• David Winkler

Organ and Orchestra


The organ has been called "the king of instruments," and rightly so! That one instrument can be the source of such a powerful, varied and expressive sound is truly amazing.

Combining organ with orchestra creates an extra layer of sound that is absolutely thrilling! In the classical repertoire, perhaps the most famous work for organ and orchestra is Saint-Säens' Symphony No. 3, often referred to as the "Organ Symphony" :


Many other composers have written organ concertos, or symphonies featuring the sound of a pipe organ. An outstanding example is the iconic and uber-dramatic opening fanfare from Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, with the organ beginning with a mysterious low C pedal and then hanging on at the end after the orchestra cuts off:


In my own arranging, I've written several pieces which feature organ with orchestra, often using the instrument to add some exciting full sound to the end of a piece. These include: All Creatures of Our God and King - originally written for just orchestra, but I couldn't resist later adding an optional organ part to the ending. Beautiful Savior - Based on the hymn, "Fairest Lord Jesus," this was the processional for our wedding way back in 1980, and has been one of my best-selling pieces (note that a "sans organ" version of this arrangement is also available). Holy, Holy, Holy - Features many colors in the orchestra, with organ putting the proverbial icing on the cake towards the end. Mighty Fortress - A fanfarish treatment of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," leading up to a big solo for organ. Morning Praise - Based on the hymn "When Morning Gilds the Skies," this piece borrows a bit from the famous "Sunrise" from Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite (plus a short quote from Grieg's "Morning" from Peer Gynt). It begins softly and gradually builds to a grand conclusion with full pipe organ.

Some of you reading this may be thinking, "This all sounds wonderful, but we don't have an organ at my church." Thankfully, many electronic keyboards have excellent pipe organ sounds, so you might consider that as a substitute. If you try this ... just make sure to turn it up really loud!