Prayer and meditation are enhanced by the addition of music. You probably would choose an instrumental version featuring piano, guitar, flute, sitar or even drums. Would anyone still place a pipe organ on that list? After attending a pipe organ concert featuring one of the largest organs in the world, I definitely would.
The organ concert was held at St. Stephen Cathedral in Passau, Germany. The Cathedral, named after the first Christian martyr, is well known for its enormous pipe organ. The largest pipes are 11 meters (36 feet) long and weigh 360 kilos (793 pounds), while the smallest pipes are just 6 mm (.2 inches). It’s Europe’s largest organ with 17,974 pipes that can be played from a single keyboard. As verified by Sacred Classics, it is recognized as the fourth largest pipe organ worldwide.
Hearing a concert on this beautiful organ was a memorable acoustical pleasure. The church, though it held over 1,000 people, was silent. After the organist, Ludwig Rudeschel, was introduced, he remarked that the music was meant not only to be enjoyed but to be a prayer to God. He then played Toccata Octava by Georg Muffat, Choral Number 2 by Cesar Franck and V Toccata by Charles-Marie Widor.
The music began to flow throughout the vast Cathedral and I was astounded at the superb sound. I could feel the vibrations of the bass and felt my spirits lift. The sounds created feelings of being at “home” in the Lord’s house. Numerous research studies have proven that music can have a profound effect emotionally and physiologically by improving concentration, relieving stress, acting as an antidepressant and more. Music’s valuable effects on mental health have been known for centuries.
According to a research study conducted at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, when people listen to music that moves them, the brain releases dopamine, which is a chemical involved in motivation and addiction (Science, April 2013). This helps to explain biologically why music is recognized in all cultures as playing such a major emotional role in our lives.
In The Healing Sound of Music: Incredible Benefits of Music (2000) author Kate Mucci states “the health of the physical body is inextricably tied to our emotional, mental and spiritual health. Music is a powerful catalyst for healing because it touches the very core of humanity . . . our souls. With music, we can remember our connection to the Creator.”
At its core, music is sound, and sound is rooted in vibration. Lee Bartel, PhD, a music professor at the University of Toronto, explored whether sound vibrations absorbed through the body can help ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and depression. Bartel says that music as an art form “should be seen as a vibratory stimulus that has cognitive and memory dimensions. Only when we look at it in this way do we start to see the interface to how the brain and body work together.”
The pipe organ has been a valuable means of prayer and meditation for years. The slow sounds of the organ along with its vibration focus the mind, body and spirit to achieve a harmony that is perfectly conducive to uplift the spirt in prayer. Sacred music creates just the right atmosphere for reverent prayer.
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