“The Stoning of the Organist”

by Garrison Keillor

You can buy a framed copy of “The Stoning of the Organist” at Pretty Good Goods.

No choir room should be without one.


1And it came to pass, when Paul was at Corinth, he and certain disciples came upon a mob that was stoning an organist.  2And Paul said unto them, “What then hath he done unto thee that his head should be bruised?”  3And the people cried with one voice, “He hath played too loud.  4Yea, in the singing of psalms, he maketh our heads to ring as if they were beaten with hammers.  5Behold, he sitteth up high in the loft, and mighty are the pipes and mighty is the noise thereof, and though there be few of us below, he nonetheless playeth with all the stops, the Assyrian trumpet stop and the stop of the ram's horn and the stop that soundeth like the sawing of stone, and we cannot hear the words that cometh out of our own mouths.  6He always tosseth in the variations that confuse us mightily and playeth loud and discordant and always in a militant tempo, so that we have not time to breathe as we sing.  7Lo, he is a plague upon the faith and should be chastised.”  8Paul, hearing this, had himself picked up a small stone, and was about to cast it, but he set it down and bade the organist come forward.  9He was a narrow man, pale of complexion, dry, flaking thin of hair.  10And Paul said unto him, “Why hath thou so abused thy brethren?”  11And the organist replied, “I could not hear them singing from where I sat, and therefore played the louder so as to encourage them.”  12And Paul turned round to the mob and said loudly, “Let him who has never played an organ cast the first stone.”  13And they cast stones for awhile until their arms were tired and Paul bade the organist repent and he did.  14And Paul said unto him, “Thou shalt take up the flute and play it for thirty days, to cleanse thy spirit.”  15And afterward, they returned to Corinth and sang psalms unaccompanied and then had coffee and were refreshed in the faith.