World famous organist Barry Morgan has been delighting crowds with his funky tunes ever since he was eight. It all started at the Sisters of No Mercy nursing home in Adelaide.
“For my first job I was engaged as an organist at the Sisters of No Mercy nursing home in Adelaide. We had such a good time with all those ladies and their false teeth and their hearing aids!
“I worked there weekdays after school and some Sunday mornings after church. My dear departed mother, Nancy Morgan, was very firm about me attending church because she was a big fan of the church organ.
“So we’d have afternoon tea when I’d play organ to the old dears. They used to sing along and we had a lot of fun. I’d play Roll Out The Barrel, My Grandfather’s Clock and a very romantic one, By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Now that’s an organ hit!
“I must have been eight or nine when I first touched an organ and it took off from there. I’ve been involved in it forever and it keeps me young and spritely!
“I was 11 or 12 when I performed at the Sisters of No Mercy – it was preteens because that’s when I discovered the bossa nova and my world-famous one-finger method and got a bit groovier after that.
“It was mostly ladies, but there were some gentlemen there too. I think there might have been a crowd of 150. They used to bring busloads of them in because I was quite popular as an organist. They loved me!
“I went round and talked to them all and we’d have snacks off the tea trolley. They’d fill me up with jelly-top slice, jam drops and Swiss rolls.
“What I really liked about it was the opportunity to play and also to go around and say hello to everybody – you know, walk amongst them. That’s when I really got the feeling that walking amongst the crowd was a very positive thing. There was a lot of joy shared when I’d go round and say hello.
“Sometimes they’d get a bit cheeky and do you know what they used to do to me? They thought I was a bit anaemic, a bit pale, because I was a bit of an indoor type and I didn’t go out into the sun that much. So they used to give me caster oil by the tablespoon. I was regular, I can tell you! You could set your watch by it.
“Whenever there was any trouble it was more to do with the patients there, they sometimes got their false teeth mixed up when they were sharing rooms. One of them would give me a smile and I’d recognise a set of teeth belonging to one of the other ladies.
“There was a bit of sadness working in a nursing home such as the Sisters of No Mercy because sometimes I’d go back and Eric or Mable or Ruth or Herbert might not be there. You just sort of had to roll with the punches and move on. That’s what’s assisted me in my life and my philosophy of life because it can end pretty quickly.
“My job wasn’t very positive at school. I got picked on a little bit there because of that. They just to make jokes about my one-finger method. One time a couple of boys held me down while one farted an ABBA medley on my head. And I thought all of their songs were in A!
“It was just jealousy, Nancy said.
“I set up the Organ Lovers League of Australia after Nancy passed away because I was a little lonely. We meet bi-monthly and we get together and play organs. But don’t look up organ lovers on the internet as you’ll find something entirely different.
“I was at Laneway Festival in Fremantle on the weekend and I didn’t hear any of the songs I used to play at the Sisters of No Mercy. I used a bit of Salvital to give me a pep-up at Laneway. The guy in the stage crew gave me some white powder and said it was Salvital and that I’d be rockin’. And I did, I tell you, I was grooving out!”
Barry Morgan’s World of Organs will be performing at Canberra’s Enlighten festival on Feb 28 and March 1.