Dear Friends of UVAGO,
Deanne and I have been in Jerusalem now since June of last year, and as you can imagine, it has been the most incredible experience for us. Anyone who has had this opportunity says the same thing. Every square inch of this area is rich with history, and it is so inspiring living here and walking where Jesus walked. It’s almost impossible to describe it, but I wanted to share some of our experience with you.
Our main assignments are with the music program at the BYU Jerusalem Center and hosting tours of the many visitors who come from all over the world. We love working with all the BYU students here. Among them are always a lot of talented singers and instrumentalists. Deanne directs our great student choir that sings for the Christmas and Easter programs, sacrament meetings and district conferences, and we have some terrific talent shows. Every Sunday evening there is a public concert by first-rate Israeli chamber musicians. We host those concerts as well and get to sit in on some phenomenal music. Occasionally I even get asked to turn pages for the pianists. I am more than happy to do that and have learned a lot about the chamber literature in the process.
I have played two of these Sunday evening recitals myself already. The first was a program of organ music from around the world (including pieces from Scandinavia, Russia, Asia, and Latin America), and the second was an all-Bach recital, for which we had a sell-out crowd of 300. I’ve always said that there’s nothing that brings people, even those who don’t know much about organ, out to an organ recital like the music of Bach, and this was no exception. My next recital will be music by French and German Romantic composers, and then in the summer I’ll do a “musical fireworks” program of American music.
Leading the tours and meeting with the visitors is always enjoyable. We have a lot of members of the Church who come here on tours, but we also have a steady stream of Israelis, Russians, and Europeans who come to see the Center. We have fun conversations and feel like we become friends, even though we are only with them for a short visit.
Our visitors are interested in the video we show about the Center and BYU, and of course they love the view from the terrace over the Old City of Jerusalem and the gardens. But the thing that really gets them is the organ in the upper auditorium. Very few Israelis or Palestinians have ever heard organ music, let alone seen a live performance on an organ. In the US, many synagogues have organs, but not in Israel. The few organs in Israel are in Christian churches, and not many of the local citizens have had occasion to go into churches, so they are always amazed and fascinated when they hear and see the organ. The organ at the Center is a three-manual tracker organ built by the Danish firm of Marcussen. It is very similar to the organ at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square—it even has horizontal trumpets. Each visiting group enjoys a 15-minute “recital,” but since the visitors are so new to the organ, I usually make it more of an organ demo. I almost always play the Bach Toccata in d minor (the runaway favorite), but then I’ll play bits of other pieces to demonstrate the different stops of the organ, using pieces such as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (principal chorus), William Tell and Verdi’s Aida (trumpets), Dvorak’s Largo (oboe, we don’t have an English horn), Peter and the Wolf (bassoon), Rhapsody in Blue (Schalmei for the clarinet), a Sousa march (piccolo), etc. It makes such a difference when they hear tunes that are familiar to them. We just had a Zimbelstern installed in the organ, and so I have fun playing Jingle Bells. For Israelis I like to play Guilmant’s arrangement of the theme from Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, which is now a universally recognized Chanukah song here. They love that one! For visiting Christian groups I play well-known hymns and songs: Amazing Grace, God of Our Fathers (to show off the horizontal trumpets), How Great Thou Art, Ave Maria, Praise to the Man (for bagpipe sounds), Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, and arrangements of “The Holy City” and “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.” It is a very emotional experience for most visitors to hear these songs as they look out of the picture windows and see the Mount of Olives and the city of Jerusalem.
We have church meetings on Saturdays (Shabbat) here at the Center. Often we will have as many as 200 visitors for church. When you add 100 BYU students and other Jerusalem Branch members to the congregation, it makes for some rousing hymn singing! Deanne and I have various callings in the Jerusalem Branch and District that keep us busy.
On Sundays I play the 36-bell carillon on top of the tower of the fabulous 1930 art-deco YMCA building. This carillon is quite similar to the one on the BYU campus. It is fun to play hymns and other music, ringing over the city of Jerusalem. I always let students who can read music give it a try. The student choir also gave a Christmas concert for a huge crowd at the YMCA’s outdoor Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Many people ask about proselytizing in Israel. While it is not against the law to proselytize here, BYU has agreed with the Israeli government, for a variety of reasons, that we will not proselytize. It’s challenging at times to be on a volunteer assignment like this (it’s not technically a mission) when you can’t talk about your faith, but it’s surprising how many wonderful conversations we have with our visitors without talking directly about religion.
