February 26, 2012

Church Synthesizers

The first analog keyboard I ever owned was a Roland RS-09. My mom gave it to me. It used to be the only instrument they used for services at our church in the early 80's. The church, by the way, was Abundant Life Fellowship in the smallest town on Earth: New Waterford Ohio. It was started by my grandparents in '82; converted from an old auto-mechanic's shop (I guess it was an auto mechanic who had an affinity for Swiss cottage architecture). Anyway, soon enough the church put together a band and my mom moved on from the modest RS-09 to the lofty Hammond B3. The RS-09 was banished to a closet and forgotten about for a decade until a twelve year old me happened upon it. At first I thought it was kind of lame. It was analog, but not really a synthesizer. It couldn't make twinkly space sounds and I'm ashamed to say that was about all I cared about at that age. But sixteen years latter it is now my favorite instrument of all time. I could not live without one. I'm actually full blown obsessed with it.

I used to go to my church in the middle of the night and practice playing synthesizers. There is a certain, wonderful feeling of being alone in a church at night with most of the lights off and making sounds that wouldn't normally be heard in that setting. Sometimes when I pass by a modest little church at night I wonder if (well… i hope) there's a kid in there playing synthesizers. I'm sure there rarely is. I wonder how many discarded synthesizers are in closets, basements and attics of churches all across America. We have no way of knowing.

The last image I'd like to leave you with is the thought of a girl in her early twenties playing a Roland RS-09 to lead a worship service by herself for a very small congregation late one Sunday night in 1982. While I love silent, Quaker worship services, the thought of it happening with just my favorite instrument in an intimate setting sounds so magical. The irony of it all is that I've certainly experienced exactly that, I was just too young and stupid to appreciate it.
It will never happen again.


  1. You should be the one to do one last P&W service using an RS-09. Ask the Quaker group :) And I remember you telling me about that RS-09, your humble synth beginnings.

  2. I absolutely felt in love with that image of a kid playing a synthesizer in a little church at night all by his own... for me, it seems to be just like a perfect moment. The ones you wait all day 'till it's time. Well, maybe I'm just letting my imagination go far.. but it seems to be perfect for a drawing, if that's fine, could I?

    ..and just for the last thing you said, maybe, as you hope there's a kid in the church, you can keep hoping you'll experience a worship service leaded by a Roland RS-09 again, and maybe, one day, it will come to happen. I don't know much about all that worship services and things, but I know that while you keep on trying, there's a way somehow.

  3. Looking back, I think they were perfect moments. That's the thing about perfect moments though, you don't always know how perfect they are when you're in them. I think the older you get the more you notice.

    And yes, you could draw a picture of this. That sounds nice. Just remember to make it dark and shadowy, cause that's how it was. And I was always sitting on the floor with the synthesizers, never a real set up. here is a photo you could use for a reference.


    it's not the right setting (in a bright room at home rather than a dark church), but that is the sort of set up. It would be nicer if you'd draw a Roland RS-09 rather than a Moog Rogue though.

  4. thankyou, and thanks for letting me know about the set up (I really was wondering how could I do it).
    I'll remember to make the drawing dark and shadowy :) and actually, I had already in mind to draw a Roland RS-09.
    I'll do my best.

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  6. it's done

  7. Tona - Amazing Picture! Well Done!

    Also, great great post. Made me smile from ear to ear! (i love my rs-09)