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Long-Time Religious Icon May be Phased Out

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It's an instantly recognizable sound.

The pipe organ has ruled Christian worship sanctuaries for centuries.

"The first hymn we sang was "Go tell it on the mountain" and rather than just have the standard organ accompaniment, I kinda jazzed that up a little bit," said David Weigle, the First Baptist Church of Austin organist.


Weigle knows the ancient hand-made instrument isn't for everyone.

"Some churches are going more toward praise bands, guitar and drums," Weigle added. "We don't use praise bands, but we use those instruments here on occasion, for variety."


As some congregations move toward a contemporary style of worship, pipe organs are no longer in the picture.

Sue Searles, a Deacon and choir member, said, "A lot of churches don't use hymn books anymore, they project words on a screen, they sing lots of songs that someone has jokingly called 7-11 songs...seven words that you sing 11 times and I don't have any problem with that...we haven't gone that direction in this congregation."

The organ at First Austin has about 3,500 pipes.

Weigle said, "They're very expensive."


Organs like this one would set a church back more than $1 million dollars...and some aren't spending the money anymore.

Weigle added, "It's hard to find people that are able to devote the time and energy it takes to master the instrument because, to tell you the truth, about the best you can hope for is...is a part time church job."


"The music and our organist is one of the reasons I'm here and I, personally, will never do anything else," said congregation member, Debra Mann. "It just makes you feel like you've been to church."

Still, some predict the pipe organ will eventually, be phased out.

Sue said, "I think that is a possibility in some churches. I don't think that will ever happen here and I think there are a lot of churches where it will never happen."

"For what goes on in this church, the theology we have, the organ works very well...and of course, we have a nice grand piano that works too," said David.


For those who've decided they're over the organ, David jokes it's because you haven't heard really good organ music yet.

"{It} can be very exciting when it's done well," said David.

He's confident this organ at least, will be around for a long time.

Most recently, the hand-crafted instrument at First Austin received a digital upgrade to keep up with the times.

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