In the News:16-year-old takes over as congregation’s organist

BB NOTE: Great story coming out of Colorado today about Zachary Crippen. We saw Zachary’s dad this morning at Truro and he was positively beaming. Finally some good news. Here’s an excerpt:

This story is about the young man who brought music back into the lives of the congregation of Grace CANA Church, a group that broke away in March from the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. The timing wasn’t the best. It was right before Easter, a highly attended service that begs for a church organist. But the organist and most of the choir did not join the breakaway.

Enter Crippen, a master of the keyboard with about eight years of piano lessons to his credit. That’s piano, not organ. He had never touched an organ, but he wasn’t deterred. He stepped into the vacuum and up to the organ — and it took him 10 minutes to figure out how to open it up.

And then he practiced. And practiced some more. And by Easter weekend, he was playing in front of about 1,200 congregants.

“I was nervous, to say the least,” Crippen said. “Easter is one of the biggest services in the year, right up there with Christmas, so there’s a pretty big crowd that day.”

To the Rev. Donald Armstrong, the head of the CANA congregation, Crippen’s Easter gift was more than mere coincidence. “This is really a crucial thing not to have an organist,” Armstrong said. “So I said my prayers, and Zac walked into my office.”

On Easter Sunday, Armstrong hired Crippen as director of music — a paid position. Crippen now spends 30 hours a week coordinating the music and practicing on the church’s organ, which, when it was completed in 1928, was the largest instrument west of the Mississippi.

“I think he’s carrying the water of a regular staff member of a large church, so he has an incredible amount of responsibility for someone who’s only 16,” his father, Alan Crippen said.

That’s not just fatherly pride talking. James Thomashower, executive director of the American Guild of Organists in New York City, says that while there are some child prodigies across the country, most organists have at least a few years of training and experience before they try to tackle a large church organ.

“It’s astounding,” Thomashower said.

Read the whole thing here.