One of my goals here has been to play as many other organs in Jerusalem and around Israel as possible. It has been a great experience to play organs in famous churches here and meet their resident organists and pastors. Some of my favorites in Jerusalem include the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (Schuke), the Roman Catholic Monastery of St. Savior (Rieger), the Lutheran Church of the Ascension (Sauer, from 1910, a big Romantic organ that has an electric blower but can also be pumped manually), St. George’s Anglican Cathedral (Rieger), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Rieger), the Latin Patriarchate (Bazzani), and Notre Dame of Jerusalem (Nelson). At the Elma concert hall in Zichron Ya’akov in northern Israel I performed a program of music by Vierne, Dupré, Messiaen, and Langlais on their Klais organ; and in Haifa a recital of American works at the Hecht Auditorium on an organ by Israeli builder Gideon Shamir.
A very special opportunity for me is to play at the Church of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations), which is adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane. A Croatian priest there lets me play during the noon hour. Pilgrims from all over the world come here to meditate on what took place nearby. I play quiet music on the small Rieger organ, including Bach chorales, Mendelssohn slow movements, and sacramental hymns. It is a very sacred experience.
A trip to the Holy Land should be on everyone’s bucket list—don’t miss the opportunity if you can possibly make it here. I hope we will see some of you on an upcoming tour!
Here is a link to a Google Photos album of related pictures: https://photos.app.goo.gl/rxznn2SXfrtUJGdW9
“Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” arr. Diemer, performed by Marilyn Smith
“Rhosymedre” arr. Vaughan Williams, performed by Lori Serr
“We Gather Together” arr. Held, performed by Heidi Alley
“When We Are in Deepest Need” by J.S. Bach (BWV 641) performed by Conner Larsen
“O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sunde gross” by J.S. Bach, performed by David Cornaby
“Rhumba” by Robert Elmore, performed by Kimberly Moody
“Aria” by Flor Peeters, performed by Linda Margetts
“Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern” by Peeters, performed by David Chamberlin
“Annie Laurie” (Scottish Folk Song) arr. Parley Belnap, performed by Claudia Johnson
“Come, Come, Ye Saints” arr. Parley Belnap, performed by Marie Johnson
“Prelude in B Minor” (BWV 544a) by J.S. Bach, performed by D. Kim Croft
Student Tributes to Dr. Parley L. Belnap for his “Tribute Recital” hosted by the Utah Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists at the American Fork East Stake Center on November 10, 2018. These tributes were not read at the recital, but are posted here for all to enjoy.
Heidi J. Alley
I started taking organ lessons from Dr. Belnap when I was 10. I think for many of my growing up years, I saw Dr. Belnap more than my own Dad. He taught me to practice carefully, slowly, and finger your pieces. Practicing without mistakes was better than trying to fix the mistakes later. He also taught me the 7 step method: L.H., R.H., Pedal, L.H. and Pedal, R.H. and Pedal, Hands together and then all 3 parts SUPER SLOWLY. I still practice this way, methodically and carefully. These are the steps I have used throughout my life to learn to play the organ well. They have been invaluable to me.
I also have learned many wonderful life skills from Dr. Belnap. My favorite one, and one which I have taught my children – you get further with honey than with vinegar. You can see how Dr. Belnap followed this in his own life. I never heard him raise his voice – no matter how badly I played or how poorly I was prepared for a lesson. I saw him do many great things while teaching at BYU and teaching students. New organs were built and put into the Fine Arts Center. A beautiful 3 manual tracker organ was installed in his office. Three new practice organs were added for students. There were a myriad of other things he did with his gentle, quiet excitement for the organ. He managed to get things done by honey.
Dr. Belnap also taught about living the Gospel. Many times he bore his testimony through his council to me. He wanted me to choose wisely in my pursuit of the organ. He felt that it was more important to attend Church weekly. He loved playing for his Ward and helping others learn to play the organ for Church. He has dedicated his life to teaching me and others to love the Lord through playing beautiful organ music. I will never be able to thank him enough for his time spent teaching me to play the organ and to love the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
God bless you, Dr. Parley Belnap!
Jay L. Beck
I continue to use and remember organ playing tips and techniques I learned from Brother Belnap while studying organ with him at BYU 40 years ago. He oversaw organists who played for the Mt. Timpanogos Temple dedication. He was so kind and confidence-building as I had that opportunity. His gentle, kind teaching has been an example to me as I have worked as a teacher.
