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What instruments do we use for worship?

The pipe organ has been the traditional instrument of worship for many years, but even the Psalms refer to other instruments used to praise the Lord:

Give praise with blasts upon the horn,
praise him with harp and lyre.
Give praise with tambourines and dance,
praise him with strings and pipes.
Give praise with crashing cymbals,
praise him with sounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
give praise to the LORD! (Psalm 150: 3-6)

The pipe organ is a fabulous instrument because it offers a great variety of sounds. Pipes can imitate a flute, clarinet, oboe, or even a trumpet in addition to the normal organ sound. This gives one player a large palette of colors to choose from, especially with the organ here at the Cathedral. Still, the pipe organ is only one instrument and the psalm calls for many others.

This weekend at the 11am Mass, we welcome the St. Andrew Society for their annual Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan. For this special celebration, we will enjoy some different musical instruments: bagpipes and drums. Bagpipes only play in one key and do not have a large dynamic range, so they are not well suited to accompany congregational song and therefore not often used for worship. Their presence enables us to praise the Lord with a different sound this weekend.

There are still many other instruments that can be used for worship. Who plays the harp? How about strings such as the violin or cello? French horn? Learning pieces takes time and practice. If you play an instrument (or have a child who plays) and have a piece that might be suitable for worship, I’d like to invite you to share it with the Cathedral community as a prelude or postlude at Mass. Please email me at [email protected] to let me know what you could share.

Finally, verse 6 of Psalm 150 calls on everything that has breath to praise the Lord. If you are here and breathing, I hope you will be singing!