SALSA—Society of Awesome Latter-day Saint Accompanists
Blaine explains that he was born in the State of Confusion still resides there mostly. I enjoyed finding out his ideas about why God created us with the ability to see, hear and enjoy a variety of sounds and colors….which kinda explains why his favorite color is Rainbow! Though not serving as a ward organist right now, Blaine is an awesome Stake Music Instructor. (See Blaine Olson—Training a New Generation.)
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What was the first musical calling you received? How was that experience? Tri-ward MIA organist and stake priesthood organist. All three wards that met in the stake center held MIA opening exercises together, and I was the organist. I was 16 years old, and we had a brand spanking-new 10-rank Wicks pipe organ, which was heaven to me, as the “temporary” organ I had to play while the pipe organ was being built was an old beat-up Conn spinet… you know: two 37-note keyboards and 13 popsicle stick pedals.
How long have you been playing the organ? Why did you start? I started at age 16. (That was sometime in the previous century!) I started when my baby brother (age 14) and I were priveleged to take two 10-week group instruction courses from Tabernacle Organist Frank W. Asper. What a fantastic (and sometimes mischievous) wonderful character Dr. Asper was!
Do you play any other instruments? I started out on the Trombone at age 11 and played it all the way through the end of high school. I started piano at age 13 and organ at age 16.
Which instrument do you prefer? The organ, of course, is by far the greatest, the funnest, and the most rewarding.
What is your favorite hymn? I have too many favorites to mention, but among the top two or three hundred are: The Spirit of God, High On the Mountain Top, Praise to the Man, Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer, I Am a Child of God, All Creatures of Our God and King, and many many more. (And my favorite color is Rainbow.)
What is your favorite prelude or postlude piece? Rainbow! There is a reason why Heavenly Father created us with the ability to see/hear and enjoy such a variety of sounds and colors. He wants us to enjoy them all. Any musical piece that carries the Spirit with it and is well-prepared and done to the best of my ability (or the ability of the performer) is, for the moment, at least, my favorite.
What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I love writing and arranging music. More importantly, I love teaching others to play the organ. Being a lifelong workaholic who for the past 3 years has been medically classified as “disabled” and not allowed to work, I find myself with a lot of time on my hands. I enjoy filling that time with service to others through teaching music. I see teaching organ as a music mission. I do not charge for my services, and I give every student my best. As my students progress, I feel like how a father must feel when his children progress, even though some of my students have been old enough to be my own father. (I have taught students in my stake from ages 9 to 90).
What is one of the challenges you face as an LDS organist? My biggest pet peeve is when another organist slathers hand lotion all over her hands before playing, coating the keys with a slick layer of slime that can only be described as Satan’s snot on the keyboards. (I am not kidding!!!) It is sad when an organist must go thru a time-consuming routine of carefully wiping Devil Snot off the keyboards before playing in order to keep one’s own fingers from slipping off the keys and into the infernal abyss that surrounds all electronic organs.
What is one of the blessings you have received through accepting the call to serve as an organist? I am not currently a regular organist, just a stake organ teacher, but it has always been such a blessing to serve the Lord through music, helping set the atmosphere of the meeting. Dr. Asper taught that a sacrament meeting can have a fantastic speaker and horrible music and end up being a failure in bringing comfort or spiritual growth to the attendees; or it can have even a mediocre speaker but be filled with the Spirit thru spiritual music, and touch the hearts of many people. Hopefully, both variables will occur in the spiritual area, but without proper music to help set the spirit, it is a lot more difficult to reach the weary soul. Music can invite the Spirit more effectively than prayer, and the most effective prayers are often preceeded by music to set the mood.
Is there anything else you would like to share about you or your experience as an organist? I have fond memories of a sweet elderly sister who had been recently widowed, who came up to the organ every week while I was playing prelude, to hug me and thank me for playing prelude music that was comforting to her soul. I would often ask her, “Sister Allred, do you have a favorite hymn, or a hymn that you would like to hear right now?” And I would then work her request into my medley of prelude hymns and she would beam with gratitude and appreciation. What a sweet, sweet lady.