The following year a controversial new version of the Psalter Hymnal was introduced in church. It included a hymn titled “I Sought the Lord and Afterward I Knew,” sung to the tune of Sibelius’s “Finlandia.” Upon hearing it, Armand felt a deep spiritual stirring he’d experienced previously in church only on rare occasions. Listening to it, once again Armand was reminded how deeply church music, at its best, could move him.
Around that time Blaine, an older boy down the street, happened to offer him a ticket to the Grand Rapids Symphony where, coincidentally, Sibelius’s “Finlandia” was the main feature. How his spirit soared as the lights dimmed and the melody of this song, with full orchestra, filled the auditorium! He even questioned if they had stolen the music from his church. He left, heady with the chemistry of beauty, feeling its power, knowing it could change lives.
Afterward on one of his hitch-hiking expeditions to Kalamazoo, he wandered into a record store and asked if he might see something of Beethoven. He was given a 78-rpm recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, performed by Artur Schnabel. Just from the photo on the record jacket the sensitive teenager could tell “this was it!” Here was a man of integrity. His thinking was confirmed when he later read reviews and biographies about Schnabel: “a man of great discipline,” “deep feelings,” and “an exemplary mind.” Most important of all to Armand was Schnabel’s “integrity of interpretation.”
After hearing the recording, Armand regarded this pianist as his mentor, because what Schnabel was putting to sound Armand was trying to put to canvas, with integrity. Though he had no idea of music theory and practice, he could feel the beauty of Beethoven even through the pops and crackles of a blunt needle. He played his music obsessively. As his sister Jeanne recalled, there were times when he almost drove the rest of the family out of the house—Beethoven! Beethoven! Beethoven!