The organ is an old instrument. A lot has changed over the centuries, especially the sounds and playing techniques. Certain stops were fashionable at a certain time. The wishes of the organ builders followed the ‘musical fashion’ closely. For example, an organ from the Romantic era has other possibilities than an organ from the Baroque. As a result, not all music for organ can be played properly on every organ. Take children on an adventure through these developments and present the organ as a time machine. The organ that you play on does of course influence the possibilities that you have.

Suggestions for activities

There are countless possibilities for children to actively listen to the organ. Teaching methods can be made suitable for any age group.

Recognizing instruments

Invite children to the keyboard so they can see what is happening. Play a simple melody with a different stop each time. Choose some stops that imitate an instrument: trumpet, flute, violin, bassoon, vox humana, etc. Then play a few short pieces and ask which instruments the children have recognized. Vary in difficulty by age group.

Organ memory

This is a continuation after recognition. Now let the children listen without seeing what the organist is doing. Which stop did you hear in this piece? Also use more stops one after the other or even combinations.

  • Write it down, or have the order set with cards (image or text).
  • In game form, with teams.

Organ Bingo

A Bingo card has squares with different words (names of the stops) or images (instruments). Choose the number of squares, eg 5 or 9, depending on the desired level of difficulty. Give all children the same card.

  • Play some pieces of music and have students check if they have recognized something.
  • Whoever has all the boxes calls Bingo.
  • The organist prepares and thus determines the moment when the Bingo ‘falls’.
  • Variation: fill the squares not with stops or instrument names, but with composers or periods in musical history.

To narrate a poem or story

Ask the children to write a story or a poem beforehand (for example, as assignment for another school subject). The story should have three scenes, each with a different atmosphere. Pay attention to contrasts and contradictions in the sound.

Discuss with the children at the organ which register suits which atmosphere. Then perform together. The child reads the story and the organist plays with the help of another child for the managing the stops.

Silent movie

For older children, the ‘silent movie’ (without sound) is an interesting topic. Take them back to the time when the organ provided the sound effects for the images.

  • Show a short clip from an old film, let the children think for themselves which registers and playing style express what is happening in the film. Check it out afterwards and discuss the outcome.
  • Children can make a short video themselves without sound. In addition, they must give the correct instructions to the organist in order to obtain the desired sound image.