Westmoreland organist pipes melodious hymns

On returning home to Jamaica some nationals anticipate a hefty serving of stewed peas and rice, curried goat, brown-stewed chicken, escoveitched fish, mackerel run-down, sumptuous ox tails, jerk pork or maybe some sweet guineps, sugary naseberries or an uninterrupted swim in the Caribbean Sea. Relatives and friends also factor with a myriad of novelties.

For Westmoreland native Dave Rodney, going home means another opportunity at hitting the ivories at his old church. Always on his itinerary, the New Jersey resident manages to ink- in a day trip to see a woman he insists has been his musical allure on each visit. It did not matter that his principal reason for visiting the island was to indulge in Hedonism’s in Negril.

“I was so looking forward to meeting back up with Mrs. Palone Williams, the organist at the St. George’s Parish Church in Savanna la Mar,” Rodney confessed.” She is one of the first organists I’d ever heard playing the awe-inspiring pipe organ, and she has to be one of the longest serving too, going back as far as I can remember to the late 60s, She has brought untold joy through music to generations of worshippers, and she has also lived through radical transitions in church music over the years as organists have had to keep abreast with liturgical changes for a new generation.”

Rodney was able to “borrow” the instrument for a few renditions recently and could not stop reflecting on the contributions Williams made and is still making to the community.”

Like nearly all Jamaican organists, Mrs. Williams started her music training on the piano but her focus shifted to the organ when at some point, the then minister Cannon Cope asked if there was anyone in the congregation who could assist the then organist, one Mr. Tucker,” Rodney explained.

“Mrs. Palone Williams came forward, and today, her hands and her feet are just as dexterous and harmonious as they were nearly a half a century ago. She told me excitedly that the 1904 Walker & Sons pipe organ at St. George’s recently had a major refurbishing and that it was sounding better than ever. She was absolutely correct, and she brought out the range of beautiful sounds in playing some of her favorite hymns, and mine too.”

During Rodney’s one-week stay at Hedonism II in Negril, he took time out to visit his mentor, organist Williams. He said they both took out a religious songbook and together tested the pipes playing “How Great Thou Art,” “My Song Is Love Unknown,” “Ye Holy Angels Bright,” “O Worship The King,” “O, Most Merciful (Sicilian Melody) and “Lord Thy Word Abideth.”

More from Around NYC