What standards are used to judge the quality of an organ player?

(Maybe better in GQ)
Since there is no such thing as “touch” per se, on the organ - i.e. the note plays if you depress the key - what makes one organ player better than another? I think there are those players who somehow infuse their playing with varied tempi and that would cause some emotional flow, but beyond that, how is an organ player judged? What are some technical factors, beyond playing the notes correctly, of course, that might be involved in making such an evaluation?

I am not a musician, but…

Any good organ will have a vast array of different stops and different options, and will be able to produce sounds similar to many different instruments.

A player has any number of possible options for playing a given piece of music, and a good organ player makes the best use of those possibilities.

Must I be serious? A good index is the number of other instrumentalists the organist renders redundant i.e. unemployed. More ==> better.

Background: My MIL was a working classical musician and conductor. She claimed to hate electronic synthesizers because they eliminated many musical positions. Why hire string or horn players when the keyboardist can punch the Brass or String Section buttons? So I asked her how many players and choruses were tossed out of work with the advent of pipe organs. Even a cheap* Wurlitzer can replace most of an orchestra. She didn’t answer.

  • MrsRico and I bought a beautiful (only slightly scratched) Wurlitzer church organ at Goodwill for $95. I could tell stories about it.

As an aside, My wife and I like to travel. In St Stephen’s Church (which is beautiful if slight over the top itself) in Passau Germany has a very big pipe organ. they gave concerts once a day. According to our tour guide, they refuse to play anything anyone has ever heard of because they want to highlight the capabilities of the organ and the organ player. Consequently, the “perfomance” seems chaotic–harsh changes in tone, pitch, etc. We’re doing the same trip next year (hopefully) and got notification that the tour company will no longer be taking us to the concert. I guess a lot of people negatively reviewed it.

A good organ player has to know a lot about the game of hockey and understand when to start the various cheers, crescendos, and We Will Rock You.

Virgil Fox and Gaylord Carter played two of the numerous farewells to the Fox theater in 1960’s San Francisco. Virgil Fox was better known than Carter, and perhaps better on the instrument, but Carter gave by far the best performance. Fox was rigid and technical while Carter had audience contact. Fox played modern and standards like “Fly Me to the Moon” and “The Burning of Rome” while Carter showed off the sound effects of the 36 rank machine and in response to a shouted request played a calliope number. At the end of his hour Fox simply left the console. Carter played on until everyone had left the theater.

There is touch to a theater organ and there is a dynamic with the audience. Both made a difference.