Dedicated musicians have been the heartbeat of the Hardies Creek Lutheran Church, nestled among the pastoral hills of Trempealeau County, ever since this house of worship was founded in 1862. Today, the congregation is truly blessed to have the duo of Judy Byom and Vickie Baer, who have faithfully served as organists and pianists for 45 and 40 years, respectively.
“Both ladies were baptized, confirmed and married in this church,” says Rev. John Ashland. “They do an amazing job, and have worked tirelessly to make every service special, creative and unique.
"To honor their decades of providing musical accompaniment, the 200 members collected enough funds to purchase a shiny, oak-wood Kawai baby grand piano made in Japan," he says.
Baer and Byom alternate the Sundays they play. They also switch between the piano and organ during services, playing preludes and postludes on the piano and hymns on the organ. Both enjoy performing duets for holidays and special events, and sometimes they play the piano together.
“At age 12, I began playing the organ at church, along with accompanying the junior choir, and did my first wedding a year later,” Baer says. “I have enjoyed doing many styles of music throughout the years. Our forefathers started this country church, so it’s an honor to carry on their vision and heritage.”
“This is a very close-knit, caring congregation, and I’m blessed to be part of this church community," Byom adds.
"I love to play here, but recalling that first time, I was so young and inexperienced, and my stomach was nearly in my throat,” she recalls. “It seems like the last 45 years have passed by in a whisper. I’ll continue as long as God allows me to tickle those beautiful ivories.”
Persinger writes from Milwaukee.