For the best reading experience, play the music from this video while reading on.
Therefore, when a composer is writing a soundtrack, primarily featuring a pipe organ in their music is a shorthand method of conveying to the audience that the work is depicting a subject regarded as holy, sacred, or religious. This can include churches, temples, gods, paladins, etc.
For works that heavily feature religious themes, expect to hear a lot of pipe organs throughout the music. Conversely, when it is used sparingly, the pipe organ can stand out from the rest of the soundtrack and emphasize one particular moment or scene as religious.
Compare Ominous Pipe Organ. The Holy Pipe Organ is generally used for the Saintly Church while the Ominous Pipe Organ is more closely associated with darkness and villainy. However, they are not mutually exclusive; there can certainly be overlap between the two tropes, especially when Holy Is Not Safe, the church is evil, or God Is Evil.
Lohengrin and Mendelssohn tends to overlap with this, as the two famous wedding marches are often played on a pipe organ.
- Friar Tuck's church in Robin Hood where the Sexton Mouse is seen playing a pipe organ using his hands and feet.
- The Little Mermaid (1989): Used in the wedding scene where the hypnotized Prince Eric almost got married to Big Bad Ursula who is disguised as a beautiful woman.
- Spoofed in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. During the town meeting scene, the pipe organ in the church continues to play dramatic stings after the Vicar is done talking. PC Mackintosh yells at the organist to stop and so she shuts the keyboard cover. Pipe organ music is then absent from the rest of the scene's background music.
- For The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which largely takes place in/around a cathedral and has more religious themes than your standard Disney fare, Alan Menken makes extensive use of pipe organ in his score. It does overlap with Ominous Pipe Organ from time to time, depending on whether or not a scene is focusing on Judge Claude Frollo.
- "Chorale for Snow White" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which plays during the scene where the dwarfs mourn the sleeping Snow White, is a somber organ solo that evokes the mood of a funeral.
- The same organ music is also heard in The Jungle Book (1967) during the scene where Bagheera, the vultures, and Mowgli think that Baloo is dead and Bagheera delivers a eulogy for him.
- Sullivan's Travels: The black church has an organist playing while the pastor speaks to the congregation. The organist later accompanies them as they sing the old spiritual "Go Down Moses".
- In Where the Toys Come From, when Peepers realizes that Kenji is his designer, Kenji is briefly enveloped by a Holy Backlight as a church organ plays a rolling chord.
- The Godfather: In the first baptism scene, a reverent organ music is playing. But as the movie begins switching between Michael Corleone standing at an altar and a mass murder scenes, the organ music slowly becomes much more sinister.
- John Wick: In the Corrupt Church scene, a pipe organ is playing Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." The use of this piece of music may be an allusion to its context in A Clockwork Orange or perhaps Die Hard.
- Fats Waller is known for playing jazzy music on the organ, and his work includes two different covers (one with his vocals and one all instrumental) of the spiritual folk tune "Go Down Moses".
- The Horslips: This Irish band performed a Concept Album dramatising the earliest Irish mythology. The Power And The Glory concerns the coming of the Irish to Ireland to take the land as their own. The main theme sounds like a triumphant hymn on pipe organ.
- Johann Sebastian Bach composed extensively for organ, and many of his pieces (i.e., the chorales) had Christian themes and were intended to be played during worship.
- Gustav Mahler brought a pipe organ in during the finale of his Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection) to accompany the final recitation of the chorus (Rise again, yea, rise again, wilt thou, my heart, after a moment!). His Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) starts off with a pedal point, a blaring E♭ Major chord, and the chorus singing Veni, veni creator spiritus!
- Maurice Duruflé was a church organist who wrote a couple of compositions for the organ. Some of these works were meant to be played during Mass.
- An official soundtrack album for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask features synthesized "orchestrated" rearrangements of the game's soundtrack. The orchestration of "Oath to Order", the theme of the Four Giants, heavily features pipe organ.
- Sabaton: The introduction to "The Carolean's Prayer", a Horrible History Metal song about the soldiers of Swedish king Charles XII who are united by their Protestant Christian faith features an organ before the guitar kicks in.
- In Sparks' "When I Sit to Play the Organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral" (from Hello Young Lovers), the organ player resents that the congregation is too focused on worship to properly appreciate his performance, referring several times to how he's been "upstaged" by God.
- Warhammer 40,000 has an over-the-top example of this trope. The Sister of Battle has the Exorcist, an artillery that has an organ mounted on the vehicle which fires missiles when it is played.
- Goes both ways in Charles Gounod's opera Faust. The scene in the church, where Marguerite goes to pray for forgiveness, opens with Ominous Pipe Organ as Mephistopheles, in the guise of a Sinister Minister, tells her that her soul is condemned to Hell, triggering a musical duel between an unseen chorus of demons and a chorus praying for her. The final scene of the opera plays this trope straight, as a chorus proclaims the dead Marguerite's salvation and she ascends into Heaven.