I never had a more patient, caring, and encouraging teacher. Brother Belnap’s quiet persistence enabled him to accomplish great things. Two things I will always remember him saying to me: “Gut begonnen, halb gewonnen” (A good beginning is half the win), and “Success is where preparation meets opportunity.” Oh, and one more: He often quoted J. S. Bach, saying “Anyone who works as hard as I have can accomplish as much as I have.” I think he really believed that. More than that, I think he wanted me to believe it – and work harder!
I was barely 12 years old when Parley Belnap came to the Emery Stake Center in Castle Dale, Utah, to teach twelve organ courses for the Church General Music Committee. At that time Brother Belnap opened my mother and my eyes, giving us a first glimpse into the world of real organ playing. But more than this, he recommended a fine new piano teacher by the name of Janis Siggard and – because of this wise counsel which my mother took to heart from Parley. I came under the first-rate tutelage of this gifted pianist and teacher, traveling the 120 miles round trip from Emery to Price for the next 1 ½ years to study with her until we moved to Provo.
I also have Parley to thank for the fact that when we then moved to Provo, my mother contacted Professor J. J. Keeler at BYU, under whom I was able to begin weekly organ and piano lessons. This was before Parley was hired at BYU.
Several years later for a semester while an undergraduate at BYU, I was able to study privately with Brother Belnap while Keeler was on sabbatical. I will always be grateful that Parley made me memorize the Bach Prelude & Fugue in D Major which has served me well to this day.
May the Lord continue to bless you, Parley, and your sweet wife and wonderful family. You played a seminal role in my life for which I will always be grateful. You are truly a gentle, royal prince among men!
With gratitude and love, Clay Christiansen
I began studying under Parley when I was a sophomore in high school. During the first year, we studied piano to improve my dexterity and general musicianship. I remember well how he taught me organ principles on the piano – particularly holding notes with my fingers rather than depending on the pedal for a sustained tone, strict observation of rests, and an appreciation for Baroque style music. One of my fondest memories of this time was meeting the challenge of playing Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” in less than a minute.
As many of you know, Parley studied in Europe early in his career. I remember being very impressed when he told me that he was asked to accompany the Messiah for a family Christmas observance in Germany. That vision of celebrating Christmas persisted with me as my own children learned the music and message of Handel’s magnificent tribute to my Savior. My wife and I, along with two sons and three daughters would trade off at the piano and still be able to cover the parts – singing almost all of the solos and choruses, with an intermission of hot citrus punch. I hope the tradition continues with my grandchildren.
My early recitals were performed at the Provo Tabernacle, and I have fond memories of that lost organ and hall.
I learned valuable lessons under Parley that I use when teaching and practicing today.
“Practice does not make perfect – only Perfect practice makes perfect”.
“Understand the connection between the message and the music, and make hearing the music an emotional and spiritual experience as well intellectual appreciation for your technique and dexterity.” “While playing hymns, read the verse and enforce it’s message by breaking and sustaining with the text. Make your registrations enforce the musical structure and the textual themes.” There are so many things, so many memories. I want to express my appreciation to my teacher of 7 years, my mentor that demonstrated the value of moral and spiritual values, and my friend that “held my hand” in times of stress and darkness.
D. Kim Croft
When I first obtained my copy of the CD Bro. Belnap recorded at the BYU Jerusalem Center, I eagerly shared it with an organist friend. When Paula returned it to me, she commented, “He plays as though he’s a very kind man.”
There’s so much I could say about studying with Bro. Belnap. Above all, he was indeed kind. And he was a phenomenal teacher. I studied with him for a long time – throughout elongated bachelor’s and master’s programs. On more than one occasion, after having not given a perfect performance in a public recital or masterclass, I’d come to a lesson resolved to never attempt to play again. And he was always so encouraging – so reassuring – and kind . . . And we’d move on.
His generosity in spirit was legendary. It wasn’t unusual for the scheduled 45 minute lessons to last nearly twice that long – and if he had to cut the lesson short after “only” an hour, he would profusely apologize. And there were the little things – during my master’s program, I was sometimes privileged to drive Bro. Belnap and a visiting organist to the airport. On one occasion, he wanted to take a detour on our way back to Provo – and we ended up at Schmidt’s Pastry Cottage, where he indulged me in a little bit of heaven.
