In 1964, the musical comedy Hello, Dolly! opened in New York, I Want to Hold Your Hand was a popular song, and Anne Glass began playing the organ in a church in Tennessee. While the musical and song no longer are in vogue, they have become classics. So has Glass.
It happened this way. Forty years ago on Christmas Eve, the members of Trinity Episcopal Church in Clarksville, Tenn., found themselves suddenly without an organist.
“The church had a very old pipe organ that had been installed before 1900,” Glass recalled with a smile. That night, as the cold weather apparently played havoc with the organ, the organist became frustrated, flung the keys to the choir director and said, “You play the damn thing! I’m going home!”
Glass, who had moved to Clarksville in 1962 with then-husband Malcolm Glass and their three children, was a stay-at-home mom and sang in the church choir. The week after the organist’s departure, the choir director approached Glass.
“He knew I could play the organ,” Glass explained, “and knew I had a master’s degree in piano performance from Peabody College [in Nashville, now a part of Vanderbilt University]. He didn’t quite ask me to play, but simply told me, ‘You’ll be the organist.’”
Forty years later, Glass is still the organist.
Talent and spirit
Glass attributes her devotion to the organ and to the church as having “a little bit of talent, lots of love and a generous spirit.” She developed her love of playing early, partly due to the enjoyment she gives others through her music.
“All musicians have egos,” she said. “It was when I was growing up in the small town of Marion, S.C., I first started to play the piano at age 8. I got such wonderful strokes from my family, and I realized this was something I could do and do well.”
As a child, she also attended a Methodist church there. “They had a pipe organ and a piano in the sanctuary,” she said. “As soon as they knew I could play, they used me.”
Through several military conflicts, economic booms and busts and ups and downs in her own life, Glass was always at church on time, ready to play. Her 40th anniversary of playing the church organ on Sundays, at weddings, for holidays and on other special occasions was formally marked on May 30.
A dinner in the parish hall featured entertainment in the courtyard outside that included a “Roast and Toast” session of limericks, poems and songs, all about Glass. Some former piano students staged skits. Following a ballet performance by four male parishioners called the “Trinity Mystery Troupe,” the choir sang a composition in Glass’s honor.
The Rev. Reynold H. Richaud spoke of Glass and her selfless work with the church. “Anne is a delight and a joy to work with,” he said. “Her ministry to Trinity and to the people here stands as a wonderful example of how to serve God with your talents. Her work is an important contribution to our worship.”
As Glass left church for the day, she said she planned on playing indefinitely. “It’s been a wonderful time at Trinity,” she said. “I enjoy playing and feel I do it well. I get so much out of it, and I think this is what the Lord intended me to do. Music has been, and is, my life.”