It was most likely in the summer of 1962 that I first heard
But that clang of the bell also meant that the rickety old pipe organ up in the choir loft started up, wheezing out the chords of a stately hymn that here, as in most high parishes of the day, was sung by choir and people while the preparation and introit were quietly recited at the altar. And the seductive voice of this old organ spoke to me, and said, Come up here and get acquainted with me.
Which I did, bounding up the long staircase to the loft when mass ended. I got to know the organ a little that day. But mainly, I got to know the organist.
Paul Auger was nineteen or twenty years older than me. He had been organist at
Paul took the delight of a kind elder brother, or, better,
young uncle, in making friends with me, as did his wife Mary (except that she
would have been sister or aunt). Over
the next several years I came to love him and Mary, as they did me. Once in a while I saw Paul at home or at Fowler’s. Mainly I would visit a while with him after
mass on the scattered occasions that I attended
Something else happened in the summer of 1970.
A change of circumstances on my part resulted in me attending
A third change also came about that time. As I mentioned above,
The result was that the singers, myself included, continued to go up to the loft and sing. I think for the other singers it was a way of protesting the stripping of the liturgy. It was that for me, too. But for me it was primarily a matter of loyalty to Paul. It was obvious that Morley was hostile to Paul, probably because Paul did not accede to his wish for the breakup of the choir. But he would not fire Paul outright. Nevertheless Paul grew weary under the strain, and in summer of 1971 resigned at the end of his vacation.
Morley called on his good friend (and good organist) Bill Hazelwood to take over, and Bill did. He lasted a year, until Morley, his view of Bill having altered, began to insinuate that Bill should leave. After a while, he did.
At this point there happened a great metamorphosis, if by
that I can refer not to a change in some animal but rather a change in
someone’s perception of that animal. For
two and three years earlier Morley had seen me as something of a pest,
tenaciously clinging to Paul’s choir which Morley wanted rid of. But lo!, when Bill departed, and Morley
needed an organist, I suddenly found myself his fair haired lad! I took the position and played for two or
three years. My tenure ended with
another of Morley’s switches, when I returned after my month of summer vacation
and found I was no longer the organist of
Paul had been dedicated to the
A few weeks, therefore, after taking the position, I stopped by Paul’s house one day, not having seen Paul since shortly after he left the parish. He greeted me warmly and I began with some enthusiasm to describe how I was restoring what Paul had maintained.
At that point Mary entered the room and exploded. In utter drop-jaw astonishment I listened as she indicted me for having undermined Paul and engineered his departure, all so I could take his position and destroy what he had worked for. Paul got in edgewise just enough to start protesting that I had in fact been his most loyal supporter. Mary cut him off and reminded him that she was psychic and could not err in this matter, that my mind and motives were open to her view, indeed that the motive for my visit was to “gloat” (her word) over my nefarious success.
Well, somehow Paul and I got out to the driveway. I cannot reconstruct our brief remarks here. The understanding I came away with, and I think the one Paul had, was that none of this changed our friendship, but that with Mary acting as she did, we would not be able to see each other as freely and easily as we had been accustomed to. This conclusion was more understood than spoken.
Shortly after that I heard that Paul had relocated to
The loss of Paul, and the circumstances of that loss, stayed with me. Stayed with me until the day that, via the internet, I stumbled across Paul’s whereabouts. It was probably the same day that I wrote this letter:
A few days ago I was looking up some material on the
Barnard Astronomical Society (
One of my cherished memories remains the Thanksgiving dinner we shared with the Hujers in Dunlap. A warm, bright autumn day, and we went walking through crackly dry leaves.
In my high school days at
The circumstances of our last visit have never ceased to be painful for me. I felt that you knew there was a misunderstanding, an error, that neither of us could do anything about at the time.
I hope that your life has been happy and full.
Very truly yours,
xii February 2005
Paul responded cordially.
I cannot find his letter now and I have probably lost it. Paul told me he was, I believe, 78 years old
and serving as organist at a parish in
From time to time I sent to Paul various items that I
thought he might be interested in, maybe four or five such items in three
years. I recall only one item now, about
the magnificent restoration of the organ at Sts Peter and Paul,
There was never any further response.
Two or three months ago I again turned to the internet to see what I might find about Paul. Perhaps he had a new email address.
I found that he had passed away, on the thirtieth of September, 2005.
© 2008 Joseph Mansfield
2008.06.12 first draft