It’s because of Bro. Belnap that I have name recognition in LDS organ circles. During my final year at BYU, I’d been granted an intern position with Bro. Belnap. He asked me to compose some simple little exercises for beginning organ students based on LDS hymn tunes. Sometime later, after moving to New York to study musicology, I received an unexpected phone call one day from Bro. Belnap – he’d tracked me down at a temp job. He just wanted to ask my permission to publish the Nine Hymn Studies. He edited them, adding fingering, and supplied the performance indications (I still smile when I see his performance suggestion for “Oh, How Lovely was the Morning,” with the imitation bird calls in the right hand: “With Dignity.”) My name is on the cover. But without Bro. Belnap, that little collection wouldn’t exist.
When I showed up to register for my freshman year at BYU, I went to the Smith Fieldhouse, and proceeded to the table manned by John Longhurst, wanting to register for organ lessons. Bro. Longhurst asked me if I’d object to studying with Bro. Belnap. I rather brashly – and ignorantly – replied, “Oh, anyone can help me.” Little did I know how profoundly that placement would affect nearly every aspect of my entire life.
Herzlichen Dank, Bruder Belnap!
David C. Hobson
I studied with Dr. Belnap about fifty years ago (1965-1967). He was truly an inspiration for his many students over the years. I was richly blessed through my relationship with him during those two years at BYU.
I first met Dr. Belnap in 1977 when we moved into his ward in American Fork. He was the ward organist and I loved his organ music each Sunday. As a teenager in Hyrum, Utah, I participated in group organ lessons sponsored by the Church, which sparked my interest in playing the organ. As a result, I asked Dr. Belnap to teach me. How could he easily turn me down? I was in his ward. For two years he patiently taught me the basics of piano and organ keyboard, focusing on proper fingering and technique. With my busy young family, I was unable to continue.
In 2007 I again asked him to teach me organ lessons. He patiently worked with me for the next seven years. Both he and I were much more relaxed and I thoroughly enjoyed his talent and ability to teach. I was the enthusiastic recipient, not only of expert organ instruction, but he told me stories and experiences based on a lifetime of service through organ instruction and performance.
One day as an excuse for my inconsistent practice habits, I presented a new brilliant plan to Dr. Belnap, based on the “think method” of practicing. I told him that I planned to take organ lessons until I died. Then, Heavenly Father would see how earnest and sincere I was about playing the organ and bless me with the talent to be an accomplished organist in heaven. He looked at me and wisely replied, “You need to just make sure you live good enough to rise in the First Resurrection and then you will have a thousand years to practice.” I have never seen him laugh so hard. Since then I have tried to do a better job at practicing. I will always be grateful I was one of Dr. Belnap’s students.
I had the great opportunity of taking lessons from Parley Belnap. Claudia Johnson, my temple playing partner, and I took lessons from Bro. Belnap at his home about ten or eleven years ago. I marveled that his ears seemed to pick up on everything that was happening musically and he could point out things I was doing well as well as “the tenor needs to be more legato in this section.” Bro. Belnap was always ready to help arrange choir music for organ and set up stops, etc. When I was asked to play a solo in sacrament meeting, he suggested I play his arrangement of “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” I loved hearing him play it at recitals in the tabernacle and I loved performing it myself. It has been a privilege to get to know Bro. Belnap. In addition to being such a gifted teacher, he is kind, patient, encouraging and Christlike. I’m grateful for my friendship and association with him and Bona.
I began taking lessons from Dr. Belnap when I was 10. As most do, I would get frustrated with the drills and such that are so necessary to beginning to play the organ, so sometimes Dr. Belnap would pull out a ‘real’ organ book, and would sit next to me on the bench and play a song. Sometimes I’d try a little bit of the left hand, sometimes I tried a little bit of the right hand, and once I was tall enough I’d do the pedals, but it always meant the world to me that he would take the time to make me feel better and more accomplished at playing! I’m forever grateful for his patience!
Sandra Stonehocker Mangum
My reading of Dr. Belnap’s history brought back many memories of my association with him over the years.
My introduction to Parley was in the Paris, France Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1954. My father was in the military stationed in Chinon, Indre et Loire. My mother and I had the blessing and opportunity to spend two years with him in France. The first year I lived away from Chinon and boarded with two military families stationed at the Chateauroux Air Force base. There was a military dependents school I could attend. The second year I had completed most of the requirements to graduate from high school, so I lived at home and commuted by bus each day to Tours to attend the Institute de Touraine, a French language school which was part of the University of Poitiers.
