I was raised in Riverside Presbyterian Church in the Five Points area of Jacksonville, Florida. Our organist and music director for the past 25 years (as of 10 February 2005) is Andrew "Andy" Clarke.
Over the years I have become increasingly aware of much of a giant in a valley he is. We had a surprise concert in honor of the (mostly) unsuspecting Andy yesterday and it was truly unforgettable. We had leading members of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra appear gratis. We had two of Andy's organ students -- both now music directors at local churches -- perform, showing how vitally he has passed on his skills at the pedals. We had former RPC members travel all the way from Alabama and Tennessee (not to mention Taiwan!). We heard the first and probably only public performance of one of the RPC choir's annual satires, entitled "Andy". This satire, written by RPC's own Eleanor Carswell and based on Ken Medema's "Moses", was a true delight. It helped me see not only how much Andy is adored by his singers, but also how central his music is to his worship of God.
I've always appreciated having a huge organ in my church, and also always respected Andy's talents in playing it. But until yesterday I don't think I fully realized how much of a national treasure my own little church's organist is.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
In a sad twist, worthy of Beethoven himself, a few years ago Andy suffered the loss of his hearing in one ear. Nevertheless, he intends to keep performing, composing, teaching -- and thus inspiring.