BG church organist pulls out all the stops for a wedding


Heather McEwen Goldman enjoys adding the music to the special emotion of a wedding, with her piano playing or the big sound of a church organ.

“It’s a joyous occasion. It’s so fun to support people on what is a really special and happy day for them,” McEwen Goldman said. “I like planning the music and giving people options for what might be appropriate and fun. I do think the music adds an extra special layer that can be really important for the day.”

When love is in the air, she loves pulling out all the stops, not metaphorically, but with the tool that formed the phrase.

She is the music director and organist at First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, as well as a faculty accompanist at Bowling Green State University. Her specialty is the piano, which she started playing at the age of 5. She added the organ after taking the music position at the church in August 2021.

“Wedding music sort of comes with the territory of being a church musician,” McEwen Goldman said.

While playing the piano, like any musical instrument, is a physical activity, the organ has more of it. This one has two keyboards, foot pedals that are almost like a giant keyboard, and those stops.

She has a favorite sound.

“I like to go big. I like to pull out all the stops,” McEwen Goldman said. “All these (pulled stops) are adding foundation. You get more and more sound. The mix is what gives you the really good classic organ sound.”

While modern organs allow for a change in volume simply by the flip of a switch, this one really has stops. They are the wooden handles to the side of the keyboards, which the organist has to pull out to activate the amount of air flow going to the pipes.

“Because this one is copied after an early model of organ, you actually do have stops to pull out,” McEwen Goldman said. “These stops are actually a physical mechanism, instead of an electronic action. When you pull out all of them you actually allow all the pipes to sound, which creates a huge sound.”

That organ has giant metal pipes reaching toward the sky, but there are also small hidden ones that McEwen Goldman can show by opening up various small doors.

“Yes, I like to play loud. I do think the organ is the loudest instrument that anyone can possibly play. It’s fun to make a lot of noise all by yourself,” she said with a laugh.

Going loud adds a special quality to a wedding.

“When you’re really playing loudly you can feel those vibrations in your body. When I’m playing loud, especially for a postlude, or recession, when all the vows have been exchanged, and the rings, and there’s been a kiss, and everyone wants to feel joyous, being loud can help enhance that feeling, I think,” McEwen Goldman said.

The organ she plays is a special pipe organ, modeled after a 17th century organ from the Netherlands. Like modern organs, it has many types of sounds available, from violins to trumpets. But those stops are classic.

It was built in the 1980s, so there aren’t choir boys pumping bellows in a back room. It does have a modern blower motor, but that’s about where the modern technology ends.

“It’s not a contemporary sound. It’s not a modern sound. But if you are thinking of a classic wedding, then organ music is definitely part of that classic wedding sound,” McEwen Goldman said.

She moved back from New York City, with her husband, Ted Goldman, and their two children, to Bowling Green during the COVID shutdown. Music is in the family. He is the music director for the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, just north of Bowling Green.

She grew up listening to organist Vernon Wolcott in First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, where she now plays every Sunday.

“He was the model of an organist. Internationally known, he was awesome. He knew all the repertoire,” McEwen Goldman said.

She went to Bowling Green High School, then left for her advanced degrees.

McEwen Goldman has a Master of Music in Piano Accompaniment and Chamber Music from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.

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