9 October 2019 Los Angeles, California
Nearing the middle of October, spooky season is in full swing and Halloween celebrants across the nation are gathering their pumpkins, brooms, and ominous soundtracks in preparation for their night of revelry. Halloween has long been a time of community, of neighbors sharing chili on the front porch, children meeting for trick-or-treating, schools pausing their lessons for costume parades and apple bobbing. In fact, it seems that perhaps even more than Thanksgiving, Halloween has become a means of bringing people together despite their prejudices.
One demographic, however, continues to feel misunderstood and intends to use this Halloween season to make new strides toward social awareness: organists. As Halloween hosts cue up their perfect party playlist, organ music annually finds renewed appreciation. Toccata and Fugue in D minor, “The Phantom of the Opera,” and the Haunted Mansion theme are among the most popular organ pieces sure to make comebacks this Halloween. While some organists are amused by the use of their music for creepy ambiance, others are speaking out against the stereotypes that it represents.
“Organists across the nation have suffered in silence long enough,” says Frank Steinbeck, chapter president of the National Association of Organists. Steinbeck has long been a contender for organist appreciation and intends to utilize the pipe organ’s Halloween spotlight as a platform to speak out.
“Organ stereotypes have hurt too many,” he said in an interview with The Daily Weak, “Just last week, my buddy Paul Stopford was turned down on a date because he was an organist.”
“It’s true,” added Stopford in a follow-up interview. “She said she couldn’t date me because I play the organ— said I was too creepy for her taste.”
When asked if his rejection might have also had to anything to do with the mask and cloak he was wearing (completely veiling his face and person in foreboding mystery) he declined to comment and instead vanished into thin air.
“Too many have suffered,” claims Steinbeck. “And this ends now.” At this, the opening lines of Bach’s Toccata played apparently from nowhere, though Steinbeck did not seem to notice.
Along with his local chapter, Steinbeck is calling organists to speak out against stereotypes and has even gone so far as to organize an awareness march outside of a local costume shop. Footage from the march shows a small mass of organists holding signs bearing slogans such as “Organists are not only swell, they’re great!”
While the march was, unfortunately, shut down by the police due to rowdiness, it did — accidentally — succeed in increasing the number of registered organ donors in the town. Not discouraged, the participants expressed a desire for the press and public to know that they represent a diverse range of backgrounds and are united by their desire to eradicate prejudice against organists.
“Just because lightning flashes with every chord I play doesn’t mean I’m evil,” said long-time church organist and amateur murder mystery writer Rodger Turnpage. “It’s probably just an electrical issue.”
Other organists have added to the conversation, claiming October as “Organist Awareness Month” and sharing their stereotype stories online and on church bulletin boards via the hashtag #organfailure. Tweets such as “We are more than Toccata and Fugue in D minor” are circulating the Twitter world or, at least, they would be if any organists knew about Twitter.
“We just hope that as people listen to our music shuffled in with ‘Monster Mash’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ they will realize that we organists are not monsters; we just want our music to be heard,” concluded Steinbeck.
And with that final, powerful plea, Frank Steinbeck, chapter president and social justice warrior, limped off among the tombstones and into the foggy night, never to be seen again.
*Watch this promotional video by an anonymous local organist and share to help end organist stereotyping! #organfailurenolonger