My grandfather, who was born this month in 1882 was a very good organist. How he got an organ, albeit a baby pump organ, with which to learn to play, makes for a sweet story. Here it is in his own words.
From my childhood on, I was very fond of music. When my father was playing on the violin, I enjoyed it with great avidity and one day courageously asked him to allow me to play on it. He tuned it and gave it to me and left it in my hands. I struggled on and in a few days I managed to play the tunes of some of our common lyrics. Later on, when my father was conducting Bajanais (sing-song preaching) I was able to play the accompaniment for it on the violin.
However, I was not satisfied and told him that I desire to play with both hands on a harmonium. He said that it was too costly for him to buy a harmonium with his low salary. But he assured me that if I pray to God regularly, He can arrange to provide me with a harmonium. Encouraged thus, I was daily praying to God fervently to provide me with a harmonium. After a year of my praying, I asked my father why God has not sent me a harmonium. He wants you to learn waiting with hope.So I prayed and waited also.
In the second year, one day at noon, four young seminary students of his came, carrying a box and placed it in the verandah of our house. My father opened the lid of the box. There was a brand new harmonium in it. It was placed in the front room of our house. My father began playing on it the tune of “Now thank we all our God.” I was jumping and dancing with joy. I was 12 years old then and doubted whether it was a dream or reality.
My father told me that more than a year ago, he had written to his former professsor and well wisher Rev. Senior Handmann in Leipzig that he had a son gifted in music who is eager to play on a harmonium. Senior Handmann had spoken to some of his friends about the boy who was praying to get a harmonium. They gave some help to buy and send this musical instrument.
Mr P.M. Michael who was organist for our church taught me the rudiments of musical notation and in six months I was able to play our hymns to music—sometimes in the church service also for which I praise the Lord for making me a tool for His glorification.Rev Gnanamanickam
Later, as a pastor himself, my grandfather would fold down this versatile little instrument and, carrying it on his shoulder, take it to the villages where he was serving, set it up under the shade of a tree, and teach Sunday School. I do not know much about what use it was put to in the intervening years, but after it came to our home in the 1970s, my father used it a lot to sing and teach.
127 years later in New Zealand, far away from Tranquebar or Bangalore, where these things happened, I have the same organ. The outer wooden frame was changed in the 1940s, but inside are the same reeds and whatever else goes in to making this wonderful instrument. Today, many of the keys are dumb, as you can see in the video, but the sound is still beautiful enough to remind me of what it sounded like even in the days of my youth (1980s). Maybe one day, it will be restored to its original grandness.
And if any one from the family of Rev Gnanamanickam (my grandfather) or even from the larger clan of Rev N. Samuel (my great grandfather) wants to restore it and keep it with them, I would be glad to give it to them. I cannot hold on to it forever.