- ActRaiser uses this for the Sky Palace music, since you're basically playing as God and your mobile, cloud-based headquarters is a little chunk of heaven.
- In Bayonetta, the Mook Debut Cutscenes for your angelic foes are set to organ and choir music.
- Breath Of Fire 2: The village church theme, "Please, God", is a rather soothing organ piece. It serves as a stark contrast to "Decadence of God", which is heard after the Church's true nature is revealed.
- While Castlevania typically uses an Ominous Pipe Organ instead, the heroic "Theme of Simon" introduced in Super Castlevania IV uses the organ to represent Simon Belmont as he fights demons while armed with crosses, holy water, etc.
- In Dragon Quest, the churches in every town serve an essential role as Save Points by confessing to the local pastor. They all share the same pipe organ-based theme, "Healing Power of the Psalms". The pastor can also perform other holy tasks for the adventurer like revive their fallen allies, perform exorcisms, and remove poisons.
- Final Fantasy VI: While most of "Dancing Mad" is straight-up Ominous Pipe Organ, Part 3 of the song uses this trope for Soundtrack Dissonance as the heroes fight Rest and Lady, a pair of angelic beings summoned by the Big Bad.
- Some examples from Fire Emblem:
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance: Sanaki's leitmotif, "A Messenger," is played on a pipe organ.
- Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia has two songs: "Song of Peace" and "The Pinnacle of False Belief". The former plays in the Priory and has a traditional saintly-sounding organ piece for the peaceful monastery. The latter plays in Duma's Tower and is an Ominous Pipe Organ piece as it has become a Religion of Evil since Duma fell into madness.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses has the monastery's Leitmotif played on an organ while you are in the sanctuary.
- Gabriel Knight: Organ music plays in St. Louis Cathedral.
- Door to Phantomile has "Nevertheless", the music for the Sun Temple, which is heavy on pipe organ and church bells.
- In Empire of Dreams, Emperor Jillius is introduced with a regal-sounding organ piece called "The Crime" (because he is judging Klonoa for the "crime" of dreaming in his empire.) Jillius is a monarch rather than a religious leader, but the music still conveys a tone of seriousness and sacredness that fits this trope.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds remasters the theme of the church-like Sanctuary from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, now featuring a pipe organ alongside the choir. When Yuga appears in the Sanctuary to kidnap Seres, his leitmotif receives two remixes with an Ominous Pipe Organ.
- Metroid: Zero Mission has a boss fight against the Chozo God of War, encountered as a sacred test in the Chozodia temple. Its battle theme is almost entirely an organ solo, an instrument rarely used in Metroid soundtracks. Overlaps with Ominous Pipe Organ due to being a boss theme, but the God of War isn't regarded as evil or villainous, simply a test for Samus to overcome and prove herself worthy.
- In Skullgirls, anytime the characters are in the Grand Cathedral, whether it's in a cutscene or a fight takes place in it, organs will be playing in the background in some way.
- Super Mario Odyssey: The church on the moon where Bowser plans to marry Peach has some reverent organ music playing inside. But once you confront Bowser, there is a cutscene just before fighting him where the organ switches to playing more sinister music as Bowser sends Mario down a trapdoor in the church's floor to the battlefield.
- The title theme of The Talos Principle, "Virgo Serena", combines a pipe organ and Gregorian choir. The Talos Principle contains a lot of religious symbolism, including one of the major characters named Elohim. In the game itself, "Virgo Serena" plays in the World C hub, which appears to be the interior of a church.
- "Pluto's Judgement Day": The title card's music features a pipe organ playing a reverent tune, although it is interspersed with quick jazz segments. Still, the pipe organ serves as the first indicator that this short deals with a more heavy subject than most Disney shorts at the time.
- Played in the wedding of Smurfette from The Smurfs cartoon special "Smurfily Ever After".
- In The Powerpuff Girls episode "The City of Clipsville" during the wedding flashback, the church organ slowly plays the variation of the show's theme as the Professor Utonium is getting married to Sara Bellum, who turns out to be Mojo Jojo in disguise.
- In The Simpsons episode "Bart Sells His Soul," Bart plays a prank on the church congregation. He selects the music for the church service, and picks a piece called "In A Gadda Da Vida" by Iron Butterfly (which he passes off as "In the Garden of Eden" by I. Ron Butterfly, leading the church organist to assume this long and difficult song is a real hymn when it's not.) Bart is punished by Rev. Lovejoy by having to clean the organ.
- Truth in Television, since many Christian churches feature impressive pipe organs that are played during religious services.
- The Great Stalacpipe Organ located in (fittingly) "The Cathedral Room" at Luray Caverns. It is also the world's largest musical instrument. It is played in the same way as a regular organ, except instead of using pipes like most do, it uses the cave formations themselves. And yes, the room can be rented out for weddings.