During the Great Depression a ten-year-old Michigan boy sat with his parents in the midst of a devout congregation of Dutch Calvinists. In church they’d hear sermons based on the Heidelberg Catechism, in which he learned what his only comfort in life and death was, “That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil. . . ” (Psalter Hymnal, Heidelberg Catechism, 1934).
Heavy going for a ten-year-old. Even so, he was a willing listener, serious at a young age about those articles of faith that had helped fire an entire Reformation. However, what he found insufferable was standing to sing the dirge-like Dutch psalms.
As the stalwart Dutch Calvinists sang in unison, the reined-in pipe organ would plow through stanza after stanza of plodding half notes, rendering him weak and weary, wondering where all his boyish energy had gone. Each psalm seemed interminable. Looking back, he said, “My biggest concern was: How many stanzas are we going to have to sing and how long am I going to have to stand here?”
In dramatic contrast, around five or six times a year the organ would take flight, all ranks awakened, resounding with the kind of music it was built to play. He would hear the joyous strains of Mendelssohn’s “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and harmonious cadences of other classical composers such as Handel, Haydn, and Schubert.
Hearing it, he recalled, “Wow! I felt like I was weightless, as though I was ascending into a higher realm.” Awestruck, he concluded, “Surely, this must be God!” Whether it was God, great art, or the miracle of inspiration, Armand Merizon had discovered his muse in classical music.
So it became personal with me. I just kept it to myself. That was my epiphany.