"The organ is in truth the grandest, the most daring, the most magnificent of all instruments invented by human genius."

So wrote scribe Honore de Balzac many decades ago, and the 200 weekly organ concert attendees in Elgin and Dundee Township would most likely agree.

But some wonder how much longer the instrument's majestic pipes will sing as fewer and fewer students are taking up the organ.

Phyllis Connelly, director of music and organist at St. James Episcopal Church in West Dundee, said churches are feeling the "critical shortage" of trained organists.

"The typical path is that a student will take piano for three to five years and then go to the organ," Connelly said. Connelly teaches both piano and organ lessons as well as her church ministry.

"There is now a shortage of students interested in that. So we're taking the bull by the horns and recruiting students directly into organ."

Despite the shortage of organists, the separate organ series, both held during Lent, continue to attract diverse musicians as well as sizeable audiences.

The Jane Hampton Chipman Lenten Organ Recital series is in its 24th year, said Mary Vickers, a member of the music ministry at Elgin's First Congregational Church.

"Our organ is one of the finest and largest in the Fox Valley," Vickers said.

The Elgin series, held at noon every Friday through April 13, attracted more than 100 people at their last two concerts.

"Most were community people who have been coming for years," Vickers said. "But now people from downtown businesses are also coming, which is wonderful."

The Dundee Lenten Organ Series began seven years ago, after organizers noticed the success and popularity of the Elgin series.

"We have some really beautiful churches in Dundee Township and some really nice instruments," Connelly said. "And we've got some really wonderful organists in the area, people who are willing to play and promote the organ."

Not only is the music at the Elgin and Dundee Township series different, but the instruments are as well.

"Every single instrument is different," Connelly said. "Each is totally designed to fit the building. I've played on many different instruments and when you go to play you have to figure out where everything is."

Connelly and other organ enthusiasts can vouch for the thrill of creating the distinct organ drone.

"It's the challenge, the fascination with the variety of sounds, using your feet and your hands" she said. "And there is so much glorious organ music to be heard." ________________
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