June 2014 Deanery -by Kari Miller
As I sit down to write my first ‘deanery’ I can’t help but shake my head in amazement at the path that has led me here. For unlike so many of you, I did not swoon in ecstasy when I heard my first voix céleste; I did not creep up the choir loft steps week after week to watch in wide-eyed fascination as the organist pushed pistons and rattled off flashy hymn improvisations.
No, I burst into tears after my first organ lesson.
I was a talented but undisciplined 11-year-old piano student and my parents thought it might be ‘nice’ for me to have a few organ lessons. But when I was given an introductory taste of the exercises in John Stainer’s classic, The Organ, and then informed that I was expected to take a 45-minute dose thereof at every practice session, I balked, and if my mother hadn’t whispered to me that I probably didn’t really have to do it, my organ career may have ended right then and there.
Well, I decided to give the organ a try, and soon found out that it was a lot of fun. I also found out that my teacher, otherwise not a severe woman, was indeed totally serious about those exercises. I learned that the only possible way to end the torment of any particular exercise was simply to play it perfectly, to her total satisfaction. Several times in a row. No escape. I would know I was in for an especially grueling session when I heard the words, “Now we’ll have to go over that with a fine-toothed comb.”
Oh boy! It seemed so boring and pointless to me then, downright tortuous, yet how many times, in the years since, have I thanked her for giving me that solid founda- tion! Because of her perseverance,
I always felt at home at the con- sole even though there were long periods in my life when I didn’t play the organ at all. Happily, it wasn’t all dry bones; I was also introduced to many of the great organ works of Bach, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Franck and more.
Looking back, I find it quite extraordinary that in the small British Columbia village where we lived at the time there was any organ teacher at all, let alone such a fine one. Was it just a lucky quirk of fate? Synchronicity? Divine providence? I don’t know. But the seed planted way back then finally emerged about ten years ago, grew and found its place in the sun, with the surprising result that after having spent most of my adult musical life practicing the piano, I now find myself Dean of an AGO chapter. I guess that’s just the way life is, full of things weird and wonderful.