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Midwest modest--and more

It's Sunday morning in Columbia, and Carl Schenck, the Senior Pastor at Missouri United Methodist Church, has just concluded the 11 a.m. service. Schenck leads the procession down the aisle, and the pews begin to empty as the members of the congregation talk and make their way to the community room below the sanctuary.

Perry plays "Now thank we all our God" on the organ at Missouri United Methodist Church.
Above the buzz of the members' voices and the bustle of their movement is a melodic creaking. Occasionally, the reverberations of a deep throbbing sound resonate above the roar like distant thunder.

In the front of the church, a bald, older man sits at a bench, face forward, intent on the keys in front of him. He is alone now in the choir loft, except for the woman at his side and a choir of metal pipes.

A few members of the congregation have remained to listen to the music emanating from the metallic choir. And what they hear is a swirl of dancing notes. As the man plays the piece - a traditional selection entitled "Thou Art the Rock" - he periodically nods and the woman turns a page in front of him. When the music ends, the now-sparse crowd applauds. One older woman says to another that it was "very special."

The man turns to the audience for the first time since the metallic choir began. He nods and waves off its applause. When the audience has finished, he turns back to the keyboard in front of him, collects his things and closes the organ console.

This summer, Perry Parrigan will play one final postlude on the organ at Missouri United Methodist Church. And then, after playing for the church off and on for some 25 years, he will retire.

Many other musicians might have used their time after the service to put on a show. Those like Perry who are on their farewell tours might have stood up, encouraged the applause and then soaked it in.

But not Perry. Despite his years of experience and his classical training - or maybe because of them - he is quiet and unassuming. He excels at playing the organ, but he does not force himself to stand out.

He is the epitome of Midwest modesty.

As the Rev. Schenck puts it, "Perry understands the difference between a worship service and an organ concert. He plays in ways that support worship and don't draw undue attention to himself or to his instrument."


Reporter: Troy Wolverton
Web Producer: Troy Wolverton

Published: September 18, 2002

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Story, audio © 2002, Troy Wolverton. Site design © 2002, KOMU TV8 and the Missouri School of Journalism.

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