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  • Milton Horne

Tribute to keyboard accompanists everywhere (I got my start in church!)

Here's to those of you who accompany soloists ("collaborate with," these days) and other performers in any number, setting, for pay or gratis. Yours (ours) is as demanding a musical job as there is. I know. I got my start early as a church accompanist.


My mom thought it would be a good idea if I (she) took advantage of all those opportunities that might contribute to my success (she felt the same way about my baptism, bless her heart). At the tender age of eleven she thought I should assist the worship of a new, little church that needed someone to play the piano for the choir (four members plus conductor) and worship. So, at the tender age of eleven, I "volunteered” my Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. Here are five things, with brief comment, that neither she nor my teachers could prepare me for.


Lots of sight-reading. I was pretty good at Christian hymnody; choral works, another matter. Practice was a direct result of my tender ego and mom’s displeasure.

Transposition. Ugh. Why is it that soloists always think they will sound better a half or whole step lower? Let's face it, they all are in (or need to be in) therapy.

Conductors. Oh man. I didn't have the language, then. How would a teacher prepare a student accompanist for the kinds of musical megalomania that dominates this peculiar role? I'm reserving this for a separate future blog.

Instruments. Yes, worshipers that rely on them the most typically have the worst instruments (they are usually donated, well-used!). My first accompanying gig was on an old Gulbransen upright, whose bottom board was coming

There's an accompanist in there somewhere!

unattached so the pedals did not work reliably. Mom thought it was a technique builder; In retrospect, it was a morale killer.

Congregations. They are always so grateful and so blissfully unaware: first, of what really goes on in rehearsals; second, with instruments; and third, how difficult it is to get good accompanists. Bless them all!


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