Early Marriage | Part 10

by Elouise

First United Presbyterian Church,
Cambridge 1966

It’s early spring, 1966. One important piece of me is missing in action. It doesn’t bother me at first. But by spring it’s beginning to feel unbearable.

At Park Street Church I’m on the planning team for summer evening Bible studies with college and university students. I’m also planning day trips with D to see the sights in and around Boston. We might even go to a baseball game or two. Things are looking up.

So what’s missing? Music. Not music in general. We have our still-new record player, receiver and wall-mounted speakers. And Boston has great music on the radio night and day.

The missing piece is more basic than that. It’s a piano. It’s been months since I had daily access to a piano. Even if we could afford one, we can’t have a piano in our apartment.

During the winter we get to know the couple downstairs. One spring evening we have dinner with them, and our conversation turns to music. I make a few comments about how much I miss playing the piano. They ask if I also play the organ. Yes, I do.

A few weeks later they have news. The church they sometimes attend is looking for a new organist who would also be their ‘choir mistress.’ (Don’t you love the title?) If I’m interested, I can apply for the position. Though it seems a long shot, it sounds intriguing.

I send an application letter and wait. I get a call. Would I please come in for an audition? Yes, and may I come in to practice a bit before the audition? No problem. I go to the church, meet their old, relatively small pipe organ, and practice for the audition. I haven’t played an organ regularly for nearly two years.

The audition goes well. The next step is to play for one of the Sunday morning services. That means I get to practice again. This time I also get a feel for their old upright piano. It’s in need of tuning, but not so bad as it might be. I’m loving this!

I audition, and wait for a call. A few days later it comes. I’m to begin in September!

Not only do I get a key to the church and an opportunity to play the organ and/or piano when I want to, I also get to select and arrange music for the choir. Furthermore, they’re going to pay me $25.00 a week. Not a small amount, considering the cost of food back then and the cost of living in Boston.

Am I nervous? A little, but not much. It’s a small, nice-sized congregation, and they already have an enthusiastic choir. They also have a large library of choral music, and a budget for purchasing more. The choir includes young professionals, university students, and several singles and couples older than I am.

For two years, this becomes a creative, satisfying outlet for me. I love the weekly challenge of putting together the service music. I love arranging pieces for the choir and working with the choir and with small ensembles of voices and instruments. I love practicing in the sanctuary anytime I’d like during the week.

I can’t think of anything that first year of marriage that did more for my self-identity than this opportunity. It was wonderful being part of Mr. Griswold’s office staff during the week. The music, however, fed my heart and gave me a creative outlet I hadn’t had since I graduated from the Bible college in 1964.

That fall we joined the First United Presbyterian Church of Cambridge. For the first time since we married, I felt at ease about my identity in church. I was there because of what I had to offer, not simply because I was married to D. It was good for my morale, and it was good for D.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 May 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, Nov 1966