WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Praise the Lord with harp and timbrel …. and organ

Alison Goodson rscj

Last week I sent to the parish priest [at St Francis de Sales, Island Bay] a letter of resignation from my usual playing of the organ at the 8 am Sunday Mass.

I mentioned that, after 68 years of playing on numerous organs, I have well exceeded an acceptable time for retirement, and I added:

‘I am grateful for the support and appreciation I have received in this parish over the past 23 years,

To add a line to Ecclesiastes, 3: ‘There is a time for every occupation under heaven…..

A time to enjoy playing the organ

A time to refrain from playing.

Now is the time!

It’s been a great life experience.’

Then my mind began to drift back over those 68 years to when it all began at Rose Bay. Mother Lilian McGee was a bright, friendly, humorous member of the Rose Bay Community in the 1930s. And she was a beautiful organist. Under her tuition, as a novice in 1936, I was introduced to the joys of organ playing, and set on a path that was to involve 26 different organs in Australia and New Zealand.

Some I played on a regular basis for a period of months or years: Sancta Sophia College while I was a university student; Baradene and Erskine Chapels; Christ the King Church in Christchurch; St Joachim’s in Berhampore, and latterly, St Francis de Sales Church, Island Bay.

While I was at Sydney University, I had access to the key to the Great Hall organ, through the kindness of an architecture professor. However, it was rarely used because of the practical fact that free time for me and for the Great Hall seldom coincided.

A little story surrounds each of the organs on the list. The occasions varied from funerals to weddings to jubilees, with the highest score going to funerals, which would have been in the hundreds. Memories vary.

There was the wedding of a grand-nephew, for example, in a little South Island country church at Leeston. When I arrived not long before the ceremony, I found that the organ was a harmonium, ‘pumped’ by a fitted electrolux hose and machine. The end effect was horrific! So I disconnected the hose and did my own pumping with my feet, which effort produced a much nicer sound, but was quite exhausting, especially during the Wedding March.

One day I arrived at a Wellington suburban church to play for a funeral. I was puzzled because nowhere could I see an organ. At last the parish priest arrived, and I timidly said:

‘I’m the organist, Father, but I can’t find the organ.’

‘Oh,’ he exclaimed, ‘of course. Just a moment.’ And he disappeared into the sacristy and pulled out of a cupboard a small keyboard, which we both set up just in time, and on which I experimented throughout the ceremony.

In Palmerston North a few years ago, I attended the Jubilee Mass of my cousin, Bishop Owen Dolan. He greeted me in the church porch with the news that Patrick Power was going to sing a hymn of thanksgiving and wanted me to accompany him on the organ.

To clarify: Patrick Power is my nephew and a singer of world renown, with quite a notable career in opera singing. I have played for him on various occasions, mostly at family weddings and funerals.

On this occasion, I went up to the organ only to find it locked. The local organist was all set to play for the Mass on a keyboard (with accompanying instruments), and she did not know where the organ key was. So I settled for the keyboard for our item. But Patrick was determined to find the missing key, which he finally did, on the sacristy floor, almost under a cupboard. We got the organ open just as Mass began. No chance for a run through, of course.

There have been some very moving occasions, such as playing for my brother Morris’s funeral in Karori Church; and accompanying Patrick in Faure’s’ Pie Jesu’ at my brother Godfrey’s funeral, and once again in Blenheim last year at my brother-in law, Dr Paul Fogarty’s funeral.

Then there was the extraordinary occasion last year when, on a Saturday, at two day’s notice, I played for a wedding, advanced by six months because the bride’s mother was desperately ill. She attended the wedding in a wheelchair. And four days later, I played for the Mother’s very poignant funeral. That was a hard one.

To end with the high points: some years ago, when Baradene held the end-of-year Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland, I accompanied the thrilling singing of the very accomplished Schola, and the full-throated singing of the whole school. Then there was the exhilarating experience of playing the large, beautiful St Mary of the Angels organ for the 1998 Wellington Alumnae Reunion, with over 800 excited Alumnae giving vent to their feelings in the singing of ‘Coeur de Jesus’ and ‘Heart of our God’.

In 2000, in the Erskine Chapel at the end of the Bi-centenary Mass, playing the Trumpet Voluntary, with a trumpet in duet, as the Alison Goodson rscj

Last week I sent to the parish priest [at St Francis de Sales, Island Bay] a letter of resignation from my usual playing of the organ at the 8 am Sunday Mass.

I mentioned that, after 68 years of playing on numerous organs, I have well exceeded an acceptable time for retirement, and I added:

‘I am grateful for the support and appreciation I have received in this parish over the past 23 years,

To add a line to Ecclesiastes, 3: ‘There is a time for every occupation under heaven…..

A time to enjoy playing the organ

A time to refrain from playing.

Now is the time!

It’s been a great life experience.’

