“We Can’t All Play the Organ,” Ensign, Mar. 1987, 34
While I was serving a mission in Pennsylvania in the early 1970s, I had the opportunity to serve in the city of Kane, a peaceful little community which I found to be rich in history significant to Latter-day Saints.
Within the city limits in a small church courtyard was the grave of General Thomas L. Kane, who was a great friend to the Saints during the early years of the Church.
In 1972 the Church purchased the little church, which was about to be demolished. Now it housed a flourishing branch.
After having been there only a few weeks, we learned our mission was planning a large area conference, intended to familiarize the community with the history of our church and its relationship with the town’s founder.
Outgoing mission president George Baker, incoming president Hugh W. Pinnock, E. Kent Kane (grandson of General Kane), and Brother Roy Darley, Mormon Tabernacle organist, were scheduled to attend.
During the month preceding the conference, we contacted businesses and newspapers in the surrounding area and presented them with press releases about the event. We discovered there was more than an average amount of interest in the conference. The people of Kane could not believe the Mormon Tabernacle organist would come to their town. This interest, coupled with the knowledge that the Church had purchased the little old chapel, made people want to attend the program.
Brother Darley, who was vacationing in the area, was scheduled to give a short recital the evening of July 26. He would perform on the chapel’s old pipe organ. The organ itself was in generally good repair, considering its age and the fact it had only been used for branch meetings.
On the afternoon before the scheduled program, Brother Darley came to familiarize himself with the elderly instrument. I doubted anyone of his skill had ever touched its keys before. But, as he practiced, it became apparent something was wrong. The tone was not quite right in certain parts of the number. After a few practice runs and a close examination of the organ, he found that a pedal was sticking.
Brother Darley said he would be unable to play under these conditions, because a less-than-professional performance would embarrass the Church. As he explained this, we elders and the branch members began to panic.
Then a suggestion was made. “Maybe someone could get down in the compartment where the pipes are and reposition the pedal every time it is depressed.”
The crawl space was small and most of us were at least six feet tall. In addition to the height problem, some of us had put on some “mission muscle” that had broadened us out just a little. We quickly scanned the available elders. There, standing in the back of the church, was Elder Lawrence Wilde from Montpelier, Idaho. He stood 5 feet 7 inches and weighed 150 pounds. We pulled him toward the organ.
Once Elder Wilde was tucked snugly away in the little compartment, Brother Darley went back to the organ to test our solution. We all listened anxiously for any sign the pedal was sticking. The music was smooth and flowing!
That evening was an unusually humid one. With an overflow crowd lining the walls, the sticky heat made us feel as though we were glued together. Elder Wilde slipped into his cramped quarters.
Within minutes, Brother Darley made his entrance and for forty-five minutes held the audience’s full attention as he gave a superb performance. At the recital’s conclusion, amidst a standing ovation, Brother Darley introduced a smiling and perspiring Elder Wilde to the astonished audience, acknowledging that without the aid of this young elder, there would not have been a musical program that night. The people of Kane applauded this behind-the-scenes contributor.
Since that night I have realized that in all aspects of Church service, almost every time the “organist” plays, there are those who “unstick pedals.”
In order to have a successful organ recital, there must be artists who write the music, craftsmen who build the organ, and skilled tradespeople who keep it tuned. And there are those in the Church who may never hear the applause that Elder Wilde heard, yet who labor faithfully behind the scenes to build the kingdom of God. They are just as vital to the building of Zion as Elder Wilde was to that evening’s performance.