In Chinon, we were fortunate to rent a home which had a grand piano. I was able to continue my piano studies with Mme. Jeanne Quero. Following a recital of her students, my mother thought it was time to start studying the organ so that I would I was also able to assist during Sacrament meetings and Primary when I returned to the United States. We were able to find an organ teacher, the Abbe Froget, a French priest whose assignment was as organist of the Cathedral of Tours. I studied with him for a year. By that time I had graduated from high school and the Institute of Touraine and was preparing to go to BYU as a freshman to study Nursing.
We visited Paris as often as we could, between my father’s military assignments and my busy study schedule. During one of the visits, we attended church at the branch and Parley was introduced recognized and honored because he was leaving France to attend BYU. It was also announced that he had been studying organ with Marcel Dupré in Paris. My mother made sure I was introduced to Parley at the end of the meeting. I think she was glad to know there would be someone at BYU whom I knew, since I had not ever lived in Utah or visited the campus. I did run into Parley several times on campus and was glad to have made his acquaintance and recall
link to France and the organ.
After a year and one-half of studying nursing, our course work took us to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City. This opened up the opportunity to continue the study of organ at the McCune School of Music, although I thought it best to keep it secret from the Dean of the Nursing school. I studied for two years with Frank Asper and progressed in my studies with his knowledge, kindness, guidance and encouragement.
Time passed and in the 1960, marriage and graduate study took the family of three to Seattle, Washington. It was during the time that Parley was traveling and giving lessons to improve the music in wards and stakes through the Church. I was able to refresh my organ technique and with Parley’s excellent teaching and encouragement I made progress and especially developed a love for organ performance and repertoire. Since that time I played for services and kept up what he had so generously shared with me while adding repertoire and skills as I could.
Then in 1963 our family returned to BYU and I was new part-time faculty in the College of Nursing. With children to raise and a busy life to lead I could not miss the opportunity to study with Parley on a more permanent and serious basis for which I have been very grateful.
In the 1970’s I had to opportunity to use my music background and a new found skill of instructional design while working as an instructional designer at the Motion Picture Studio. A two-year project of video teaching of four semesters of music theory by Dr. Arthur E. Unsworth led me to meet the Unsworth family which included a blond five year-old boy by the name of Andrew. The Unsworths moved from Provo to Potsdam, N. Y., and later to Boone N. C. where Art was Dean of the School of Music. By this time Andrew, already an accomplished organist, started as a freshman at BYU. Andy studied with Parley while Parley and I shared “adopted” grand-parenting duties. Doug Bush also provided Andy with valuable tutelage as well as fatherly support. So, Andy had a three-some support system and we all had the blessing of seeing and hearing him progress in his studies and talent.
All of the years between those I have highlighted, Parley was always encouraging and kind. During the preparation for the dedication of the Mt. Timpanogos Temple, Parley was the organ supervisor and scheduler of organists for the open house and the dedication services. I was a substitute organist, in case the appointed organist fell ill. I practiced like crazy and prepared as if I would play. During a choir practice in the temple, I was feeling a bit sad at all my work and no opportunity to play for the dedication. Parley sat by me for a moment and said quietly, “Well, you may not play, but are you prepared?” I said “Yes”, And he replied, “That is all the Lord requires.” That was the most kind and sensitive salve to my aching heart I have ever felt then or since.
We would often cross paths at the temple where I did serve as an organist for 19 years. He would quietly come to the organ and say, “Hello, sounds great.” Or, stopping for supper at the cafeteria after my shift, I would find Parley eating his supper between assignments at the Baptistry. We would catch up and renew the acquaintance and friendship made so many years ago. As always, encouragement and kindness were still evident as the hallmarks of his life.
So, now being a “senior” organist and still playing, learning new repertoire and contributing as I can by teaching others. I owe my success and my love of the organ, the repertoire and performing to Parley Belnap who took the time to teach and care and by so doing to be part of my gift “which keeps on giving.”
Sincerely, Sandra Stonehocker Mangum
Linda S. Margetts
I met Dr. Parley Belnap in 1966 as a freshman student at Brigham Young University when I signed up for organ lessons. My “left-foot-one-octave” pedal technique taught to me at age 11 and necessary at the time to keep me on the bench, had left me curious about the other pedals. As my assigned teacher, “Brother Belnap,” in his calm, quiet, and efficient manner opened a new world to me. I bought organ shoes and found out what both feet on the
pedals could do! I discovered Bach on the organ! I learned the colors, the combinations, the veritable orchestra that was the pipe organ.
