Organist Anniversary

Today, September 22, is a big anniversary day for me.

If you read my May post on my Bulova watch, you know it was a “big” high school graduation anniversary.

Today, as a freshman in college, exactly 21 days into my undergraduate experience, I started out as one of the chapel organists, and played for Mass for the first time.

Memory seems to bring up “All You Nations” by Lucien Deiss as the opening hymn.  Either that or “All the Earth.”

Some ideas I got that first semester about organ playing have never left me since.  (That includes an essentially positive take on Deiss.)

It was Möller opus 10962 (?) at Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston, Queens.  Mass was at 11:40 six days a week, 11 on Sunday.

I played it for four years:  for hours every week I saw “opus 10962, 1967” on the nameplate.  I remembered it specifically as “1962 with a zero interpolated, five years before 1967, when I received First Communion.”)

But the supposed authority on the subject insists it was opus 10262, 1966.  The nameplate didn’t say that.  Whatever.  Perhaps, for over a thousand days, I misread the numbers.  On the other hand, the “authorities” use “circa” just as often, so again:  whatever.

I became a house organist at the insistence of upperclassman Michael Scott, later a beloved priest in Perth Amboy;  over the hyperventilating protests of “Chuckles,” who has spent years as an on-again-off-again priest and lay organist on the West Coast.  (How he got there from his native diocese of Brooklyn, don’t ask.)  For months he would lie in wait at the chapel entrance to wave his finger and me and shame me about my “shortcomings” as an organist.

The nasty notes, too:  if you want to be an organist, please clean up your shit after Mass.

I have dealt with impossible people, but he was among the impossiblest.  Some shit gets cleaned up, other shit lingers forever.

It set a very bad tone and braced me against the negative feedback that you can get in this business.  In the deepest caves there be krakens;  under the oldest bridges there be trolls.  The trick is to pursue thine own ascension.

So, I persevered, and have made a living as a musician ever since.  As to “Chuckles,” and his negative, carping ilk:  really, who cares?

Anyway, forty years later, I look back on September 22, 1978 as the beginning of my true life’s journey.

Bulovas and Möllers…not the top drawer but certainly good enough.



About Jonathan B. Hall

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food. Cat lover, too.
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