I prefer “real” instruments, of course. Digital instruments are more convenient and require a lot less maintenance and cost, but there’s always a certain sense of inauthenticity (if that’s not a word, it is now) that I feel when I’m playing them, no matter how well they reproduce sound — and many of them do so well.
But there’s no replacement for the sound coming from organ pipes, nor the tones coming from the struck strings of a piano, whether upright (technically a cabinet grand at my main, albeit an old one) at my main parish or the baby grand at another one of my parishes. The problem is that if there’s a busted key or a similar, um, “hardware” problem, it’s fairly noticeable.
Such is the current issue with that baby grand. Since the church’s building opened six months ago, it has had this baby grand. It has also had a host of troubles with that baby grand. Keys continually don’t play, and when they don’t, it just feels off playing. Other notes inexplicably sustain for 15+ seconds. The soft pedal noticeably squeaks and creaks, so I can’t use it.
This terribly frustrates all the musicians, because they notice these problems and wonder who else does. It frustrates the cantors, who lose some of the notes they need. It especially frustrates one of the cantors, because he and his wife donated the piano and had never had troubles with it while they had it.
But it’s no one’s fault, just everyone’s problem. The piano experts tell us it’s just the atmosphere inside the church, with plenty of sunlight and a running baptismal font, so it could be a problem for years. It’s not emotionally satisfying. We humans like finding people to blame. But it is as it is.
We don’t like when things break down. When they do, though, it’s not like church music just stops. When my main parish’s organ was down for six weeks, we just played the piano. If this other parish’s baby grand piano is out of commission, the church’s digital organ has a MIDI piano sound I can use. And if everything goes wrong, we still have the power of the human voice.
Problems happen in church music. It’s how we deal with them, however, that distinguishes us. As long as we remember that, it’ll be easier to deal with whatever weirdness may pop up.