When Beth arrived early the morning of our first trip, she was alone.
“Pete’s taking him to Sunday School and then to some indoor recreation place. He’s quite taken with my son.”
“And the mother?”
She wrinkled her nose. “He’s indifferent. Maybe I’m too serious for him.”
We walked to her car. A pale sun shone in a clouded sky. The air held a bitter chill.
Our trip took us nearly a hundred miles north of the
River town where we lived. Roger Brandon was the first applicant.
After our arrival in the small upstate town, we parked across the street from a large red brick church. Martin, Judith and Ralph entered the church ahead of us. Morning sunlight streamed through a series of narrow stained glass panels. Beth followed me down the aisle to a seat in one of the center pews. The rest of our group settled in the last row.
Once the prelude began, I closed my eyes. Gooseflesh rose on my arms. Why was such a superb musician buried in this out-of-the-way place? In that instant I knew we had to have him and I revised the salary
Edward had mentioned upward.
When the last note of the postlude ended, I remained in my seat so filled with music I was unable to move. Finally, I followed Beth to the vestibule where the other committee members waited.
“What did you --”
I shook my head to cut off Ralph’s question. No sense airing our business for everyone to hear. We remained in the vestibule after the minister left his position at the door.
Judith’s quick intake of breath signaled the approach of a tall, broadshouldered man. Light shone through the stained glass windows to illuminate his handsome face and to burnish his red-gold hair. There was a mystical quality in his expression. He smiled at Judith and then Beth. He took my hand. “You must be the committee from St. Stephen’s. I’m Roger Brandon.”
I introduced myself and the others. Outside, I pulled my coat closer.
The temperature hadn’t risen from the early morning chill. “Is there somewhere we can go to talk? We have some questions and I’m sure you do, too.”
“There’s a restaurant five miles out of town. Why don’t you follow me there?” His voice was as rich and vibrant as the music he charmed from the organ.
“That would be terrific.”
When we were in the car, Beth sighed. “Is he as good as I think?”
“He’s brilliant...stunning...words can’t describe. I want him at St. Stephen’s.”
“So will Judith. Did you see the way she stared?”
“Let’s not worry about Judith’s collection. First we have to see if he’s interested. Then I have to convince Edward and the Vestry to offer more money.”
The elegant restaurant had a small private room. As we talked, the distance from Roger’s playing allowed me more objectivity.
Why was he so eager to leave his present church where he’d been organist for less than a year? Of course, St. Stephen’s offers a challenge and exposure. Still, the longest he’d remained in one church had been two years. At thirty-two, he’d been musical director for seven churches.
Though his gypsy ways troubled me, I remembered his tremendous talent and I coveted him for our music program. Perhaps his many moves could be blamed on his youth. This thought erased my qualms.
Judith sat beside him. Her attempts to claim him failed. He gave equal attention to every committee member.
“When can you come?” Ralph asked.
“August,” Roger said. “It wouldn’t be fair to break my contract here.”
Ralph frowned. “We need an organist for Passion Sunday and Easter.”
I glared. “You know that’s impossible.” I turned to Roger. “Could you come to St. Stephen’s as a guest organist, say in two weeks?”
“I’ll see if one of my students is available to take over here.”
I gave him my phone number. Before the waitress brought the check, Ralph pushed his chair back. “I have to get back. This is my busy season. I have two clients coming this evening.” He strode to the door.
Judith made a face. Martin covered her hand with his. “Let’s go. Do you want to hear Ralph complain for the entire ride home?”
Beth, Roger and I lingered over coffee and dessert. After the bill was paid, he walked us to Beth’s car. “It’s been a pleasure,” he said.
“For me as well,” Beth said.
“I could listen to you forever.” As far as I was concerned, Roger had the job at St. Stephen’s.