British Organists Replaced by Taped Music Due to Shortage of Musicians


Richard Hubbard, music development director for the Diocese of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich in Suffolk, England carried out a study which found that recorded tapes were used to lead congregational singing in one-third of them. This is primarily because of a shortage of organists. Nearly all churches had an organ in good working order. But of those churches with an organist, half are older than 70, and less than 4 per cent are 30 or under.

H/T LaCroix



  1. I am a retired organist of 30 years and do miss playing. I do see the shortage and it is sad because the organ gives more body and support and inspiration to the congregational singing. The piano is very empty except when accompanied by strings and brass.
    Young people of today are not dedicated to learning when they have so much technology at hand. It is too bad to lose the art of organ playing.

  2. I don’t live in Britain, but where I do live I have known at least 5 organists – two with college degrees in the instrument, all quite competent on the instrument, and all but one under 70. One that I know in particular was an amazing musician in general with a passion for liturgical music and she tried for 2 years to make a living at it, but couldn’t get paid enough, so she went and got an MBA and now, ironically, works in England for a major bank. Again, I don’t know, but I wonder if it isn’t so much a lack of musicians as it is a lack money to pay them.

  3. That report is from an Anglican diocese with a good number of working organs.
    I wonder what proportion of Catholic churches have suitable/working organs for young people to learn on.
    I would wager it isn’t “nearly all.” None of the six Catholic churches in my town has one.

  4. Two points-
    There is a hymnal produced by the (English) Panel of Monastic Musicians which has accompaniments which work even if you only play with two fingers (ie you just need the melody and bass). Hymns for Prayer and Praise ISBN 1 85311 126 0. They did this because a monastery has very few people to draw on, and is unlikely to have a qualified organist, certainly not for every Office.
    The Roman church has official music, Gregorian chant, which is intended to be unaccompanied.

  5. This article seems to be lacking some critical contextual information. For instance, how many attend these parishes lacking organists? Are they offering appropriate salaries and benefits for music professionals and still not being able to find them?

    As an organist and church musician myself (a young one!), I have seen this article and others like it circulate through various international social media in the organ and church music communities. The collective reaction is certainly not surprise! I am not in the UK, but I have routinely seen UK churches list organist positions with salaries under £10,000, hardly enough to live on, and when the expected hours are taken into account, amount to little more than the UK minimum wage of £7.83/hr.

    Likewise, my experience in the USA is that churches willing and able to compensate music professionals appropriately have no problem finding them. This is not limited to organists, or to any one musical style. I routinely see positions listed at churches of various denominations for musicians working in a contemporary idiom, with appropriate compensation for those musicians’ skills, training, and the time expectations of the job. Perhaps my impression is incorrect, and I would welcome information to the contrary, but this seems like very simple economics: churches that want an organist (or any music professional) should expect to pay for one.

    Perhaps someone should conduct a more thorough study, taking into account compensation, job expectations, church attendance, and church budget.

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