The next year, as a sophomore, I asked my college professor father for advice on choosing a major. He suggested taking one class in each of my top 3 interests. So that semester I got a 4-credit D in short-hand and with it faded my stenographer/personal secretary interest: done in by my left-handedness? A “B” in Psychology and an “A” in Music Theory. Brother Belnap was my Music Theory teacher and his crystal clear explanations of how music worked went from his squeaky chalk strokes directly into my brain and clicked with a clarity that made the system seem simple. “The best teacher is the one who kindles an inner fire, ….inspires the student with a vision of what he may become, and reveals the worth and permanency of moral, spiritual and cultural values.” (Garnet) Brother Belnap is the “best teacher,” and I majored in Organ Performance because of his class. Each semester brought a new Bach organ work to make my own; a new piece of the organ repertory and a new performance goal. As I graduated, Brother Belnap took a sabbatical to complete his doctorate and invited me to take his teaching post at Utah State University and also teach his private students. Several years later as my youngest of six children entered 1st grade, I devised a plan to earn a Master of Organ Performance at Brigham Young University. I would get on the bus and ride two hours to take lessons and classes from Dr. Parley Belnap. That degree led to a Doctorate in Composition at the University of Utah.
So what is it about this fine man that allowed him to influence my life in such a completely profound way? I think it is his family and wife, Bona; his devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all his doings; his basic unselfish, completely-lacking-self-importance desire to share all he knows; his good mind, clear thinking, and hard work ethic; his foresight to start the Summer Organ Workshops at which I taught from the beginning; his kindness to everyone. I want my life to be like Brother Belnap’s. I want to influence others for good so his goodness will continue.
Thank you, Parley and Bona!
I loved my time studying organ under Parley Belnap at BYU. He was my teacher, mentor and father figure. As a freshman I remember walking into his office to sign up for a private organ instructor. He asked, “Who would you like to study with?” I timidly asked, “Well, can I study with you?( He seemed surprised and said, “Why sure!( During that semester I was one of two freshmen fortunate to study with him. He remained my professor until his retirement from BYU. His office became a home away from my home in California. I spent hours practicing, attending classes and private lessons in room E-208. From Brother Belnap I learned life skills in music, teaching and developing who I am. The greatest musical lesson I learned from Bother Belnap was how to practice. We spent time researching effective practice techniques. We carefully documented my daily and weekly practice sessions. I learned how to be an efficient practicer! As a teacher, Brother Belnap maintained very high expectations but expressed them in a quiet, tender way. I never wanted to come to my lesson unprepared. I knew he cared about my musical growth and invested a lot of time in my development. He set the example for the kind of teacher I have become. I’m just a little more talkative. Brother Belnap is one of the kindest people around. He sacrificed so much extra time to listen to my rehearsals during the early hours in the Marriot Center or the Madsen Recital hall to the late hours in the Assembly Hall and Salt Lake Tabernacle. I always knew he cared about me as a musician and a person. I am the person I am today because I was influenced by Parley Belnap’s love and example.
The three years that I spent under Dr. Belnap’s tutelage as an undergraduate at BYU profoundly changed my life. I will always remember his relentless pursuit of excellence at every lesson and performance. His constant, yet gentle reminders to record, listen, and conduct my playing, mentally study and practice the score transformed my playing. I remember asking him which edition I should buy of Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H. He replied, “I don’t know. Why don’t you go to the library and do some research?” Little did I realize that the fruits of this trip to the library would instill a love of musicological research and writing within me that have comprised a significant part of my career. I fondly remember trips to the Salt Lake Tabernacle for late night practice sessions, to the airport to pick up guest artists and other activities in which I gained greater insight into his life and into the organ profession itself. My wife and I will always be grateful to both Dr. Belnap and his wife for allowing us to rent their Provo home for a year after a sudden change of post-doctoral plans. The ensuing year was very difficult time for me personally, and I will always be grateful for the Christlike and wonderful mentor that Dr. Belnap has been to me throughout my life. Much of his work has and will continue to be passed down to my own students as I try my hardest to model his unstinting example of both professional and personal excellence.
