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Holy Pipe Organ

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As the largest piece of equipment in churches, pipe organs are often beautiful to look at.

"Where would houses of worship be without this important, historical instrument?"
The narrator as he listed pipe organ as #9 in WatchMojo, Top 10 Hardest Instruments to Learn.

For the best reading experience, play the music from this video while reading on.

The pipe organ has long been associated with The Church. For this reason, music performed by pipe organ is closely intertwined with religion (or, at least, Christianity) in the public consciousness.

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. May also overlap with Cherubic Choir and Saved by the Church Bell. Amazing as it may sound, the comical Soap Opera Organ Score started as this — see the entry for Guiding Light below.

Lohengrin and Mendelssohn tends to overlap with this, as the two famous wedding marches are often played on a pipe organ.


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    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live Action 

    Live Action Television 
  • As improbable as it sounds, the parodic Soap Opera Organ Score started as a Holy Pipe Organ (well, holy electric organ): in the soap opera Guiding Light, or rather its predecessor radio play The Guiding Light, the organ music started as a diegetic element, representing the church organ played by the daughter of the main character, a pastor. It went on to influence other soap operas and become iconic of the genre, then got entirely taken over by parody.

  • Christmas With The Tabernacle Choir does feature an organ in a religious building, but there are instances where they specifically invoke this.
    • "American Christmas Memories" portrays the Christmas church service Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt spent together in the dark days of December 1941 with the choir singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem", which Churchill had never heard before, with just the organ.
    • "Sing Choirs of Angels" has the choir singing "Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah" accompanied mainly by organ as a representative of the hymns brought by Welsh pioneers to Utah.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • An article in Dragon magazine for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition suggested that Pipe Organ would be an appropriate Perform skill for a bard with religious connections ... with the obvious drawback that it isn't portable.

  • 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.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • "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 (1998) 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.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television, since many older 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.