der Orgelist

Once upon a time there was a man who came to this little village. He lived on his own, he seemed to have no friends. Now and then you saw a man and a woman entering his house. It appeared to be his brother and his sister.

The man was a bookkeeper. He worked in the neighbouring city.
The man was also an organ player. In his youth he had taught himself to play the house harmonium. And when he started working and could afford to pay lessons he went to a professional.
And the man was also a believer, so every week he went to the church.

There was a woman in the village who was appointed to play the organ at the church services, but she wasn't really an organist. Being a sympathetic lady, people loved her, so they accepted her shortcomings.
So did not the newcomer. He made himself known to the church council; he convinced the vicar that God would be pleased when the singing in the church became more singing and less stumbling - the very words he used - and it didn't take long for him to get the post.
It didn't work well for his popularity, but he didn't seem to bother.
Truth being truth: the congregation enjoyed the accompaniment and the singing became real singing.

Time passed and the man became older. And, like so many these days, he lost his faith.
It was the organ which kept him going.
More and more, if you were outside the church, the religious music you heard, were just hymns. The rest was Music für Orgel. The classics.
The man had a special inclination to the German composers, and because he was a fervent Buxtehudian people didn't hear any more music of the good old English composers of church music.
They complained. The council spoke to him.
It didn't change.
And because they remembered the stumbling everything stayed the way it was.
It earned him the name der Orgelist. He had always referred to himself that way, in a German fashion.
It wasn't really German at all - but he liked it, and now, with his popularity at the lowest point ever, they started to call him as he wanted to be called.
Still there was the problem of his non-belief. He hated to play the hymns. He started to hate hearing the singing of the congregation.
And he considered finishing his career. It was not a long time before his retirement. He had saved a lot of money and he could afford himself a little house organ. Not a harmonium, but a real organ. Of course there was the problem of nuisance by noise.

Two events made him change his mind.

First there was a new minister.
It was a she. A clergywoman.
Like der Orgelist she had to fight for her place. Although a clergywoman was as normal as a female leader of government most of the believers preferred a clergyman.
But, contrary to der Orgelist, she was empathetic, good humoured, and open to the people. For starters, she went to every family to have a person-to-person talk.
Real talk. Not about faith, a lot of believers had become doubters, but social talk.
One evening she came to der Orgelist.
They hit it off immediately.
Over the years it became a personal relationship. Every Saturday evening she had to deliver the list of songs to be sung the next day, and she didn't ask the sexton any more, but went herself or invited der Orgelist to her place.
At one of these opportunities she gave him a peck on the cheek. First time he shrunk back - even his sister had never kissed him - but after a time he enjoyed the idea and it became also his habit to answer her kiss, a bit hesitating ... but still.
He loved these evenings.

And another man came to the village, also a commuter.
The man played the clarinet.
He came to the house of der Orgelist, and proposed they could play together. They did so.
Because the man was rather a good player, he enjoyed also their weekly togetherness in church.
Again, years went by. The clergywoman and the clarinettist had appeared at the right moment in his life. He felt again the satisfaction of playing the organ which he had felt when he started to be der Orgelist.
The believers enjoyed again the music of the new English masters.

One Saturday evening, long after his retirement, the vicar came to his house to bring him the list of songs and to have their usual get-together.
She met him, as usual, with a kiss.
Some observant spectator could have seen that it was almost lips to lips, from her side deliberately.
This observant spectator could also have seen that for the second time he shrunk back.
It confused him.
He wasn't a man likely to blush, but she couldn't have missed his embarrassment.
It took a while before the conversation went okay.
"Tomorrow has to be a special service" she said. "I want you to raise the dead."
Another moment of confusion, almost perplexed.
She laughed. "Just joking".
He knew of her worries about the belief of which she called in her soothing tone her flock. She knew der Orgelist had lost his faith. She had accepted, and didn't touch the subject. But seeing her flock distempered by disbelief, she became desperate.
So she had a special message for that Sunday. "And" she said "I want you to get them 'singing' again. I mean, real singing with their heart. So we will finish with Guide me, o thou great Jehovah. And I want you to make it a happening. Do you understand?"
When she left his place, without a kiss, she begged him, pleaded: "Make them rejoice, my friend!"
He understood.
Yet, long after she had left him, he still felt the embarrassment of that kiss. Swinging back and forth between shame and temerity. He didn't sleep well.
Only that morning, in his familiar surroundings in front of his keyboard, his confidence returned.
He felt he served his clergywoman well.

Then there came the last song.
He started with a jubilant praeludium.
The first verse he played forte.
The second verse with only a few voices, in a romantic style. For the last couplet he opened the full organ.
And indeed the congregation enjoyed it.
The vicar looked with satisfaction to her flock, how they were singing lustily, at the top of their voices.
Then, suddenly, it stopped.
The singing.
Not the organ.
Actually it wasn't playing.
A horrible noise ... fortissiissimo ... as if all the keys were pressed.
Then, after what seemed a terrible long time but was actually a few seconds, the sound changed. Now only the notes in the middle range of the keyboard were heard, accompanied by a few pedal tones.
It took a few minutes before the sexton understood something had to be done. He went up the stairs, to the organ, and found der Orgelist with his head on the keyboard.

The sexton switched off the wind system.
Der Orgelist had died in harness.