Then my mind began to drift back over those 68 years to when it all began at Rose Bay. Mother Lilian McGee was a bright, friendly, humorous member of the Rose Bay Community in the 1930s. And she was a beautiful organist. Under her tuition, as a novice in 1936, I was introduced to the joys of organ playing, and set on a path that was to involve 26 different organs in Australia and New Zealand.

Some I played on a regular basis for a period of months or years: Sancta Sophia College while I was a university student; Baradene and Erskine Chapels; Christ the King Church in Christchurch; St Joachim’s in Berhampore, and latterly, St Francis de Sales Church, Island Bay.

While I was at Sydney University, I had access to the key to the Great Hall organ, through the kindness of an architecture professor. However, it was rarely used because of the practical fact that free time for me and for the Great Hall seldom coincided.

A little story surrounds each of the organs on the list. The occasions varied from funerals to weddings to jubilees, with the highest score going to funerals, which would have been in the hundreds. Memories vary.

There was the wedding of a grand-nephew, for example, in a little South Island country church at Leeston. When I arrived not long before the ceremony, I found that the organ was a harmonium, ‘pumped’ by a fitted electrolux hose and machine. The end effect was horrific! So I disconnected the hose and did my own pumping with my feet, which effort produced a much nicer sound, but was quite exhausting, especially during the Wedding March.

One day I arrived at a Wellington suburban church to play for a funeral. I was puzzled because nowhere could I see an organ. At last the parish priest arrived, and I timidly said:

‘I’m the organist, Father, but I can’t find the organ.’

‘Oh,’ he exclaimed, ‘of course. Just a moment.’ And he disappeared into the sacristy and pulled out of a cupboard a small keyboard, which we both set up just in time, and on which I experimented throughout the ceremony.

In Palmerston North a few years ago, I attended the Jubilee Mass of my cousin, Bishop Owen Dolan. He greeted me in the church porch with the news that Patrick Power was going to sing a hymn of thanksgiving and wanted me to accompany him on the organ.

To clarify: Patrick Power is my nephew and a singer of world renown, with quite a notable career in opera singing. I have played for him on various occasions, mostly at family weddings and funerals.

On this occasion, I went up to the organ only to find it locked. The local organist was all set to play for the Mass on a keyboard (with accompanying instruments), and she did not know where the organ key was. So I settled for the keyboard for our item. But Patrick was determined to find the missing key, which he finally did, on the sacristy floor, almost under a cupboard. We got the organ open just as Mass began. No chance for a run through, of course.

There have been some very moving occasions, such as playing for my brother Morris’s funeral in Karori Church; and accompanying Patrick in Faure’s’ Pie Jesu’ at my brother Godfrey’s funeral, and once again in Blenheim last year at my brother-in law, Dr Paul Fogarty’s funeral.

Then there was the extraordinary occasion last year when, on a Saturday, at two day’s notice, I played for a wedding, advanced by six months because the bride’s mother was desperately ill. She attended the wedding in a wheelchair. And four days later, I played for the Mother’s very poignant funeral. That was a hard one.

To end with the high points: some years ago, when Baradene held the end-of-year Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland, I accompanied the thrilling singing of the very accomplished Schola, and the full-throated singing of the whole school. Then there was the exhilarating experience of playing the large, beautiful St Mary of the Angels organ for the 1998 Wellington Alumnae Reunion, with over 800 excited Alumnae giving vent to their feelings in the singing of ‘Coeur de Jesus’ and ‘Heart of our God’.

In 2000, in the Erskine Chapel at the end of the Bi-centenary Mass, playing the Trumpet Voluntary, with a trumpet in duet, as the cardinal and 11 priests and several hundred alumnae processed out of the beautiful chapel.

The reflections go on, each one adding to the gratitude I feel for a gift that has given so much joy to me, and hopefully inspiration and comfort and a sense of celebration to many other people.

Organs played on 1938 – 2006

[Some regularly, and others on special occasions]

• Sydney:

University Great Hall [held a key]

Sancta Sophia University College.

Rose Bay Convent Chapel

• Auckland:

St Patrick’s Cathedral

St Michael’s Remuera

Baradene Convent Chapel

St John’s Orewa

• Palmerston North

St Mary’s

• Wellington:

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

St Mary of the Angels

St Francis de Sales Island Bay

St Theresa’s Karori

The Rigi Northland

St Joseph’s Mt Victoria

St Anne’s Newtown

St Anthony’s Seatoun

St Joachim’s Berhampore

Erskine Chapel Island Bay

Vincentian Home Berhampore

Home of Compassion Island Bay.

Our Lady of Grace Heretaunga

• Napier:

St Patrick’s

Marist Seminary Chapel Greenmeadows

• Blenheim:

St Mary’s

• Leeston:

St John the Evangelist

• Christchurch:

Christ the King

• A couple of funeral parlours!

26 organs altogether