Couple celebrates 50 years in Catholic music ministry
Jennifer Lee Preyss
July 12, 2013 at 2:12 a.m.
Alice Wright hovered over her husband, Carl's, shoulder as he sat on a bench in front of a glossy black, living room piano.
He leaned over the ivory keys and searched for a digital setting on the high-tech keyboard, disguised as an elegant tuxedo upright.
Together, they clicked a few buttons atop the damper, equipped with a sophisticated library of sounds and recording devices before agreeing on setting six.
"Just a minute Carl; let's get that set to six, please," Alice said, preparing to harmonize with her husband on one of their favorite hymns, "Surely the Presence of the Lord." "Wait a minute; you missed it. Now, you'll have to go back."
When the piano was set, Carl directed his fingers across the keys with ease, improvising a grand entrance to the hymn before the pair began singing the first verse.
"This is one of the songs we sing a lot for weddings," said Alice, 75, of Ganado. "We've probably done about 150 weddings over the years and about that many funerals.
This month, the Wrights will celebrate their 50th anniversary in music ministry at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Catholic Church in Ganado.
They joined the church in July 1963, shortly after moving to the city for Carl, a Sam Houston State music education major, to teach in the Ganado Independent School District. Alice, also a Sam Houston State music education major, taught music in the Edna Independent School District, then later in Ganado.
Busy with work and family, the couple never relinquished their responsibility to the church.
In more than five decades, they've only missed Mass a handful of times.
"We feel a real calling for this. It's not just whim. We've been at almost every Mass in 50 years. Can you imagine that?" said Carl, 78, who said the couple would schedule vacations during weekdays, so they'd be home in time for church on Sunday. "And if we'd be out of town on Sunday, we'd go to Mass out of town."
The couple agrees their passion for teaching and performing Kingdom-edifying music is founded first in their love for God, then by a love of music.
"We've always been taught that when you sing, you pray twice, and with music, the service is elevated. We feel like we're a real part of that service; whereas if you attend a service without any music, to us, it feels a little incomplete," Alice said.
As the couple completed a few hymns at the piano, including a song in Alice's native Czech, the Wrights reflected on the lessons they've learned the past five decades and where they believe the future of church music is heading.
"We've seen the choir fluctuate through the years. We started out with a lot of high school kids, and at times, the choir was real big," Alice said.
Though the choir would change in size and membership, the staple at the church was the Wrights.
Ganado residents depend on the musically-inclined couple to lead them in ministry, who seem to float as effortlessly through marriage as they do through their own musical arrangements.
"That's the thing about small communities, everybody sticks together," Alice said.
Carl, who is also a master organist, stated he's not certain who will take over the organ music when he retires.
"We probably won't make it another 50 years," Carl chuckled. "It's a problem. Organists everywhere are scarce. When we retire, that will be it."
The Wrights have no plans to immediately retire but recognize they will one day have to pass the baton.
"We're very happy that God has given us a talent that we can return to the church," Carl said. "We never thought we'd make it 50 years, but we've just taken it one Sunday at a time."
On July 7, the Wrights were honored at their church with a special reception.
But they recognize it wasn't a ceremony of thanksgiving for their work, but of the work they've been allowed to gift to God.
"It pleases God, we hope," Carl said.
"Absolutely. It's for the glory and praise of the Lord," Alice added.