The sound of every instrument

200 years ago, the revival sweeping the country had seemingly passed over First Presbyterian Church. The church narrowly averted losing its property for failing to pay money owed to workers and creditors.

In the church, there were controversies over prayer and mission.

And then there was the controversy over music.

Young people asked to form a choir.

The minister, Francis Herron, knew nothing about music and was tone deaf, but he supported the idea. 

But some elders hated the choir idea. “They shall never have an instrument,” one exclaimed. “No never.”

But the elder was as musically deaf as Herron. When his own nephew started accompanying the choir on the bass viol, the elder didn’t even notice.

But then one Sunday, the nephew played a voluntary, and the elder got up to “Smash that fiddle.”

“Sit down,” he was told. “It’s been playing here a month and hasn’t hurt us.”

Today, First Church has one of the grandest instruments in the city.

The organ, built by Casavant Freres of Canada in 1988, has 4,400 pipes. And for the last nine years, it’s been played by one of the finest organists in the city, Ryan Croyle.

Psalm 150 calls on “everything that has breath” to praise the Lord, and to use every instrument. Its why organs were created. They were once the greatest machines anyone had ever seen, and they could make the sound of nearly every instrument.

What kind of rare breed of person would dare to take on the challenge of playing one?

Learning to play the organ takes years and years of solitary practice.

Learning to play with subtlety and panache…to not just hit the notes, but to touch the hearts of worshippers…takes a rare blend of empathy, grace, skill, and confidence.  

Ryan’s playing touches hearts.

This Sunday we say “Godspeed” to Ryan as he begins a new chapter in his life with his beautiful, growing family and his growing architectural practice. Ryan has blessed us with his musicianship and character, and we’ll miss him.

We look forward to seeing what God will do through him in the years ahead!

One thought on “The sound of every instrument

  1. Bruce Mahin

    What a fine tribute to a fine musician. Let’s hope we will hear him perform this organ many times in the future. Thank you Ryan! Peace be with you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s