I was leading a group of about 8 amateur musicians during a church confirmation service and we were all neatly and tightly tucked and barely able to fit ourselves into the tiny choir loft space that was mostly taken up by an old dusty organ. From this lofty position there was a full unobstructed and suspended view of the proceedings below as if we had box seats at a folk opera.
The small church was packed to capacity with about 250 in attendance and in order to be heard over the din of the “chosen” instrument (organ) and other assorted strings and banging things I decided to bring my 50 watt gigging amp and turn it down to a reverent whisper which on previous occasions had worked marvellously.
On this occasion there was so little room to move that I had to put the amp off in a distant corner, set the volume carefully and then climb into my piloting position amongst the other players, I was strapped in and ready for take off and awaiting my cues from the pulpit.
An Asymptomatic Mystery
The program started and everything was going swimmingly with the music contributing overall to a moving and meaningful and even emotional service. Mom’s and Dad’s proudly watching their adolescent sons gawkwardly dressed in their first suits and becoming young men right before their eyes, siblings and babies at parents sides giggling and jostling and burbling. The Pastor resplendant in white and gold robe speaking of dedication of life to God and family while we, the musical group played in all the appropriate places with appropiate celebratory and accordant sensitivity, smiling and nodding and exchanging congratulatory nods at especially good final cadences. My electric/acoustic guitar quietly tempered and making lovely musical sounds emanating in concert from my subdued amplifier off in a corner.
It was at the most ceremonial of moments that I think a demon decided to visit and chose my close and yet so very far 50 watt tube amplifier as his place of temporary earthly residence. His mischief was to turn said amplifier up to a volume of 11 while disallowing all and any control over this searing bedlam.
This type of event was later described to me by an electronics professional as an open capacitor but in retrospect I still prefer to think of the incident as being from hell.
This 50 watt amplifier it seems was capable of delivering sound pressure levels resembling a 747 at takeoff or a Harley 1200 with no muffler moved into your bedroom and being used to wake you up in the morning. This acoustical trauma lasted only seconds but these seconds had the incapacitating effect of a high voltage electrical shock which renders the victim temporarily paralyzed. Through the force of sheer will I managed to overcome this acoustical paralysis and with a heroic steely resolve managed to react to this asymptomatic mystery that was quickly dissolving the proceedings.
Silence and Sacrific
So now at Woodstock anthemic volume with my hollow body guitar feeding back like a Strat through a Marshall stack, the crowd stunned and beginning to show signs of shock, small children tearing up and the soon to be confirmed young adults quickly regressing back into adolescents I knew I had to act and act swiftly I did.
With hitherto unknown athletic acumen I dropped my guitar and launched my now ninja like adrenaline driven 250 lb frame over chairs and music stands in the direction of the demon possessed amplifier and after crushing a limb and knocking over an autoharp (just lucky I guess) – I managed to get my hands on the power cord which I tore out of the wall from about 5 feet away. The screaming amp went silent – I think I saw the demon whisp away with a giggle while the congregants in this dimension went silent – and save for babies crying and some sputtering wet nasal giggling and snorting originating from the now completely reverted adolescent confirmants the quiet had been restored, however, all semblance of solemnity and liturgy had been effectively sacrificed at the alter of the demon amplifier belonging to the guitar player.
Eternity and the Voice
A ten second eternity ensued which was eventually broken by the deep breathing now white , gold and red Pastor uttering only my name in an unusual and eerily articulated fashion which used a question mark twist at the end of my name , as if I were being discovered after a long absence of being held captive in a cave – Lloyd? At this stage words were still not coming out of my mouth. This initial call was soon followed by an additional 5 second silent purgatory that was finally broken by the final response to me, “me” now having been identified as the one responsible for inviting demons into sanctuaries.
Now moving forward, his lips touching the pulpit mic with this proximity soon to serve to greatly magnify the remainder of his soon to be delivered carefully chosen words for the now partially deaf congregants, this same proximity at the same time enhancing the bass of said cheap microphone. These aforementioned factors now combined with doing his best to deliver a measured response resulted in a distorted starship commander kind of voice calling out:
“Are you ok up there Lloyd! ”
This voice returned me to my childhood as I immediately imagined Captain Kirk when Spock was visiting an unknown planet with a search party and was in big trouble. The tone seemed to suggest that this acoustical event may have inflicted serious physical harm to one or more of the unsuspecting support musicians who may now be in need of medical attention and I as their leader should quickly take stock of the wounded, but, I instictively knew this concern was feigned and that this announcement was in fact pregnant with innuendo which when translated actually meant: “This is the reason why the organ and only the organ truly belongs in the Church and I want you all to know what the guitar playing assailants name is”.
Under the circumstances this rhetorical device required only one response on my part, an acquiescent “yes” , which response at the same time served as admission of guilt to the charge of liturgical slaughter and demon possession. The guitar player was named, twice, and publically identified as the perpetrator and thus charged, sentence pending.
This event clearly demonstrated for everyone to see and hear that without a theological doubt, electronic guitars, amplifiers and those practitioners of this dark art had no place in the church or possibly on this earth. Using these devices to lead “worship” should be deemed anathema by edict, I had been condemned. I wondered if it was possible that due to God being overly occupied with the business of sin and man that there had been some holy oversight in the scriptures having left out explicit mention of electricity and amplifiers and their deleterious effects on the church.
This only further proved that organs and wide vibrato vocalists (and the occasional wooden recorder and harp for very special weddings) had been chosen by God and His angels as the only instruments of proper and good musical worship fit for ecclesiastical and liturgical purpose and that electronic guitars and things (with the exception of microphones and lighting) were from the hot place.
After all noise had subsided the confirmation event took place and the boys regained their composure and returned to their best behaviour, parents were proud, the music played its part and to this day they probably remember their confirmation event as being the one with the “guitar player”. Oxygen did its job of reducing Pastors flush from candy apple red to a human skin tone but I still think that it was this event that resulted in my being asked to please refrain from calling him by his first name while in the church building.
I was the last person to leave after packing up, I turned out the lights and when I opened the door a chilly wind rushed by me.
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