Skills on keyboard

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Music maker . . . Terry Kennedy playing the organ at St Thomas's Church in Mountainview Rd. His 50 years' service as an organist has just been recognised.

For nearly 50 years, Terry Kennedy has provided the music for church services and at weddings and funerals in Timaru.

On Sunday, the Timaru man received an award acknowledging that service from the clergy and members of the Holy Family Parish, representing the three churches he has played for – Sacred Heart Basilica, St Joseph’s and St Thomas’s – since late 1967.

Mr Kennedy joined St Joseph’s Parish, Timaru, on his transfer from Gore, and was invited to play the organ on a roster basis, with an occasional stint at St Patrick’s, Washdyke, to cover illness and holidays.

At St Joseph’s, Mr Kennedy was asked, with the late Mabel Robertshaw, to play alternate Sundays at an 8am mass instituted by the Home of Compassion for about 18 months, before St Thomas’s, Mountainview Rd was opened.

Sacred Heart parish priest Fr Michael Tomasi “tricked” him into playing at the basilica during a shortage of organists, while he was still on the roster at St Thomas’s.

For 14 years, Mr Kennedy accompanied the choir, ran some special events, and twice organised a local filming of the TV1 programme Praise Be

He was appointed chief organist by Sacred Heart parish priest Fr Matthew Cosgriff, laying for the Basilica choir at midnight mass under the direction of Annette Farr and the late Betty Phillips.

He has played for many weddings and funerals, and although a health scare early this year made him decide it was time to put the brakes on, he has found it hard to say no.

When Mr Kennedy was first asked to learn the pipe organ in the now long-gone St Patrick’s Church in Chapel St, Greymouth, he agreed, on the condition he played it “his way”.

The nun who taught him was well-known music teacher Sister Mary Crona, from the Convent of Mercy, who gave up her lunch break to fit in Mr Kennedy’s lessons around his job as a telephonist.

“I thought I was the worst pupil she ever had, because I would not do what I was told to do in the way of playing an organ .. but in the end I got the hang of it after calling down all the saints and sinners on the poor sister, and once threatening to jump off the belfry if I had to do those finger exercises again.

“I never forgot Sister Crona, nor did she forget me. However we were friends to the bitter end, and she would always whisper in my ear when we met, ‘Love the style, boy’.”

Mr Kennedy was presented with a gift at Sunday’s 10.30am mass at St Thomas’s by parish priest Fr Brian Fennessy, and was a guest at a morning tea along with parishioners in the church lounge.