The Block Island Times

Harbor Church organist Carrie Todd retires

40 years of making music
By Lars Trodson | Mar 30, 2013
Photo by: Lars Trodson MAKING MUSIC—Harbor Church organist Carrie Todd is taking a break after 40 years of playing on Sunday — and 50 years of being a church organist.

Carrie Todd doesn’t say a word during Sunday morning services at the Harbor Church, but she has a powerful presence. She sits behind the keys of the organ or the piano, and provides the music as the congregation sings a hymn.

It’s a role she’s played for 40 years at the church — and a total of 50 years when you count the 10 years she played in Ohio before she arrived on the island — but as of Easter Sunday she’s going to step down and let someone else play for a while.

“When I had 40 years in I said I’d do 50, and those 10 years have gone quickly,” she said. It isn’t as though she doesn’t love playing during the services, but she’s in good health and has decided that she’d like to travel a little and enjoy her weekends without having to worry so much about the commitment of playing every Sunday.

“I’ve loved it since I first sat on the organ bench, so it’s bittersweet,” she said of stepping down. Todd began taking piano lessons from a woman named Zella Eversman when she was in the second grade — which is the same age when most of her students start with her.

“It’s a beautiful church,” Todd said of the Harbor Church, where she first started playing when the former organist, Luella Ball, stepped down. This was sometime in 1973, although she’s not sure of the exact date.

“One of my joys in ministering at the Harbor Church for nearly 20 years has been the opportunity to collaborate with Carrie Todd in the music ministry of the church and especially for worship,” said former pastor and current congregation member Tony Pappas. “Her cooperative spirit and upbeat personality made it a delight to coordinate hymns and worship music.”

Tony’s wife, island realtor Cindy Pappas, agreed. “For decades, Carrie has been central to the ministry at Harbor Church. Her commitment has gone well beyond Sunday morning. She’s been there for countless weddings and funerals, choir rehearsals, children’s pageant and play rehearsals, conducting bell choirs, and musical extravaganzas,” she said. “She has brought a musical richness to our community for years, and we are truly grateful.”

It isn’t as though she’s retiring. Todd owns and runs the Red Bird liquor store, and she has almost 50 piano students that she teaches here on the island; one of them, perhaps, may take her place. She also will play on Sundays once a month.

“We are so blessed to have someone so talented and faithful. The whole church feels that way,” said Harbor Church Pastor Steve Hollaway. “She’ll play anything – whatever music you pick, she can play anything on sight and make it sound beautiful.”

Hollaway said there will be a rotation of several musicians playing once a month until they find a successor.

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