With love, David Pickering
I first met Brother Belnap at USU while I was still in high school. He traveled to Logan to teach organ lessons on campus there for a short time. When I came to school to BYU, I continued my organ lessons with him but I was undecided about a major. He suggested that I consider the organ, so I then auditioned and was accepted into the program. During my study there, I had moments of feeling very inexperienced and inadequate. But he was always there to offer encouragement, support and to urge me to continue on. I have so appreciated his ever-present example of patience, kindness, gentleness, and meekness.
In June 1978, I walked into Brother Belnap’s office at BYU for my regularly scheduled organ lesson during Spring term. Before the lesson began, he turned to me and asked, “Did you hear the announcement from the church?” I replied that I had not. He then went on to tell me about the revelation that President Spencer W. Kimball received concerning the black male members of the church and that they would now receive the Priesthood. It was obvious to me that Brother Belnap was thrilled with this announcement and that he realized the significance of it! His example of faith and devotion made a deep impression on me.
Probably one of the most important tools that I learned from Brother Belnap, and one that I frequently use now as a teacher of organ and piano, is the importance of slow practice. He would at times stop my lesson to patiently explain in detail the importance and benefits of slow practicing and to encourage my use of it. He had made copies available of an article titled “SLOW” by Porter Heaps. The author’s teacher was also the great organist, Marcel Dupré which explains why Brother Belnap found it so valuable! I still have copies of this article in my files that I continue to refer to in my own teaching.
He would also frequently tell me that as organist for the church, my first duty was to learn to play the hymns well. When preparing for a church service, he would counsel me to first put most of my practice time on the hymns to be sung and then turn my attention to the prelude and postlude music. This advice has been a great benefit to me and another example of his faith and devotion.
It has been a privilege and blessing to take organ lessons from Brother Belnap. He accepted me as a beginning organ student at the age when many people would be happy to retire. He was enthusiastic, dedicated and held high expectations. When I was discouraged he offered words of encouragement. His large array of effective teaching tools and knowledge of organ technique and literature kept me engaged and helped me to progress.
I knew I was important to Brother Belnap. Frequently he went the extra mile. As an example, the first time I played for stake conference at my stake center and at the American Fork Tabernacle, he came and helped me select appropriate settings so I would be prepared and successful. Playing the church hymns well is very important to Brother Belnap. He also graciously played an organ solo at our baby daughter’s funeral. I have deep gratitude and love for Brother and Sister Belnap who have welcomed me into their home and hearts.
DeeAnn D. Stone
The first time I met Bro. Belnap was in 1987 at a Utah Valley AGO Chapter meeting that September. In January of that year, I was called to be ward organist when the new Bigelow organ was first installed in our building. I hadn’t played the organ for six years after taking a stake 6-week organ course from Geoffrey Meyers in 1981, and desperately needed help to re-learn how to play the organ—especially how to play a tracker organ. I felt like giving up before I even started.
However, by September, I had started taking organ lessons from Carol Dean, and we had become good friends. She mentioned that her teacher, Doug Bush, had told her about the organ guild meetings, and she invited me to come with her since the meetings would be helpful to me to learn to play the organ better. Being a fledgling organist, I felt AGO was way out of my league, and was hesitant to go with her, thinking that this organization was only for professional, experienced organists. However, because of Carol’s persuasive nature, I agreed to go with her to the first meeting of the year.
My anxiety and fears of being involved with AGO were soon put to rest when Bro. Belnap began his presentation on the “Goals of the AGO and BYU Organ Certification Programs” (which he was instrumental in starting). Because of his presentation, he made me feel that playing the organ was something I wanted to do and stick with. I was hooked. I was impressed with his kind and humble nature, and his genuine concern for helping beginning organists like me. Eventually, I was able to pass the Level 3 of his Organ Certification Program.
Bro. Belnap was also instrumental in starting the yearly Church Music Workshop at BYU. This was heaven for me to attend every year, because of all the wonderful things I learned from people like Bro. Belnap. Taking Bro. Belnap’s music theory classes helped me unravel the mystery of it all.
I was also fortunate to serve on the Utah Valley AGO Chapter board with Bro. Belnap when he was the dean from 2000 to 2002. We had some wonderful events those years that he helped us organize. Wanting to reach out to organists in the community, Bro. Belnap started the annual Super Saturday Workshops, which has become a popular chapter event for members and the community every April held at BYU.
