A stand-in organist enjoys the Island
tom vaught | sun
Jim Spencer sits at the Roser Memorial Community
Church organ, which he uses while sitting in for
Jim Johnston, who is visiting London.
ANNA MARIA – It has been quite a vacation for Eric Spencer, living in a home in Perico, playing the organ at Roser Church, getting to know the parishioners there and watching what residents go through occasionally during hurricane season.
Spencer, born in England, splits his time now between London, where his son is studying, and South Africa, where he and his wife enjoy a different lifestyle.
Retired from business, he has a long history of playing the organ from St. Luke’s Church in Chelsea at the age of 16 to various churches in London and Chelsea.
He saw an ad for an organist at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Port Elizabeth and discovered South Africa. Two years ago, he and his wife, Mina, moved to Cape Town, and he plays now at Saint George’s, the Anglican Episcopal Cathedral where Archbishop Desmond Tutu carried out his ministry when South Africa was under an apartheid government.
“He was a very humble, spirited man,” Spencer said.
With all his travels to other countries, how did Spencer get to the city of Anna Maria?
It was another ad.
“Jim Johnston (Roser’s director of music ministries) advertised in an organist magazine,” he said last Thursday. “It said he had a nice house in Bradenton, and he had a choice of our flat in South Africa or England. He chose London.”
Since coming to Florida, he has worked with the choir.
“It’s been so much fun,” said choir member Joy Bennington.
“We enjoy having him here,” said Jill Morris. “He’s a fine organist.”
“We’re enjoying it, added Glenda Beck. “We’ve had a communication problem on a technical detail, but it’s been fun.”
Indeed there was a technical miscommunication, Spencer said.
“I told them to put more weight on the minim, and they didn’t know what I was talking about,” he said.
The minim has a hollow non-colored oval shape with a stem on one side in sheet music and it is referred to as a half note in America.
Not a big deal, but while Americans and Britons speak the same language, there are some differences.
“Sir Winston Churchill once said we are two nations divided by a single language,” he said.
What has he liked about trading homes with Roser’s organist?
“My wife and I love to cook, and he has a lot more spices,” Spencer said. “We’ll have to restock before we leave.”
He also said they love to visit thrift shops, and they plan to drop by the Roser Thrift Shop some day. As for the church and its people, he had nothing but praise.
“It’s a lovely fellowship here,” he said. “Everyone has been so friendly.”
The Spencers plan on visiting New York before they return home. Until then, they will enjoy the sights and sounds of Anna Maria Island, even though they don’t consider themselves beach people.
Spencer is fully aware of Roser Church’s place in the history of Anna Maria Island and the man who made a fortune inventing a cookie before coming here a century ago to build the church.
And when this musical man and his wife leave the Island for home, they plan to leave on a high note.