where you are going may not have any facilities, or they’re behind 3 sets of locked doors to which you have no access

You have perfected a withering stare for people who insist on having a chatter during your precious practice hour

Your home is full of cardboard boxes of old organ music wished onto you by dead organists’ friends and relatives

You always carry a miscellaneous selection of harmless music for when they suddenly announce “The organist will now play something.…”

Your satnav Favourites is full of destinations starting with the word “Saint…”

Your non-organist friends are slightly alarmed at the sight of your growing collection of hymnbooks

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6 Comments on
“You’re not a proper organist until…”
  • Every single one of your thoughts on being an organist resonates with my own experience. Piles of old hymn books; stacks of directions to churches where I’m to play a funeral or wedding; learning how to improvise to either “fill time” or to “cover” for someone else’s issue; knowing where the “facilities” are, or planning ahead; being able to carry on a conversation while navigating a printed score or improvising; keeping one’s patience while the assembly (or, worse still, the choir) is talking during your prelude music… you have hit the nail on the head. And yet we persevere, don’t we?

    • Yes! you are absolutely right. ‘The organ will now play’ 🙂

      In some churches I am convinced that many of the congregation (and some visiting Ministers) believe the organ plays itself anyway. They seem quite surprised, if not shocked, to find there’s someone sitting there operating the buttons and levers.

  • Jackie Spriggs....organist at All Saints Church, Mountfield, E Sussex since 1960, and weddings and funerals over a wide area nowI've retired from the day job! says:

    Another good tip is to weave in ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and other well known nursery rhymes during the longish photo sessions at the signing of marriage registers if kids start getting fractious: they suddenly realise it is a tune they know and start to sing!

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