Vital Organ Project

Organists and composers Graeme Shields and Tyler Jameson Pimm founded Vital Organ Project as a way to raise awareness that organs aren’t only for church services.

What comes to mind when you read the words “pipe organ”?

Perhaps a Sunday morning in church where the musician is a lady in her 70s with a tidy white bun and glasses perched on the tip of her nose. You wouldn’t be wrong. That image exists for a reason. But there’s a whole other genre of younger musicians and composers hoping to surf the rising popularity of pipe organs.

Graeme Shields and Tyler Jameson Pimm are two. More than a year ago, the 20-somethings founded Vital Organ Project as a way to revitalize the instrument’s reputation. Shields will bring the project to First Congregational Church on Sunday for a free performance.

“What my concern and Tyler’s is, is that the organ has this stereotype that it’s only applicable to one type of music and one type of audience, and if a concert will be all liturgical music,” Shields said. “In fact, a lot of the organ’s repertoire is not religious music.”

The pipe organ is much more impressive than any layperson might realize. Shields praises it as the original synthesizer with a wide range of choices in composition.

“Organists have more control over how a piece is played than other performers do, like a violinist or pianist, which is part of what drew me to the organ at a young age and as a composer,” he said.

All of Sunday’s featured works will be by living composers, including Shields, Jameson Pimm, Naji Hakim and Samuel Adler.

“A lot of people think of organ music and European men, which is a huge part of the organ’s repertoire, but music is still being written today,” Shields said.

While Shields knows a pipe organ concert rarely will draw large crowds, he hopes the future is bright.

“Both Tyler and I are members of the American Guild of Organists, and they have quite a thriving population of young organists as opposed to what their attendance was in the past,” he said. “A number of young organists are up-and-coming hard workers and passionate about what they do.”

By Jennifer Mulson

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