On Nov. 29, Carole Daugherty Haigh received 40 red roses from Grandview United Methodist Church.
Each bloom represented one year Haigh has made music for the church as their organist, soundtracking everything from weekly services to special occasions.
“I play for some of these kids’ baptisms, then for their weddings, and then I play for their children’s baptisms,” Haigh said. “That’s when it sinks in: I’ve been here a long time.”
Haigh has played for more than 2,000 Sunday morning services at Grandview, plus hundreds of funerals and weddings. She’s accompanied vocalists John Darrenkamp and Romaine Bridgette, as well as string instrumentalist John Hamilton. Haigh also recalls playing organ for the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra.
“I would rather accompany somebody than have a solo,” Haigh said. “That’s really where my heart lies.”
And despite the major milestone, she has no plans to leave Grandview and will continue serving as organist there for the foreseeable future. She’s been committed to that role at Grandview since 1980. The following year, she became a member of the church.
In her 40 years as organist for the Lancaster church, Haigh hasn’t missed a Sunday, other than for vacation.
Even a car accident on the way to her first Christmas Eve service there did not stop her.
“I was coming down Chestnut Street, and somebody came out of Mary Street and didn’t stop at the stop sign,” Haigh said. “There I am, and I’m in a panic. I was to be at the church to practice with the choir at 10:30 p.m., but my car was not drivable.”
Though she missed the rehearsal, a police officer drove her to the church in the nick of time, just as the choir was lining up to process.
“I got there about two minutes of 11,” she said.
Haigh’s music is an integral part of worship services.
“I’m kind of the glue that holds things together,” she said. “If all of a sudden somebody forgets to walk up to do scripture, I’ll play a little music in between.”
Haigh’s 40 years at Grandview have given her the experience to guide others when needed, even lead pastor Andrea Brown.
“When I first started out as a very young pastor, I’d never performed a wedding before, but she had already been in 20 years worth of them,” Brown said.
Mark Wagner, director of music at Grandview, is equally amazed.
“I can throw pretty much any choir anthem her direction and she can sight read it,” he said. “I just have such an appreciation for her spirit and her skills that she brings to the job.”
Haigh started playing the organ long before her time at Grandview. As a pastor’s daughter, she remembers spending ample time in the sanctuary each week.
“When my mother couldn’t find me, I was over in the church trying to plunk out music on the piano,” she said.
She also took an interest in the church’s organists. She was enthralled with the robustness of the instrument’s sound.
“The organ always fascinated me, and I just love the fact that you can really rev it up and fill the sanctuary with sound,” she said.
Though Haigh’s mother was her first piano teacher, Haigh waited until she was 13 to tackle organ lessons at Covenant United Methodist Church in Lebanon, where her father was pastor.
“I was too short to reach the pedals,” she said.
Since then, Haigh has committed her time to perfecting her talent, first at Lebanon Valley College, then for eight years at Tabor United Church of Christ in Lebanon, before finding a home at Grandview.
Haigh always had other jobs in addition to her role at Grandview. She plans to retire from her job as switchgear quotations specialist at Capital Electric Supply in February.
“I decided that I only wanted music as my avocation and not my vocation,” Haigh said.
A steady style
Over the course of 40 years, Haigh says she has the same philosophy about playing the organ, and her style hasn’t changed.
“My dad always told me don’t drag the hymns, and the congregation will tell you that I don’t drag the hymns,” Haigh said.
Wagner vouches for that.
“She’s known for her brisk tempos of hymns,” Wagner said. “She’s always up to tempo with what we need.”
Several years ago Haigh recorded an album, “Ode to Appalachia” to raise money for the church’s service trip to the Appalachian region.
Water Zollinger, a longtime choir member at the church, says that Haigh took it upon herself to check in with church members during the pandemic.
“Carole’s musical skills are quite evident within minutes of listening and working with her,” Zollinger says. “What might go unnoticed initially is her love for our church and especially its people. After several weeks of worshipping virtually, she began calling people from the congregation, choir and staff. She literally worked her way through our church directory from A to Z.”
After retirement, Haigh anticipates having more time to give to playing the organ and serving the community of Grandview. She calls her journey so far “a fabulous ride.”
“If I’m going to keep playing, I can’t imagine going anywhere else,” she said.