Are There
Mentally Disturbed People
In Your Parish?

I wonder how many organists and church musicians have faced the dilemma of being directly affected by someone in their parish having serious mental disorders.

I had had no experience with this in the past other than "garden variety" issues -- alcoholics, religious ecstatics, colorful eccentrics of various sorts, and so on.

That all change a few years ago. One Sunday afternoon after church, I climbed the stairs to the organ loft and saw a bone-chilling, disturbing site that stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away.

Someone, some time in the interval between the Sunday morning service and about 2 p.m. in the afternoon, had come up to the loft and strewn heavy, white "duct tape" all over the organ console, the console mirror, and around the perimeter of the console. Several crudely scrawled notes were attached to the strands of tape [all spelling 'sic']:


"It's to loud and you know it."

"I was told to ask you nicely to turn it down (notic the tape around you)"

(and, written on the same sheet of paper but then scratched out:)

"Every time this happens, it makes me look bad."

Now, bear in mind that I have, never, at this church anyway, gotten ANY complaints about the organ being "too loud." To the contrary, I can't seem to play it "loud" enough, especially since it is rather undersized for the large sanctuary. Certainly, no one with any authority -- e.g., the pastor -- has made any such indication.

This very unsettling discovery came at a most inopportune time --- I had come back to set up for the Dubois "Seven Last Words" performance. The blatant vandalism and crudely scrawled notes, especially with my having no idea who would have been responsible, truly made my blood ran cold and it seemed, for a moment (due to my overactive imagination) that someone was out to sabotage the performance.

Plus, I had no idea -- but feared might be the case -- whether or not the vandal had also done damage to the organ or console. I wasn't about to touch the roll-top to find out. I did not want to disturb the "crime scene" since it occurred to me that the police might have to be called in.

I went and found the pastor, took him up there, and showed it to him.

He said, immediately, that he knew who it was, and he filled me in about it. I do not want to say any more about it here lest someone read this and figure it out. Suffice it to be said that the pastor will be counseling the individual.

I will, however, note that the person in question is definitely having some delusions -- is not in touch with reality here -- inasmuch as that person has no authority whatsoever to counsel me about my organ playing nor would that person have been asked by someone else to do so --- and certainly would not have been told to deliver that message in the bizarre and disturbing way as was done.

Meanwhile, I think that locking doors to the organ loft will be front-burnered. We have talked about doing this for this some time ago because we have a lot of audio equipment up there, and my office is up there as well. Several other parishes use our facilities (none of whom use the pipe organ) and it just seems to make good sense to secure the loft under these circumstances.

Especially since children have also been observed running around up there and climbing up on the balcony ledge. There is a fear that one of them might fall and get injured or killed. The best way to keep them out out of there and away from danger would be to lock the loft, much as I find the idea distasteful in terms of making the organ inaccessible.

[Postscript: Indeed, we have had this done -- there are now locking gates across both stairways to the organ loft.]

Following are some photos of the vandalism [I had happened to have my camera to take photos of the choir that afternoon].