The Organ Rehearsal – 24 September 2018
A group has gathered in the organ balcony of their local church, and one of their number, a young woman, is singing. The others sit or stand quietly, listening. Their stillness, allows us to fix out attention on the central figure, and gives the picture a sense of sound. The picture is divided by a diagonal running from the top left to the bottom right. The left of the picture is still and dark, the right is full of light. The young woman sings from the darkness into the light, her song filling the bright space with praise.
This picture is The Organ Rehearsal by Henri Lerolle (1885). A well connected artist, he was part of a wider group of artists and musicians that included Bonnard, Degas and Renoir. The singer is his sister-in-law. She wears a very fashionable dress. Lerolle himself is in the picture – the standing man, second from the left. When the picture was exhibited in New York in 1887, a critic wrote: “thousands will remember The Organ Rehearsal…spectators often spoke low before it, as if waiting for the organ to play and the voice of the singer to be heard.”
Yesterday I was at the rear of church building preparing for worship, and suddenly, from the gallery overhead, there was singing. I had not noticed these singers until their sound filled the church. It was a special occasion for which they had spent some time practising. When their song filled the space, hearts lifted. Musicians of all kinds, including singers, fill our churches with the sound of praise.
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
God of majesty,
whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven:
Be with your servants who make art and music for your people,
that with joy we on earth may glimpse your beauty;
and bring us to the fulfillment of that hope of perfection
which will be ours as we stand before your unveiled glory.
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Calvin Institute of Christian Musicians