Through some sordid twist of fate I am now one of my ward organists. There are four of us already, and we need more. Sister C has crippling arthritis and cannot play anymore. Sister F has grandchildren in a neighboring ward and has decided that one of her top priorities is making sure her grandchildren attend church so she is frequently absent from our ward. Sister J just had her fifth baby and is feeling overwhelmed. And me? I don’t play the organ. I can barely play the piano. I know how to play 9 hymns, 3 of which I learned in the last month in order to play them at church.
Last night my home teacher called to see when would be a good time to schedule a visit and mentioned my new calling. He asked if I was already an organist, and I said no- I’m learning as I go. He thanked me for being willing to take it on anyways.
On the first Sunday I played I got a lot of praise, and lots of people expressed their gratitude for my playing. I have no doubt that it was all very authentic, but it still made me rather uncomfortable. While my playing does represent a large time commitment and a specific sort of bravery, it isn’t necessarily more praiseworthy than the time and bravery of a competent organist. The very skilled women who have played the organ for decades in my parents ward rarely even get the perfunctory “We’d like to thank Sister K for providing the music,” in passing during the announcements. Sadly the more skilled and effective an organist is are the more invisible s/he becomes.
One of those women, Sister J, put together a set of ‘transitional’ arrangements for the hymns. Unlike the simplified arrangements available from the distribution center hers are in the same key as the hymns in the standard hymnbook. Learning her arrangements and fingerings makes learning the standard hymns easier. My mom bought me a copy of her book, and I later told my mom how useful I had found it. When my mom passed this on to Sister J it brought her to tears. Sister J confessed that she got so little positive feedback that even hearing it second-hand was very meaningful to her.
Let this be a reminder to thank your local organists, and pianists- especially if they are good at what they do.