Royal Albert Hall - Central View Square
The Organ of the Royal Albert Hall, London. (© User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons)

Social media gets a lot of negative press. It’s blamed for the increasing political divide, for increased rates of depression, particularly among teenaged girls, for being some kind of spying tool used by corporations and foreign governments, and more.

And, to be completely honest, much of that is probably accurate.

But it also overshadows the fact that there are some very positive things happening on social media as well.

People are using social media to connect as never before. Information (yes, even accurate information) is being shared in incredibly efficient ways, and aspects of society are getting visibility that would have been prohibitively difficult just a few years ago.

Case in point: the pipe organ.

I’m a fan of the pipe organ. My favorite piece of music ever is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor (you’ll recognize it three notes in). I even have a playlist of various performances thereof, ranging from traditional to electronic. (The Michael Murray recording is my #1 of #1, for those keeping score.)

So I was pleasantly surprised some time ago to stumble across an organist on TikTok.

And then another. And another.

I’ll start with my favorite #organtok organist, Anna Lapwood, @annalapwoodorgan. Her TikTok fame rose when she started posting snippets of her late night practice sessions at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The snippets lead to the occasional live streams, some Q&A, to a surprise performance with the electronic musician Bonobo where she introduced the audience to the power of the Albert Hall organ (described by its builder as “The Voice of Jupiter”). All this has led to an EP produced by Sony Classical Music as well. She currently has over half a million followers on TikTok, and is present on multiple other platforms including YouTube.

Another #organtok TikToker, this time with close to 200k followers, is Wesley Hall, @westpiper. In TikTok sized chunks, Hall introduces us to the instrument, shows off what it can do, interacts with his audience, and more.

Felix Hell, @felixhell.organist, is another professional organist, similarly producing explanatory and exploratory clips on TikTok discussing the instrument, the music, and more. “Shattering preconceptions about the organ worldwide” with a little over 36k TikTok followers.

What these three examples all share is that they’re explicitly bringing what might be considered an obscure, perhaps even staid instrument, to a broader, and younger audience using social media, and getting recognized for it.

This is the promise of social media in action. This is social media being used in a positive, and an ultimately good-for-humanity kind of way.

And while these three are only examples within their genre (I’m sure there are others I haven’t stumbled onto yet), what’s more exciting to me is that the genre itself is also merely an example as well. Other topics, from different music and instruments to entertainment to education to philosophy and more, all have their representatives on social media, and are all gaining wider audiences and traction than they could ever have hoped to without it.

Yes, social media has its issues, no doubt.

But don’t let that overshadow the oportunities and successes that it fosters as well.

5 thoughts on “OrganTok”

  1. Like you, my favorite organ piece is the same one. (I get quite annoyed when it is broadcast in a transcription for full orchestra. When I was volunteering at the phone bank at my local classical station’s pledge drives, when they were offering a CD, “Stokowsky the Magician”, I would call it “Stokowsky the Mortician” or “the Beautician”. Bach wasn’t a Romantic composer. I may have confused some of the other volunteers.)
    I don’t like the piece played as quickly as done by Mr Murray, though. Right now, I am listening to an amazing performance (on YouTube) that takes nearly twelve minutes. It is being played by Xaver Varnus (with whom I am not otherwise familiar) in the Berliner Dom, which has such amazing acoustics that it takes seconds for the reverberation to die out, and he takes full advantage of that. He is not just playing the organ, he is playing the building!

  2. To relate a complete knee jerk reaction I had for social media: I read that some stuff was returned to owner, stolen by a tornado, AND the weather people could use the information about where it came from and got to.

    Besides, anybody who love that fugue And Corgis can’t be all bad. Have a good life, Leo!

  3. Leo, you present an interesting case for social media and do it in a non-bombastic way – as you usually do with such non-computer stuff. That is not to say you are in the least bombastic, but that so much that is said and written defending some aspects of social media are done so.

    I always look forward to receiving these types of messages from you. You make a lot of sense and you have wide range of interests and opinions – most of which I agree with.

    Keep on keepin’ on. Stay well. Hug your fur babies.

    P.S.: I am fast approaching my 84th birthday and this is what keeps me young at heart and in mind. If I had known I would last this long, I would have taken much better care of myself.

  4. Thanks for treating my ears to the organ – it’s not just the young ones who may need exposure, but 82 year buzzards like me.

Comments are closed.