Spann, Crapps retire from music positions at FUMC

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jerry Spann said “this” doesn’t have to go in the newspaper. But it does.

It says a lot about the man, his music and his commitment to a ministry that has lasted 46 years.

On Christmas Day, Spann stepped into the choir loft of First United Methodist Church in Troy and, as darkness descended on the Holy day, a feeling of nostalgia tugged so heavily at him that a lump rose in his throat.

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“I almost had to leave,” Spann said.

On December 27, 2009, Spann stepped down as choir director at First United Methodist Church and that last step was not taken lightly and it weighed heavily.

“I have a stronger feeling about leaving now that it’s done,” Spann said. “I get a little emotional about it but that’s part of life.”

Spann has been on the staff at First United Methodist Church of Troy for 41 years and he was assistant organist and sang in the choir five years, bringing his contribution to the church’s music department to 46 years.

Although he has stepped down as choir director, Spann will continue to be involved in the music program, as pianist for the Men’s Sunday School Class and, perhaps, as a member of the choir.

“Even though I have really enjoyed the last year, I’m getting up in age and it’s just time for somebody else to take over,” Spann said of his decision to step down as choir director. “I need some time when I’m not having to be planning for every week. I still want to be involved in the music program and I will be.”

It would be hard for Spann not to be involved in some aspect of music. He can’t remember a time when music was not a part of his life.

“My mother played the piano and played at church,” Spann said.

“My daddy sang and led the singing at church. He loved gospel music and loved going to those Sunday all-day gospel singings. Back then, we had those old-fashioned singing schools in our community of Pigeon Creek where we learned the seven-note singing.”

Spann developed a deep love of music but there was no piano teacher in Pigeon Creek so he didn’t have an early opportunity for formal training.

However, when he started to high school, he was “fortunate” to take piano lessons.

He played the piano for gospel singings and sometimes played all day for the singings. However, Spann’s real love was the classical music that he heard on the radio.

“Hearing the orchestra music on the radio whetted my appetite for the classics,” he said.

After graduation from Greenville High School, he enrolled at Troy State Teachers College with the intention of majoring in math.

“But when I went to register, the band director saw I had a background in piano,” Spann said.

“He was trying to build the band so he told me that I was going to play trumpet in the band. And I did.”

Spann studied the trumpet and marched with the band. However, he continued to play the piano and switched his major to music.

After he completed a tour with the military, Spann and his wife, Betty, came back to Troy where he almost reluctantly accepted a job as education director at First Baptist Church.

“I had no background as an education director but I was told the church ‘needed me,’” Spann said. “But after a year, I realized that was not my field.”

About that time, the position of music director of Troy City School came open. Spann applied and got the job that he held for 34 years.

Around the same time, Spann was asked to direct the choir and play the organ at First United Methodist Church in Troy. In 1965, he accepted the position of choir director at First Baptist Church and held that position for six years before, once again, accepting the position of choir director at First Methodist Church of Troy.

Spann will look back on his 46 years at First Methodist fondly and, perhaps, often through misty eyes. However, his voice will often be heard from the choir loft – but as a member of the choir.

Lyra Crapps

Lyra Crapps celebrated her 15th year as organist at First United Methodist Church of Troy in September 2009.

Three months later on Dec. 27 she retired as church organist.

“My decision to retire came after a lot of thought and prayer,” Crapps said. “This will be a big change for me since I have been playing for church for 60 years. But, it just seemed like it was time for Don and me to have an unscheduled life. It has been an honor for me to have played for church for so many years and I am so appreciative of the opportunities that have come my way.

“Playing the organ at First United Methodist over the past 15 years has been such a pleasure and joy. I’ve had opportunities to use my music, not only with organ work, but with several music groups.”

Crapps has worked with Amanda Ford and the Children’s Choir, the Youth Choir, the Youth Handbells and Adult Handbells and with the preschool music program.

“I saw needs in those areas and I wanted to do what I could to fill those needs,” Crapps said. “I felt honored to work with the children and the youth and the adult handbells and the chancel choir. I have been blessed.”

Crapps’ background in music started when she was five years old. Both of her parents were musical. Her mother played the piano and her dad sang.

“My Aunt Lyra played the violin and she played here with Herman Moll’s orchestra. So my love of music came from my family and the exposure to church music also led me that way,” Crapps said.

Crapps’ musical training began at an early age and, when she was 12 years old, she was playing the piano for the small community church her family attended outside of Birmingham. She loved music and studied music throughout high school.

“When I became college age, I knew that I wanted to study music,” Crapps said. “My college teachers exposed me, to a greater extent, to classical music.”

Throughout college and graduate school, Crapps’ love of music continued to grow and she knew music would always be a part of her life.

Even though classical music is her favorite type of music, she enjoys playing most all music.

“When we lived in Atlanta, I played at many different churches and for many different denominations. They had different hymnals but many of the hymns were the same,” Crapps said. “I’ve played some of the more contemporary songs that our youth like and I’ve learned to like them, too. I also enjoy many of the strong hymns of the church, such as ‘How Firm a Foundation.’

“We also sing from the Cokesbury Hymnal that includes gospel songs, which have been enjoyed since the late 1800s — songs like ‘Dwelling in Beulah Land.’

“I just enjoy music and I’m sure I will miss playing the organ at First United Methodist Church. Being a part of the church’s music programs has meant so much to me over the past 15 years. But I plan to sing in the choir so church and music will continue to be a big part of my life.”