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The King of Instruments, Dissected

Maybe the busiest musician at a Sunday service is the organist.

And whether he or she is in front of the congregation or hidden up in the choir loft in the back, their contributions to the service are often taken for granted.

But all you have to do is take a look at the organ itself to appreciate the job a church organist has!

Edwin Penhorwood is the organist at the First United Church in Bloomington, Indiana.

He’s been playing organ since he was 13-years-old.

While he did receive a music degree from the University of Iowa, it was not in organ! He is a pianist, a composer, and a vocal coach as well.

Penhorwood might indeed be best known for his work as a composer.

The two worlds often overlap for him because the organ has such an orchestral palate of sound. There are a number of different stops that create different sounds, from high-pitched flutes to bright and pointed reeds.

Thinking like a composer when he plays, Penhorwood is especially interested in mixing it up during hymns. He feels very strongly about re-voicing and re-harmonizing the recurring verses of a hymn.

He truly uses the full range of color of the instrument, in this case First United Church’s Schantz organ.

Even though, at this point in his career, he does not need to put in hours and hours of preparation for a weekly service, he still does take his job very seriously. And when listening to Penhorwood play, it is hard to imagine any congregation not feeling compelled to join in the music making.

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Listen to Church Musicians Part I: Choir Director Susan Swaney

Listen to Church Musicians Part II: Children’s Choir Director James Guyer

Listen to Church Musicians Part IV: Handbell Director Elaine Sonnenberg

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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