Organ Crawls: The Ultimate School Field Trip

The only bad thing about being an organist is that you can’t take the King of Instruments with you. No cases, gig bags, or covers exist: you must travel to the instrument. That means you are in church a lot to practice, perform, or even to go on organ crawls.

St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)
Hook & Hastings organ at St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)

Organ crawls are tours through the insides of pipe organs to see how they work and to appreciate each instrument’s unique beauty. I learned to play on a tracker (meaning mechanical note action, as opposed to electronic) organ, the kind featured in organ crawls.

Note that organ pedalboards are arranged like keyboards. St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)
Note that organ pedalboards are arranged like keyboards. St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)

Going inside this organ was like going inside a unique house. Built in 1889 by Woodbury and Harris (not pictured), the organ had a huge, old-fashioned bellows that had since been electrified.

One day the power went out during a service, so a tenor ran inside the organ to hand pump the bellows as I played. Otherwise, there’d have been no air and no sound.

Science, technology, engineering, math teachers, unite! Get with the art and music teachers and take your students on an organ crawl—a free field trip that you can walk to if you’re lucky.