Keeping the faith with an awesome set of pipes.

The pipe organ at Marsh Chapel, Boston University

Thursday, July 16, 1998 -- Boston, Massachusetts - The pipe organ is not a portable instrument - it is the size of a house. So when this massive device is played by a seventy-eight pound, twelve year old boy - and played so well the floor shakes and the audience cheers - it is an inspiring event.

The Pipe Organ Encounter in Boston this past week was such an event. Thirty-two children from around the state spent five days playing many of the massive pipe organs around Boston, taking lessons from accomplished organists, attending concerts and holding a public recital. The P.O.E., now in its second decade, was organized for its first time in Boston by Glenn Goda, organist at the city's Mission Church.

There are hundreds of pipe organs in the state of Massachusetts - the area around Boston has always been the most prominent organ building area in the country, according to Goda. The problem as of late, has been that there are fewer and fewer pipe organists.

To master the pipe organ takes a good amount of practice and lessons for even an experienced pianist. Churches around this state are feeling the pinch from a lack of pipe organists and it is easier for a person to learn the instrument at an early age. The goal of the Encounter is to introduce children to this incredible instrument.

These beautiful machines are like dinosaurs in today's electronic world - they are expensive, finicky and more difficult to play than an electronic organ or a piano. But there is no argument about it, they are awesome.

Their magnificence is what has possibly attracted so many boys to pipe organs (there were thirty-five boys at this Encounter, with only seventeen girls.) "It's the noise," says Goda. "It's a power thing."

Glenn Goda, organizer of the Boston area Pipe Organ Encounter, plays the big pipes in Marsh Chapel, at Boston University.

There is a similar, newer organization for adults, called P.O.E. Plus. Increasing the rolls of organists has made the Encounter important to churches around the state, but it is also very important to families.

"It's opened up a whole new world for us," says Paul Murray, whose son, Paul Murray Junior, spent the week at the Encounter and played at the recital. "We are a sports family and it's great that my son is interested in this - even my other son is playing."

The Encounter is affiliated with the American Guild of Organists and the Boston Young Organ Initiative. Three other Encounters this summer will be in; Seattle; Waco, Texas; and Sioux Falls, S.D., according to a recent article in the Boston Globe. 200 students, ages 12 to 18 have enrolled.

Matt Emkey, age 17 and a participant in the Boston Encounter, explains some of the appeal of the pipe organ; "You get a chance to express yourself - it's a varied instrument," he says. "You can play all kinds of music on it. I love it - it's very rewarding."

It must be rewarding to be able to play the largest musical instrument on earth. Here, size (and sound) does matter.

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