What's Your Story?

November 15, 2019

I love hearing people’s stories—listening to a United Church Women (UCW) elder tell me about growing up, hearing from a chorister who has come to recognize the power of song in their lives, being entranced by a child telling me about events of their day, absorbing biblical stories over and over again and hearing something new in them each time.  

I also love hearing other church musicians reveal how they came to be in the place they are. What drew them to church music? As an organist, I came to church music a bit through the back door. Ok, “true confessions” time: I grew up playing electronic organ (gasp!). You know the kind—those little electronic spinet organs that practically everyone had in the house in the 1970s. I loved playing the organ, and as I advanced, so did the organs I got to play on: first my teacher’s spinet, then my teacher’s Hammond, and then my parents bought me a Hammond of my own. That Hammond brings to mind a story from my parents’ narrative. If, after acquiring that organ, I started taking the lessons for granted or was lax in my practising, they would remind me that the full-pedalboard organ had cost them more (in the early 80s) than their bungalow house had in 1963. After a few years on the Hammond, the moment came: the switch to pipe organ, and I received terrific assistance from a wonderful organist who, over the years, has become a colleague!  

A few years later, a successful university audition, and the rest, as they say, is history. However, my history contained very little church experience. Sure, I was baptized, and my family went to church once in a blue moon, and as a teen, I went to church a few times and even to the youth group, but that was pretty much the extent of my church upbringing. So, in first-year university, when a perfect job got offered to me—being an assistant organist—I revelled in the learning opportunity. The organist at the church was a true mentor: kind, helpful, and encouraging, and he gave me great experience, for which I will always be thankful. I’ll never forget, though, the first time he told me that I could “go get a bulletin from the narthex,” and I thought, “go get a what from where?” Just proves how much we forget what we know! And today, that very helpful organist who was around when I made the switch to pipe organ now works in the building where I had my first real job as an assistant organist, and we do joint ventures together in the building. Talk about a story coming full circle! 

So, what’s your story? Have you told your story to others? What drew you to church music? Who were the characters who changed the plot of your story? Have you ever thought that some seemingly insignificant things in your life could have a huge impact on the lives of others?