Coming full circle, the last time I saw Bro. Belnap was at Doug Bush’s funeral in 2013 at the Provo Central Stake Center. After the funeral, I saw Bro. Belnap coming down the hall towards me, and I said, “Hi, Parley!” His face lit up like a light bulb when he saw me. I was so happy that he remembered me.
The world has been greatly blessed by Bro. Belnap’s talent, knowledge, insights, and concern for fledgling organists like I was. He contributed much to make beautiful music fill the air, whether he played it himself or whether it’s played by those he taught and influenced.
As a young 15-year-old pianist, with a slowly budding interest in organ, I attended BYU Young Musicians Summer Festival. I was insecure. I felt that my skills as a musician were far below what I observed among my peers during that week. I was a nervous wreck the entire festival. However, the group organ class taught by Parley Belnap and Don Cook (hired only the previous year) was a safe place for me, where I felt valued and validated. Don asked the group what a set of organ pipes was called, and I said, “Is it a range?” Well, close enough, and that not only got me a pat on the back: Parley pulled me aside after the class dismissed and asked, “What is your name?” “Neil Thornock,” I replied. “I’m going to go write that down,” Parley said. I was stunned. Somebody important noticed me. It gave me hope. It was an exchange very present on my mind when I came to BYU as a music major and ultimately decided to study the organ seriously. In less than a dozen words, Parley changed my life for the better. My subsequent interactions with him were limited to one class at BYU and various casual encounters since his retirement. However, his constant, gentle force for good in my life was part of what inspired me to name my own son Parley. I will always be grateful for Parley Belnap.
I always felt that Dr. Belnap was as excited as I was about the music I played for him. He took time between our weekly sessions to do research on the pieces I was studying and encouraged me to do the same. He would often bring me pertinent articles that he had found and copied. Occasionally he even ordered dissertations through interlibrary loan that he thought I would find useful and made copies for both of us. His efforts to help me
contextualize the musical works I practiced was inspiring.
Before I came to BYU, I was somewhat ambivalent about the church and undecided on about whether to serve a mission. His influence was a prominent factor in my choice to undertake missionary service. After I came home from my mission, I frequently sought Dr. Belnap’s advice about other matters and he always responded thoughtfully. He encouraged me and his other students to think about their musical talent in terms of a stewardship, to put the Lord first in all things, and to trust that everything will work out. To myself and to many other organ students he has been so much more than just an organ teacher. He has been an advisor, a father-figure, and a friend.
James L. Wallmann
David Chamberlin and I were very fortunate to have Parley Belnap as our music professor in 1975 for our time in Salzburg, Austria, with the BYU Study Abroad Program. Professor Belnap made it possible for us to visit and play historic and modern organs in Austria, East and West Germany, the Netherlands, and London. Coincidentally, our trip to the former East Germany to play the incomparable instruments of Gottfried Silbermann was the same weekend that then-Elder Thomas S. Monson rededicated that country for the preaching of the gospel, and we were able to join the German saints at their district conference in Dresden to hear Elder Monson speak to them.
I studied organ with Prof. Belnap in Salzburg and in my final undergraduate year at BYU. He taught me to think for myself as an organist – a strange concept to me at the time – and reminded me that there were often many different (and valid) ways to approach ornaments, fingering, interpretation, registration, and the other things that make up the art of an organist. Above all, Brother Belnap is kind, generous, and one “in whom there is no guile.”
I am pleased to send my congratulations to Parley Belnap on this wonderful occasion. I would have enjoyed being there in person to bring my greetings and be with all of you.
I am proud to say that I am a student of Parley Belnap’s. When I started at BYU in 1968, one of my first stops was to the music department to see if I could take organ lessons. Parley very kindly took me as a student, even though I wasn’t a music major. I had taken lessons as a teenager with a good local teacher in California, but I needed some really solid technical training, and I am so glad that Parley was there to give me what I needed when I needed it. I also was able to prepare under his instruction and play a recital (which I shared with Linda Margetts) at the Provo Tabernacle. Those were the days!
In addition to giving his students a good, solid foundation, Parley also was inspirational and motivating in other ways. I remember walking into Parley’s studio on numerous occasions for my lessons, and I would usually find him at the organ or piano, drilling a passage, working out a fingering, grabbing a few moments here and there between lessons, never wasting a minute. He taught us all that there is no shortcut to success: it takes hard work, and not just while you’re in college, but for the rest of your life!
Congratulations again to a wonderful teacher and example of selfless service.
Sincerely, James Welch