Computers, organs, and Chicago! I never expected any of it. Well, to be truthful, I guess the organ part was to be expected.
Visiting my aunt and uncle in suburban Pittsburgh when I was growing up was always a treat. Along with helping my uncle’s woodworking shop during the summers, I would keep him company for hours at his church where he was evening custodian in his retirement years. It was there, at nine years old, where I first remember hearing the captivating sound of the pipe organ. It was so different than the Hammond organ I was used to hearing at my family’s church. I was hooked! From then through high school, I would faithfully listen to Sunday night radio broadcasts of the morning worship services from Pittsburgh’s historic Shadyside Presbyterian Church. The hymn harmonizations, anthem accompaniments, and especially the modulations from the offertories into the Doxology; they were all thrilling as well as excellent examples of service playing leadership. Incidentally, Shadyside Church is where Worldwide Communion Sunday was conceived and first celebrated. If you ever visit the Pittsburgh area, stop by the church and see the excellent chancel floor mosaic commemorating the space where Worldwide Communion originated.
Throughout junior and senior high, I took piano and organ lessons, and tried my best to make that Hammond organ sound like a pipe organ! I attended Westminster College ( Pennsylvania ) and Northwestern University where I earned my B.M. and M.M. in church music with an organ major. After graduating, I looked forward to a career in church music, but what I didn’t expect was that it would be a part-time career. I also didn’t expect to return to the Chicago area after my first and only full-time church job in Montgomery, Alabama. The career switch has proven to be a good move for a number of reasons, and after 35 years of an information technology career, and continuous part-time organist and organist/director positions, I’ve had the best of both worlds. Since completing seven years as organist at The Presbyterian Church of Barrington in 2014, I have been active as a substitute organist and choir member. I’ve also enjoyed having an occasional weekend to spend time with my daughter in Virginia and son who lives in the Chicago area.
I have been an AGO member since college, and have a dual membership in the Fox Valley and North Shore AGO chapters. With my full-time retirement in sight and having wondered what I might do to be more involved with the guild, the opportunity to serve on the North Shore board was a welcomed invitation. I’m looking forward to meeting and working with the NSAGO!
Richard Leasure, Board member