On Jan. 25, Jane Bostian Arant sat down at the organ at Trinity Presbyterian Church and played a little bit louder and a little bit fancier than usual.
Arant has spent 30 years at the church doing just the opposite – playing conservatively so the organ music didn’t distract from the congregation’s singing.
“I wanted to say, ‘Here it is, folks, this is me going out. Don’t forget,’” Arant said.
The Trinity Presbyterian congregation likely won’t forget Arant, who retired this week.
She has played the organ for hundreds of Sunday services and numerous weddings and funerals, directed the church’s children’s and adult choirs and led a summer liturgical arts camp for children that has been recognized by Yale University for its excellence.
The sadness in Arant’s retirement is “so much that we hardly speak of it,” said Janet Sarjeant, a longtime friend and choir member at Trinity Presbyterian. “We honored her the best we could (on Arant’s last Sunday) as to put the celebration in it instead of our sad hearts. She has given so much.”
Arant began playing the organ at Trinity Presbyterian in late 1984.
Arant, 67, said her parents remember her stacking hymnals and books on the pew during long Sunday services at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Salisbury and pretending to play them.
She officially began taking organ lessons in high school after becoming proficient in piano, and she said a summer apprenticeship after ninth grade with a church organist and choir director taught her more about her job than any training she ever received.
“It was very meaningful, and he opened a lot of doors for me,” she said, including taking her along on a family trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City.
Arant went on to earn degrees in organ and religion from Salem College and a master of arts in American church history from Duke University. She also has a master of music in organ performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.
She moved back to North Carolina after the birth of her first child, working in church music jobs in Salisbury and then Rock Hill. She took the job at Trinity in October 1984 and played on Sundays through Jan. 13, 1985, two days before a scheduled C-section for her second child.
After six weeks maternity leave, Arant worked continuously at the church and her part-time job grew to full time. About 20 years ago, she began her weeklong summer liturgical arts day camp for kids.
“That program has probably been the most strongly motivating thing I’ve done,” Arant said.
The camp, which is designed for elementary students, teaches them about the arts that are in our sanctuary that they see when they are in worship, she said.
The camp brings in artists to work with children and takes campers on field trips to other churches. They learn through visual art, food, music, theater and other aspects of liturgical art.
Sarjeant said Arant is known for interspersing teaching along with her musical direction, often pausing to tell the choir more about a composer or a song as they are learning it.
She’ll be remembered, Sarjeant said, for a wonderful sense of humor and being a fierce defender of the tradition of music.
The church honored Arant with a reception and a scrapbook of letters she said is “a wonderful gift to carry through the rest of my life.”
Arant said she has no plans to take another organ position right now even though she’s been approached about several interim jobs. She does not have an organ at home, but she’s thinking about buying a digital one.
“I’d love to pour another cup of coffee while I have my pajamas on and roll over to the organ and play a new piece,” she said.
In her retirement, she said she plans to enjoy spending time in the house she and her husband, John, built in Rock Hill 26 years ago and regularly visit her grandchildren – who include a set of 2-year-old triplets – in Clinton, S.C.
Her son lives in Germany, so Arant also plans to brush up on her German, and she and her husband will travel to England this summer to visit places her grandfather, who grew up there, described in his journal.
On Sunday mornings, for now, she won’t be at church.
“I’m going to stay home and read the paper,” she said. “Just to find out what life is like if you don’t have to get up every Sunday and (play the organ).”