- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

HARRISON, Ark. (AP) - On a morning, devoid of sunshine and warmth, the sanctuary of St. John’s Episcopal Church was empty, except for Myrna Brittain.

It was the perfect time to play some J.S. Bach.

“Would you like to hear some?” Brittain asked.

With a minimum of encouragement, Brittain spun around on the bench and addressed the organ in front of her. As her hands moved deftly across the organ keys and her feet worked the pedals, the beautiful strains of Bach’s “In dulci jubilo,” good Christian men rejoice, reverberated throughout the empty, dimly-lit auditorium.

As far as Brittain was concerned, any time was a good time to play some Bach. Any time was a good time to play anything on the organ.

Brittain’s passion is the organ, and she indulges it every Sunday as the organist at St. John’s, the Harrison Daily Times (https://bit.ly/1xv7HBS ) reported.

“I don’t make much money playing the organ, but I love it,” said Brittain, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in organ music.

Brittain has been the organist at St. John’s for about five years, but during her musical journey, she has “played just about any denomination.”

Brittain grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Texas. The church, she recalled, had an electric organ, but no one to play it. Although she had had only four lessons up to that point, the 11-year-old girl became the church’s organist.

“I really loved it,” Brittain said.

Brittain has felt fortunate to have had some outstanding teachers during her study of the organ. They have included teachers from the prestigious Guilmant School of Organ in New York and the University of Michigan, which probably has the best organ department in the country, according to Brittain.

“My teachers opened up a new world for me,” she said.

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Brittain felt she still had little understanding of her art.

“When I finished my master’s degree, I felt even dumber,” she said with a laugh.

Brittain can be found most mornings during the week seated at the organ, pieces of which date back to the 1920s and earlier. While her performance during services may look effortless, it was really the result of hours of practice. In fact, Brittain guessed that for every hour spent on the bench on a Sunday morning, she spends six hours during the week practicing.

“Every new piece is a challenge,” Brittain said. “You’re orchestrating all the time.”

Not all of Brittain’s music is serious. At Halloween, she said, St. John’s hosted a party, and she played suitably creepy-sounding music on the organ.

“You mean this?” Brittain said, when asked if she knew the theme from “The Addams Family.”

She played a few bars of the song about the creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky television family.

Whether it’s J.S. Bach or the Addams Family, Sunday morning service or Thursday morning practice, Brittain can’t wait to sit down at the organ.

“There’s more music I want to learn,” she said.


Information from: Harrison Daily Times, https://www.harrisondaily.com



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