For me, one of the benefits of the Covid isolation is that it has provided oceans of time to play the piano. So, I‘ve been ploughing through mountains of sheet music and playing things I haven’t looked at never mind played in years. This morning I came to a tattered book of Victorian Parlour and Music Hall Songs and eventually, going through it, came to two songs - Sullivan’s ‘The Lost Chord’ and the ‘Volunteer Organist’. A song written in 1893 and sung to an old hymn tune.

They hold special memories for me as I used to accompany a long-deceased friend who sang them many times at church services and events. Then, and today, the words of both resonate with me and ‘The Volunteer Organist’ never fails to bring a lump to my throat.

I’d like to share the words of both songs with you not for their personal sentimental value but because I believe they re a source of inspiration. I hope you agree, and find something inspirational within them.

Minister Alan Rawnsley

The Lost Chord

Seated one day at the organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys;
I know not what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then,
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen,
Like the sound of a great Amen.
It flooded the crimson twilight,
Like the close of an angel’s psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit,
With a touch of infinite calm,
It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife,
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life,
It linked all the perplexed meanings
Into one perfect peace,
And trembled away into silence,
As if it were loath to cease;
I have sought but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ,
And entered into mine.
It may be that death’s bright angel
Will speak in that chord again;
It may be that only in Heav’n
I shall hear that great Amen.
It may be that death’s bright angel
Will speak in that chord again;
It may be that only in Heav’n
I shall hear that great Amen.

The Volunteer Organist

The preacher at the village church, one
Sunday morning said,
"Our organist is ill today; will someone
play instead?"
An anxious look came o'er the face of
every person there
To see who in the church that morn would
fill the vacant chair.
An old man stumbled up the aisle, his
clothes were worn and torn
How strange a drunkard seemed to be in
church on Sunday morn
But as his fingers touched the keys,
without a single word
The melody the old man played was the
sweetest ever heard.
(Chorus): The scene was one I'll ne'er
forget as long as I may live
And just to see it o'er again, all earthly
wealth I'd give
The congregation all amazed, the
preacher old and grey,
The organ and the organist who
volunteered to play.
Each eye grew dim in church that morn,
and the strongest cheek grew pale.
The organist without a word, had told his
own life's tale.
No lesson that the preacher read, that
morning could compare
With life's example on that morn, sat in
the vacant chair.
And as he gently closed the lid and slowly
went his way
The preacher rose and softly said "Good
brethren, let us pray."