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Chuck Hinman. IJMA 302. A self-taught skill

It's Just Me Again No. 302 by Chuck Hinman. A self-taught skill How Chuck Hinman acquired his remarkable skills as an organist
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 339 : New Hope School

By Chuck Hinman

When Connie and I were married in 1952, we were members of First Methodist Church in downtown Bartlesville. After we built our first home we moved our membership to what was then known as Limestone Methodist, now East Cross Methodist Church. Our good friend, Maxine Brooks, was the director of our fledgling choir.


I was a piano player but there was no piano at Limestone Methodist. The only musical instrument was a new Hammond organ. Hammond was the pioneer in electronic organs. Beth Johnson was the organist. (That organ, new in the 1950s was identical to the Hammond organ in the Tallgrass chapel donated by popular former residents, Woody and Eunice Staats).

I got a call from Maxine, the choir director telling me Beth, the organist, had to be out of town the next Sunday. There was no back-up organist and she wanted to know if I would help out by playing the organ for that church service.

"Maxine, I have NEVER played an organ in my life!" I replied. If you know Maxine, you know she is a persuasive person.

Guess what? The next Sunday I made my maiden journey on the keyboard of that Hammond M-1 organ and that began a 50 year love affair for me, organ playing!

Not wanting to make a fool of myself, I borrowed the church keys so I could go up to the church in my spare time and get acquainted with the organ.

The keyboard is identical to a piano keyboard but that's where the similarity stops. For one thing, there are two keyboards, both shorter than a piano keyboard. To completely confound matters there is a bass keyboard that you play with your foot! How confusing! Makes you wonder why they didn't have a tiny keyboard somewhere which you could play with your nose! Your nose isn't doing anything.

And to make matters worse there is no sustain pedal on the organ to sustain the sound when you move from one key to the next. IMPOSSIBLE! The trick, I found, in the absence of the sustaining pedal is to "crawl" from one key to the next so that the sound is sustained -- not detached or staccato-sounding if you get what I mean. I'm still working on that technique 50 years later.

Little did I realize when I said "OK -- I'll try" to Maxine that I would simply fall in love with the Hammond Organ. We couldn't afford it but within a few months there was a brand new Hammond Organ sitting in our living room where before there was a piano. I have been making monthly payments on an organ most of my life it seems -- my late model cars or a boat have been my organs.

You always learn new tricks to use on the organ. Probably as many as 10 organs later, each bigger and with more bells and whistles than the earlier one, I have my present organ, a Lowery Celebration Deluxe. "If it doesn't have it, you don't need it," as the salesman joked.

Over the years, there have been very few years when I wasn't the piano or organ player of the churches we have been associated with. Most recently and until Macular Degeneration took my eyesight, I was the back-up organist or pianist at New Harmony Baptist Church where I have been associated with its music ministry for nearly 50 years.

Currently, I play my Lowery Organ daily in the dining room at Tallgrass Estates, the retirement home where I now live.

Thank you Maxine Brooks for encouraging me to do something I never dreamed possible! And thank you Lord, for ten fingers, now crooked and shaky, who don't want to give-up, wanting most of all to glorify you while giving my friends some musical pleasure.

When my Mom was slaving away trying to have enough money left over from trading the weekly production of eggs for groceries, so that we three Hinman kids could take piano lessons, I don't think she had in mind that this kid (me) would still be "showing-off" this many years later. Thanks Mom!

- Chuck Hinman


This story was posted on 2012-03-04 17:38:01
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