April 2018
I was there!!!

Robert Neuenschwander
Robert Neuenschwander

Robert Neuenschwander

But I was there!!!  I mean I was really, REALLY there when that Skinner was installed!.  I was an eighteen year old kid (it’s ok if you do the numbers; I’m too old to care) from the neighborhoods of Chicago with nothing special but a love of playing the organ.  I would comb through the WFMT fine arts guide (printed then; every thing was in print in those days) looking for organ programs to go to.  One afternoon in 1958 there was to be an organ recital at the First Presbyterian Church of Evanston.  As a bonus, it was going to be on a brand new organ.  I borrowed the family car and drove up here.

The recitalist had an interesting program that showed off the organ, and she played with a good charisma. I was disappointed with the acoustic, but it was after all, a Presbyterian Church.  All I could think during that recital was “Wow, would I ever like to get my hands on that instrument!”  Now the North Shore Chapter has kindly invited me to play on 4/29/18. But I have to say, a 60 year wait is a bit of an excessive in any one’s book.

The North Shore and Evanston were indeed a Mecca (excuse me for mixing religions) for Church Music.  Richard Enright was there at 1st Pres, Jack Goode was across the street at 1st Baptist,  Austin Lovelace was up the street the other way at 1st Methodist. Thomas Matthews was on the south side at St. Luke’s Episcopal. This eighteen year old kid thought he had driven to heaven…via the family Oldsmobile.

I have to say the concert was well done, if not exceptional, except for one thing.  When the recitalist was finished she left the organ by walking off on the pedals.  She had neglected to again push the tutti button and the general cancel button seemed beyond her reach.  But she got double the applause she might have gotten had she not performed this little “coda a la piede.”  Richard Enright was not amused.  I thought, “this Is really cool, she knows how to work an audience.  So this is how it is done on the North Shore!”  But what did I know, I was eighteen years old.

Now, one of the great things about being a senior is that you sort of get to do what you want. So I’m going to tell you who this artist was, but you have to work at it.  Start by playing “Happy Birthday to You” in the key of B flat major.  Be sure you notice the letter name of each melody note (ignore the octaves.)  You will wind up with two letter name notes that are the same, this particular letter occurs twice and only twice.  The 1958 organist’s first and last initials are this letter.  Happy hunting, and see you on April 29, First Presbyterian Evanston, 4:00 PM.

With all my love to the colleagues,

Robert Neuenschwander