on the way out of town

This is the final post about my long weekend in Northampton, Massachusetts to sing Brahms at Smith College.

I was up early for breakfast with CK as my plan was to attend 8:00 mass on my way home. As in many other places, the Northampton-area Catholic churches have consolidated, so I was not very familiar with the church building itself.

As a former organist and church musician, I always pay particular attention to preludes and all the music. The organ was in a loft, so I couldn’t see the musicians. I noticed that there were mistakes in the prelude, but that isn’t uncommon, especially at early masses at Catholic churches, which sometimes fall to student organists or people who are trained as pianists rather than organists.

The cantor/songleader was also in the loft and announced the opening hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” – a very familiar hymn that is usually one of the first an organist learns. The introduction started as one expects but became increasingly atonal, ending in a cluster chord that was held for much longer than expected.

The voice of the cantor came over the microphone, asking for a doctor to come to the loft. A woman in the section of pews in front of me jumped over the back of a pew to reach the aisle more quickly and rushed to aid the organist.

The chord on the manuals stopped, although a bass note from the pedals remained. We could hear the parishioners who had gone to the loft asking questions, trying to get a response.

I’m sure I was not the only person in the congregation who immediately began praying.

After a couple of minutes, the priest came to the front of the church and led a “Hail Mary” for the organist. He told us an ambulance was on the way and that we would begin mass shortly. He said that she would be okay, although I am not sure how he could have known.

The organist’s name is Jeanne.

At some point, the long-held pedal note stopped, a bell rang from the front of the church, and we began mass.

You could hear the ambulance squad arrive and enter the loft. Jeanne must have still been on the organ bench because there was a pedal glissando as they lifted her off.

Between readings, an usher came to the front of the church and spoke to the priest, who excused himself and went back to her before she left for the hospital.

We continued the mass with no music. It turned out that it was the last weekend for the relatively-young-as-Catholic-priests-go pastoral associate who was being re-assigned to Pittsfield.

We did sing a verse of “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” as he processed out to greet his parishioners for the last time.

It’s been two weeks now since that day. I read the bulletins and the church’s website for some mention of Jeanne, but there was none. I hope that the priest was correct – that she really was okay.

 

Author: Joanne Corey

Please come visit my eclectic blog, Top of JC's Mind. You can never be sure what you'll find!

10 thoughts on “on the way out of town”

    1. It was. It also showed the power of sound to convey what was happening out of sight. I found myself wishing that someone would turn the organ off, but on some instruments it isn’t obvious how to do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have often wondered when upsetting events happen in church if the ethic of “pushing forward” and continuing the service is correct. All anyone wants to do is stop and pray for the person. But we’re all ushered on past as if we’re rubbernecking at a wreck. I, too, hope and pray she was ok.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Given the traditions of the Catholic church, it would be difficult to cancel mass. I do wish that the priest had not delivered his prepared homily, but had instead led a period of prayer, spoken and silent. That would have felt more appropriate to me.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks, Ellen. I must admit that I am too overwhelmed to actually be well at this point. Someday, there may be some explanatory posts, although I will probably never be able to express the situation adequately, other than, perhaps, through poetry at some distant future point. I hope that you and yours are well.

          Liked by 1 person

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