- Associated Press - Sunday, October 1, 2017

MORNING SUN, Iowa (AP) - One Sunday, an older woman from the Centenary United Methodist Church approached Michael Corey, the director of worship arts, after the service to pay him a compliment. Corey plays the organ every week at Centenary United Methodist Church.

“When I hear you play, I get it right here,” she said, pointing to her heart. “And it makes me know I’m home.”

It’s reactions like those Corey said he plays for, and the reason why he asked the congregation to help him raise the money to purchase a new organ.

After two years of raising funds and gathering donations, Corey was able to purchase a custom-built, hand-made, Johannus organ. After another two years of practice and preparation, he was ready to dedicate the instrument.

On Sept. 24, about a dozen residents gathered in the church to listen to Corey play, reminisce about the role of music in their church and say a prayer for the new organ.

“The music touches the congregation where words sometimes can’t,” Corey told The Hawk Eye .

One of only two organ players in the town, Corey said the instrument is a bit of a dying art. However, he knows the rural, somewhat old-fashioned church appreciates the cathedral-like resonance of his organ every Sunday.

“This is our contribution,” he told the audience, speaking of himself and the other local organist. “We hope to enhance your worship. We hope the hymns, the new ones and old ones, bring some memories to you, give you strength when you need it, bring you joy.”

The amount of keys, pedals, buttons and dials seemed overwhelming to many listeners, but Corey has been playing music since the age of four. At 14 years old, he played for his cousin’s wedding, and never stopped bringing his musical talent to churches.

A Morning Sun native, Corey has played at the Centenary United Methodist Church and the First United Presbyterian Church. During his time living outside Iowa, he played at five churches in Omaha, Nebraska and two in Kansas City.

Yet, even with this experience, the Johannus, with more rows of buttons, dials and pedals, brought its challenges.

“It took me a minimum of six months just to get comfortable with this,” Corey said.

When the organ first arrived, Corey said he spent six to eight hours a day learning the ins and outs of his new instrument, sometimes at 2 a.m. when he could not sleep. Now that he has a better handle on its versatility, Corey said he spends about eight to ten hours a week preparing for the Sunday service.

All that work, he said, is “a whole lot of fun.”

“There is nothing like sitting down and playing something you worked yourself silly over,” Corey said. “Christmas morning was one. I had a lot of trumpet work on it. And I just about lost my mind trying to get it right, and there is nothing like hitting that final note and looking over and seeing people in tears or sometimes they just stand up and applaud.”


Information from: The Hawk Eye, https://www.thehawkeye.com

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