Harmonica at Church

My 3rd favorite thing about the Lake Nokomis Ward in Mpls is Brother P. He’s a tall, slender old man who I’ve never heard say 2 words, but he plays the harmonica beautifully. He’s at church every week – just him and his harmonica. He teaches the 8-10 year olds in primary, and they allow him to play his harmonica along with the songs each week during singing time. Sometimes when I don’t feel like going to sunday school, I stand right outside the Primary room and listen to him play along with the singing. One of the kids in his primary class, a smiley, roundish 10 year old brings his own little harmonica to church as well, and the two of them play together.

It warms my soul to watch this unlikely duo play the harmonica together. Both strike me as being a little on the lonely side, and I thank the Lord for providing them with the opportunity for friendship. About a month ago, we had our annual Primary program in Sacrament Meeting, and I cried when I saw the two of them together playing their instruments. I continue to thank the Lord for a bishop who allows reverent harmonica during sacrament meeting.

One of my slowest healing wounds is a memory of my childhood bishop telling an old man he wasn’t allowed to play his violin during sacrament meeting. John was my non-LDS violin teacher with whom my mother had arranged to play a special musical number along with me during sacrament meeting. He and I were seated behind the organ player on the stand in the chapel. As we began to sing the sacrament hymn, John stood up and began to play along, reading the music over the organist’s shoulder. The bishop stood up, walked over to the old man, and asked him to stop. I still remember the look on John’s face, as my bishop told him that his violin playing – his gift to God and the LDS church that day – was inappropriate. I have never forgiven my bishop for hurting John’s feelings.

And that is why it warms my heart to hear old Brother P. and the smiley 10 year-old playing their harmonicas in sacrament meeting.

5 comments to Harmonica at Church

  • Jo

    Your bishop wouldn't let someone play a in a musical number because he wasn't LDS? That's…strange, to say the least. I never understood some of the restrictions on musical instruments in sacrament meeting. I'm still wondering why I wasn't allowed to play a classical guitar–even playing a hymn–in sacrament meeting in college, especially since the instrument was originally used for sacred music.

  • Jo, I'm not sure why the bishop asked him to quit. I don't think it was because he wasn't LDS, because he and I DID play our planned musical number together later in the Sacrament Meeting. I was under the impression that he asked John to quit just because John's playing during the sacrament hymn was impromptu, unplanned, and atypical.

    I also feel like our list of approved instruments is far too limited and would love to hear a wider variety of instruments at church.

  • I still remember your story about the Bishop not letting the guy play the violin. Love the story about the two harmonica buddies

  • I also remember you sharing that story about your childhood bishop, which still shocks and dismays me every time. I'm glad that you now have such a wonderful ward where talents and friendships of all kinds are encouraged. Thanks for sharing this story.

  • this is my favorite post. very soulful.