Leaving Salisbury after 10 years at First Methodist, organist Adam Ward performs a farewell recital Saturday
By Katie Scarvey
Members of First Methodist ó and I am among them ó always feared this time would come.
After 10 years in Salisbury, Adam Ward, our beloved director of music ministries, is leaving.
But at least he’s not going too far.
Adam is moving to Charlotte this month to accept a position as director of music ministries at Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, a church of about 2,800 members.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Adam will play a farewell recital at First United Methodist Church that will include some of his favorites, plus some fun pieces for the audience. Those will include an improvisation on a submitted theme ó which Adam won’t see until it is given to him at the recital.
This Sunday, May 18, is his last day at FUMC. There will be a hymn festival at the 8:45 service and the 10:55 service. Those services will feature the Chancel Choir and the Celebration Choir and many chances for the congregation to sing.
“I’m excited about where I’m going and the challenges, but then I’m really very sad about leaving here,” Adam says. “This has been my life for 10 years.”
When Adam came to First United Methodist Church 10 years ago, he was 23 and had a boyish face and a talent beyond his years.
That he had secured a position at a church as large as First Methodist in Salisbury wasn’t surprising to anyone who knew him as a child prodigy. By the time he landed at First Methodist, he’d already been a serious church organist for many years.
Although his talent as an organist is prodigious and his directing skills are equally impressive, that isn’t what really sets Adam apart. It is his easy rapport with virtually anyone he meets that allows him to excel at what he does.
When you talk to Adam, he has a way of making you feel like you are the most interesting person on the planet.
Then there’s the occasionally wicked ó but never too wicked ó sense of humor, and his penchant for collecting tacky angels and other slightly irreverent religious items.
“Sometimes people don’t look beyond the humor but he’s very compassionate,” says Becky Lippard, a FUMC staff member who is also a musician. “He’s a very caring person.”
Samantha Wesley has also worked with Adam at FUMC.
“It’s a lot of fun to work with him,” she says. “It’s like the building lights up when he comes in.”
But, she says, “when he really needs to be serious and focused, he’s in the zone.”
Adam says that one thing he’s learned during his years in Salisbury is about being efficient as a choir director and “guarding people’s time.”
Becky would agree. “Rehearsals are always done with the idea that everyone’s time is important. It’s always productive.
“And always fun.”
He says he’s also learned a lot about what makes worship work. “I try to focus people’s minds on the matter at hand ó which is worship. It’s about bringing focus.” Music is able to help people do that at a subconscious level, he says.
Musically, Adam is a traditionalist. For him, good choral music will not have a blue jean pocket on the cover.
As a member of the adult handbell choir that Adam directed at FUMC, I got to see firsthand his charisma and enthusiasm.
I was so struck by his personality and his gifts that about five years ago, I wrote a profile about him, trying to capture his Adam-ness ó that astounding combination of serious musicianship and zaniness that defines him.
How many directors are equally at home with a children’s choir, a teenage handbell choir and a choir made up of senior citizens? At FUMC, Adam directed eight choirs, served as the organist and made it all seem easy. As “Mr. Adam,” he even did the children’s message on many occasions, and would frequently have the congregation and the children roaring with laughter ó while leaving us all with something to think about.
He also lent his talents to the community, serving as the director of the Concert Choir and the accompanist for two choral groups at Catawba College, among other things.
Getting out in the community was something Adam enjoyed ó and it was a great evangelistic tool, he says.
“And it also gives you more stories to tell,” he adds.
Becky ó who has been a soloist for the Concert Choir ó says Adam values the human element when he selects soloists. For Adam, she says, it’s not just about the notes and the pitch; it’s about the feeling behind the music.
And I know what she means, because my daughter Quinn was fortunate enough to be a soloist with the Concert Choir when they performed Rutter’s “Magnificat” this past winter.
I was more than nervous. My 15-year-old daughter performing with all those adults? Singing in Latin?
But Adam believed in her.
And when Quinn stepped up calmly to the podium, singing the part of Mary, her face radiating joy, I realized that Adam knew better than I did what magic Quinn would bring to that performance. That night is one of the highlights of my life.
Adam always made Sunday mornings memorable, whether the music was infused with joy or sadness.
Three or four years ago, when my heart was so full of fear over Quinn’s brain tumor, there was no song more meaningful to me than one the Chancel Choir would sing before dismissal: “My peace I give to you,” based on John 14:27.
What affected me wasn’t simply the powerful words (“let not your heart be troubled …”) or the plaintive melody. It was also the way the choir sang it under Adam’s direction, with such tenderness and controlled passion.
To this day, it still makes my eyes well up, thinking about standing there, surrounded by my church family and hearing that song envelope me like a warm cloak.
Thank you, Adam, for that ó and for all the joyful noise you have made possible during your 10 years in Salisbury.
We will miss you.
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.