The music ministry and familiar presence of Rebecca “Becky” Ogle as organist for forty-two years at The Neighborhood Church are extraordinary. How and why?
Becky nurtured her love of music during childhood piano and organ lessons in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she grew up. She discovered the power of musical expression through performances on the piano and the organ at Will Rogers High School and Tulsa University. One can see how proud Becky is of her life’s work as an organist when she described this part of her life: “I’d like people to know that I’ve been a church organist since my high school days (in Tulsa, Denver, and CA) for 63 years now (not just the past 42 years here at Neighborhood Church).”
After moving to California, Becky embraced the myriad challenges of offering private piano lessons, directing a church choir, teaching public school music classes and playing organ at weddings, including The Neighborhood Church.
When Becky accepted the position as church organist in January, 1977, her music ministry began to flourish. Within two months she performed The Passion According to St. John by Johann Sebastian Bach with the Covenant Choir and orchestra. With the support of Gene, her husband, and Daniel, her son, each week she brought to the Thursday evening and extra Saturday morning choir rehearsals, Sunday worship services, Vesper services, Christmas Eve services, weddings and memorial services her kit of musical tools to promote an environment of joy, meditation, friendship, gratitude and creativity. She expressed her love of musical expression to cultivate an appreciation of music in others through a weekly exposure to the most meaningful examples of original organ music written by the great composers or hymn transcriptions by prominent contemporaries. Becky, as mother, cultivated loyal friendships with choir members and parents, and later, as a grandparent, swapped stories.
With her contagious smile, humble manner and fierce pursuit of excellence, she worked cooperatively with six music directors: Don Whitsitt, Randy McChesney, Vince Cole, Buddy James, Craig Fentor and David Sateren.
Highlights of her tenure at The Neighborhood Church illuminate her versatility and talent. She sang the alto part in a popular quartet during the 1980s along with Ruth and Chuck Hattersley and Bob Tomlinson. In major works she sang the alto part with the Covenant Choir when there was no organ part in the accompaniment. She traveled to Germany in 1998 to provide input for the construction of the new Glatter-Götz organ. As Chair of the Organ Committee, she led the effort to enhance the community’s exposure to our unique tracker organ and to world-class organists and organ repertoire by hosting an annual winter organ concert. In 2000 the committee selected her to play in one of four inaugural-year concerts. Her stellar, hour-long program showcased her exceptional talent and playful use of various new organ sounds. In 2011 the Women’s Fellowship and in 2017 the congregation gave Becky special recognition for her dedication to providing a personal, meaningful worship experience.
After listening to the music flow seamlessly through the service, it would be easy to take the organ music for granted, especially after more than four decades. However, the effect of Becky’s extraordinary music ministry can described with a quote about Becky’s selection of music and performance by one of the members of the congregation following a Sunday service recently: “Despite society’s turmoil, nature’s destruction, life’s changes, when I listen to Becky play, I feel that ‘All’s right with the world’ and I always leave feeling better and happier.”
Author: Fran Bock , Friend for forty years
All Photos Courtesy Neighborhood Church Archives / Fran Bock, Historian