Since I became a teammate at Sacred Heart Parish 10.5 years ago, I have moved both of our organs. Our parish runs two churches and circumstances arose at each church that involved moving the organs. At Sacred Heart Church, we have a choir loft. When I arrived, the loft had several different floor levels with steps and ledges in unusual places. People regularly tripped. When we had a pipe organ, the loft was arranged differently with the organ in the center of the loft. We currently use a Rodgers organ that was situated on the highest platform and faced at a 45 degree angle to the altar. This allowed the organist to see the altar and the choir director. The difficulty arose in that the organist couldn’t hear well because he was very close to one of the organ speakers. This made it impossible to hear the balance with the choir and the congregation. Moreover, the organist was not in a good location to direct the choir from the console, which is what I often do.
With safety in mind, we renovated the choir loft. We added lighting and made a uniform floor plan with consistent steps across the loft. We opened up the area that used to hold organ pipes and turned that into additional choir seating. The organ was moved to the center of the loft edge, with the organist’s back to the altar. This organ location has improved the organist’s ability to hear the congregation and direct the choir. A mirror helps the organist see the altar.
I love accompanying a choir or a cantor from this vantage point. The sound washes over me and I can hear it reverberate throughout the church. Also, we have a wonderful statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that stands on a perch above the loft. Gazing upon this statue always fills me with consolation as we pray the Mass.
My favorite place to sing from is in the new choir area that used to house organ pipes. This location gives a noble view of our modest parish church and one’s voice soars out from just below the ceiling rafters. When kids visit the choir loft, they instinctively run up to this perch and enjoy the view from the heights.
Several parishioners donated time and resources to accomplish this project. I am grateful to them for their love for and care of Sacred Heart Church.