Celebrating Musicians, Remembering Andy Crow

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This Sunday in worship is Music Appreciation Sunday. Our faithful praise band continues year round, but the choirs will sing and play for the last time in this academic year and we will move into a time of special music offerings on Sunday mornings. We always like to say thank you to the volunteers and the music staff who play such an important role in our worship experience each Sunday. So thank you to Mark Bunda, Daryl Yager, Cathy Bennett, Angi Swan, Leah Wilson, Lisa Robischon, and Cheryl Jorban for their faithful support and skilled leadership of all of our volunteer musicians. We are truly blessed.

As it turns out, this year as we prepare for Music Appreciation Sunday, we also paused to remember a beloved former music staff member, Andy Crow. Andy died last year and the family and community delayed a memorial service for him until yesterday, what would have been Andy’s 84th birthday. I was privileged to represent the church at his memorial. Here are the words I prepared and shared:

About three years ago, after I had been in Olympia for a few months, an item on my to do list had wiggled its way to the top and I found myself knocking on the door of a man I had never met, but about whom I had heard so much. Andy Crow answered the door and invited me in and we began a sad friendship for both of us. Sad because I would never be able to experience the past in which Andy had been such an important pillar of our church’s worship ministry, and sad because Andy knew that because of physical infirmity he could no longer be a part of the future of the church that was continuing to unfold with each passing present moment.

In our conversation that day, and in many more conversations that would follow, there was a wistfulness as Andy would recall for me his life and times. But the wistfulness would quickly turn to joy as Andy savored the memories, including writing a musical with Rev. Paul Beeman about the Story of Queen Esther, teaching young pastors the intricacies of the instrument under which they dared to preach, poetically accompanying a scripture passage the way he would have accompanied a silent movie, coaxing the organ to help the gathered congregation imagine angel choruses on Christmas Eve or the melancholy of the silent Garden, or the deep lamentations of crucifixion during Holy Week, giving way to the glorious glissandos of resurrection on Easter morning. Andy was a master at telling the story of his faith without uttering a single word, evoking the glorious story through the reeds, flutes, and horns of his organ stops, through the swell and the tempo of his score, the pianissimo and fortissimo of his touch, through the music… always through the music.

Igor Stravinsky once said, “Music praises God. Music is well or better able to praise him than the building of the church and all its decoration; it is the Church’s greatest ornament.”

Andy Crow knew this truth. Music is the most fundamental language through which the spirit of God, the divine, the holy, reaches out to our humanity. The music of the spheres is all around us. And among us there are some, gifted and graced, who harness the music and make it real for the rest of us, focus our attention upon it, help us to hear, to feel, to experience the music of creation that flows from the creator. Andy was one such gifted individual, and through him, God touched the hearts of so many for so long.

When I think of Andy, I recall Psalm 150. He seemed to personify this expression of praise through music.

 

Praise God with trumpet sound;
praise God with lute and harp!
Praise God with tambourine and dance;
praise God with strings and pipe!
Praise God with clanging cymbals;
praise God with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise God!

 

When I would call on Andy at Panorama, first in his apartment and later at the C and R, I would remind Andy that no preacher had every stayed at our church for three decades, but that he had! And for over thirty years, God had spoken to the congregation through the ministry of music, using Andy’s hands and feet at the console, and Andy’s creativity in worship planning, and Andy’s personality in fellowship and learning.  Andy Crow helped make my church what it is today as he praised God with the trumpet, lute, and harp voices from the Wicks organ that Andy so joyously and meticulously maintained. God was praised as Andy sounded the cymbals, chimes, and pipes, Sunday after Sunday, season after season, and year after year. Praise poured forth at Andy’s touch, reminding us to praise God with all that is within us.

And today, as we remember Andy and all of the different ways in which we knew him and loved him, we realize that Andy himself was a creation of God, an amazing gift of love and talent and imagination and possibility, for which we give thanks and praise today.

Praise be to God for the gift of Andy and the music he created that echoes in our hearts and down through the ages in both the tangible things he left behind, and the intangible things he planted in our hearts and lives.