Thoughts about David Spicer
Our chapter colleague David Spicer died on January 18 following a long struggle with cancer. He was the Minister of Music and the Arts at First Church of Christ in Wethersfield and a founder of the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival, an organ competition held at his church for many years. He was also an active member of our chapter and beloved by many of us.
In the days following David’s death, there were many testimonials to him on Facebook from choir members, students, parishioners and colleagues. They all, in one way or another, focused on his generosity of spirit. Known as “Uncle Spicer” within his church community, David was also a friend to every organ student and every colleague that stepped within his orbit. As host of our chapter’s PPP in 2015, David enchanted the children with his stories and his tour of his church’s musical treasures, including the church tower bell and a monster-sized handbell, all while wearing a Santa Claus-like sweater with a huge musical notation motif. In her comments at the recent members’ recital dedicated to him, Kari Miller noted that he was a man of high talent who shared his love of music with the humblest of musicians.
Two of our colleagues shared their thoughts.
By John Rose
Near or at the top of David’s professional passions was his enthusiastic and unrelenting promotion of the organ to people of all ages. His unfettered style of hymn playing in the grand tradition of his teacher, Alexander McCurdy along with inspiration from Virgil Fox, was undeniably infectious. When he led (not accompanied) hymns, the congregation and choirs were “all in.” It was impossible not to be.
Another arm of his tireless commitment to sharing his love of the organ was his co-founding and shepherding the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival for almost twenty years. His foresight in recent years to expand the festival beyond the walls of his First Church of Christ in Wethersfield guarantees its future as a major organ competition for Hartford. We his friends and colleagues were inspired by his ever present optimism and formidable talents. His honored legacy is assured.
By Lad Pfeifer
David Spicer was influencing my musical life for years and we had never seen each other eye to eye. While driving to church on Sunday mornings I would listen to WJMJ on the radio and would hear the radio broadcast from the First Church of Christ in Wethersfield. The program opened with David’s classic rendition of Lift High the Cross. What caught my attention for several years was David’s hymn playing on the program. David made hymns special. It is as simple as that. One could hear many fine organists from various churches over the air waves, but hymns played by David were always moments of inspiration. Every so often there would be periods of my life when I would devote extra time to the hymns and it was always because I had listened to David on the radio.
Eventually, I was able to actually meet him when he gave a workshop for the AGO in Hartford. I always remember two things from that day. He liked to quote an organist who exclaimed “You’re practicing the hymns? For Christ’s sake what are you doing that for?” and the reply was “If not for Christ’s sake then for whose sake?” David was very devout and firm in faith. He strongly believed in practicing the hymns for Christ’s sake. He was convinced that they were a powerful avenue where many met God. He finished that workshop with our National Hymn ‘God Of Our Fathers’ as only he could do and I have remembered it ever since.
Last summer David taught at the POE for the Springfield Chapter. He was not as robust as in the past, but still strongly dedicated to bringing people to God through hymns and the organ. He was courageous and very open with the young students about the art of organ playing, his health, and spiritual life. It takes a man of great inner strength to ask a group of teenagers to pray for him.
Where I work there is a saying that no one will remember your name five minutes after you are gone. Because of David’s passion for hymn playing I will be remembering him to every student and to myself whenever I play a hymn for the rest of my life. Priests, ministers, and organists come and go, but David left an indelible mark that will be long remembered.
A memorial service for David will be held on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 11:00 a.m. at the First Church of Christ, 250 Main St., Wethersfield. Donations in his memory may be made to the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival/USA, 31 Church St., Wethersfield, CT 06109.