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Organists Often Insane?

Malcolm Kemp

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It's amost the end of what we sometimes call the silly season and an organist friend of mine has sent me the following quote from a recent copy of "The American Organist". I make no comment about the content.


"Dr Susan A Price of Williamsburg, Pa, read a paper on July 12, 1915, before the annual meeting of alienists and neurologists at the Auditorium Hotel in Chicago (The Diapason, August 1915, page 2). She noted that the woman whose mind most frequently gives way is one whose work is amid the most uplifting music and whose thoughts dwell on all that is noble and good in this life and the next - the church organist.

"It might appear peculiar to the average layman, but it is a fact that insanity prevails among the church organists" said Dr Price. "I do not know what the cause is, but figures show that in nearly all institutions for the insane many patients are organists. The only cause I can assign for it is the fact that they as a rule devote all their time to religious matters.

"It has been noted frequently that the young woman organist, a model in a community, reserved and modest, retiring and active in church and Sunday school work, becomes suddenly careless in her habits and a menace to the community. She begins to show hatred to her friends, who try to reason with her. Also, she displays aversion to good habits."


There is not more that one can say about this apart from the fact that the article I quote from (hopefully within the bounds of copyright law - sorry if not) has above it a picture of an organist who is very obviously male.


Perhaps one could end with the story I heard a copy of years ago. It amused a copy of Brighton vicars.

Q What's the difference between an organist and a terrorist?

A You can negotiate with a terrorist.


Malcolm Kemp

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