You Never Know

It was during a conversation about the Responses sung during a Mattins Service, held once a month at St Lawrence, North Hinksey, that Shei, who had recently joined the Benefice, said that she felt a warm glow when driving by the church on these cold, dark evenings and seeing a light from the organ music rest shining through the window of the church, indicating that somebody was ‘in the House of God’ keeping the lamp alight and all was well.

For me, seated at the console of the non-de-script ‘Phipps of Oxford’ two manual organ, possibly making a ‘joyful noise’ with some Hesse or Lemmens, maybe getting to grips with some Guilmant or even working on a piece of Bach started many years ago, when I had lessons with John Webster, who departed this life long ago. I still play the same copies with his fingering and pedal notations; you could say he is still teaching me. I had no idea of the ‘warm glow’ the music desk light gave to somebody who was just driving by.

I am aware that nobody hears the organ as I do. ‘Sounds wonderful’ the lady said as I played over and over again the four bar intro to Jerusalem. ‘Really’!, I replied as all I could hear was the tricky little run in the inner parts of the third bar that I could not get right. My ability to focus the mind on notes inside the sound of a piece of music no doubt comes from years of doing it. When playing a piece through, it may be the left hand that gets most attention whilst, going through it again, the pedal line comes in for detailed inspection. Nobody has the slightest idea of what I am thinking as I play a piece of music, but it will take all my attention to do it.

This is to say we have no idea how what we do affects other people. The last thing I would have imagined is that somebody going by in a car on a dark evening gets a nice feeling because the organ light is shining out of a window in the darkness of the church building.

We may do this kind of thing all our lives, but be totally unaware that it is happening even though it is part of who we are. Who we are is something we will not truly know until we depart this life and ‘seeing through the darkened glass’ goes away.


John Hardaker – Jan, 2016.

This was also published in the Benefice Magazine of St. Lawrence.