As early as the mid nineties, when I was thirteen years old and half way through year eight, it became fairly clear to me and a quite a few people around me that my life was headed down the rocky, sporadically lit and capsicum flavoured (not really, I just felt I needed a third descriptor in order to generate the right cadence, which I have now, ironically, destroyed) road that is the life of a worship musician.
The problem was, even in the mid nineties, the most advanced musical instrument Darwin Memorial Uniting Church owned was a Casio keyboard which had been constructed sometime in the early seventies. It got the job done in terms of accompanying the Sunday School sing along each Sunday morning, but once I graduated to playing in the real service, it was clear I was going to need something a little more sophisticated. Although I will say this: When the church got rid of the old Casio, my dad bought it off them for about twenty bucks. It still works.
This was the time of the great DMUC bakesale of ’95. Basically a posse of church leaders, figureheaded by my mum, went bananas cooking shortbread, apricot slice, rum balls without the rum (it was church, after all) and about a billion different variations on lamingtons. Every Sunday morning after church we’d sell them to the congregation and put the money into a fund to buy a new keyboard. It was a hectic few weeks, but when the shaved coconut settled we had put enough cash together for the glory that was the Yamaha PSR 225.
Two hundred voices. Sixty-one touch sensitive keys. Ninety-nine different rhythmic accompaniments. I was in my own worship musician Nirvana, which is the stupidest cross-religious metaphor I’ve ever tried to get away with. The point is I loved that old keyboard. I knew every voice inside out, and exactly what sound I should use for whatever songs they picked for any Sunday service. Although it technically didn’t belong to me, we took it home most weeks so I could practise. All through high school, that old Yamaha was close enough to being a part of who I was. It wasn’t just regular church services either; That baby handled camping trips, Scripture Union mega youth services, school concerts and birthday parties. I think I even used her for a couple of gigs with the rock band we formed in year twelve. That keyboard rocked.
But, as the Oracle (not the one from Delphi, the one from the Matrix) so wisely declared, "Everything that has a beginning has an end". The time came for me to move to university in Queensland. I passed the Yamaha on to the next generation of church DMUC musos, knowing full well that none of them could ever love her the same way I had.
Once I got to Brisbane, I decided it was time to get serious, so I got myself what was, at the time, a top of the line Korg Triton named Samantha. Sam is basically the best thing ever, and is still sitting in my room next to me as I write this, but I never did forget the Yamaha that started it all.
I’m back living in Darwin now, and last weekend my mother came through town to visit me. We decided to head into DMUC to catch up with old friends. DMUC have bought a new electric piano with weighted keys and a good stereo sound they can run through the sound system. Things really have changed since the old days.
Having said that, some things seem to be immovable constants of the universe. Mrs S., the same woman who taught me in Sunday school is still running that side of things. She called me aside after church and asked if I could have a go at fixing a problem the current Sunday School musos were having with their keyboard. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we opened to the cupboard to check things out. There she was; my old Yamaha, just as I remembered her. She’s got some loose connections now, so the onboard speakers (Samantha thinks those things are so quaint) cut in and out. Mrs S. said I could take the keyboard home if I wanted to try to fix her.
I’m absolutely useless at all things electronic, but there was no way I was passing this one up, especially after they threatened to put her in the op shop if she couldn’t be fixed. So I put the old cover on, tucked her up under my arm like I always did, and carried her out to my mum's car like it was 1999 all over again.
The Oracle can shove it; the PSR rides again! Now all I have to do is find a way to keep her from fighting with Samantha.
And since I still haven’t settled on a usable new sign-off line of my own, I can think of no better way to end this post than with the benediction we used to say every week after Sunday School (for all I know, they still do).
May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.
Garry with 2 Rs