News

Ian Madge hits 40-year milestone at Simcoe church

By Susan Gamble, Brantford Expositor

Ian Madge is celebrating 40 years as organist at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Simcoe. Brian Thompson/Postmedia News

Ian Madge is celebrating 40 years as organist at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Simcoe. Brian Thompson/Postmedia News

SIMCOE  - 

Ian Madge has the music in him but it comes out very differently, depending on whether it’s Saturday night or Sunday morning.

The organist can rock out to Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild at the Norfolk Tavern on Saturday night and then Sunday morning hit the power and pageantry of Zadok the Priest, a coronation anthem by Handel.

“I get a buzz from both kinds of music,” says Madge, 66.

“If things go well in either forum, it’s very rewarding. I guess I don’t live for the crowd but the music.”

Madge came into the world of sound and song naturally. When he was a kid, his dad owned Madge Radio and Electric in Simcoe and he cut his teeth on learning about everything in the place.

“It was like a candy store for me.”

At 12, he got his first gig, playing at the roller rink, and then began playing with The Federation, a classic rock group formed around 1968 that was a house band and opened for touring groups like the Guess Who and the Five Man Electrical Band.

“I played a big electronic home organ that we used to haul around.”

He picked up the clarinet and tuba during his school years and, after a year of majoring in the pipe organ at Western University, he moved into sound recording, which remains a passion today.

“I’ve got a full recording studio in my basement with all the equipment.”

After training under organist Angus McLeod, the master began sending young Madge out as a fill-in organist at area churches.

He covered at St. Paul’s Presbyterian on Lot Street for two weeks and the church felt in tune with the young man, so he was invited to take over from the retiring organist.

That was 40 years ago.

At St. Paul’s, Madge controls the pipe organ, with its 1,100 to 1,300 pipes and directs the choir, as well.

“I love the camaraderie we have. Some of the anthems are more difficult than others and often, during a practice, some of them will say ‘I don’t know if we can do this’ but then on Sunday, we do.”

He also loves the challenge of working to coordinate the music with the minister’s message and the theme of the service.

“If I can tie everything in, that’s a big plus for me.”

Through the years, he’s navigated the changes in worship music with aplomb, saying he goes “with the flow” and doesn’t get upset or angry about things.

“I’m easy-going. I keep up with what’s current but there are a lot of traditions in this church that people want to maintain. Each minister usually has a good grasp of the music and chooses the hymns and then I try to work in the music to match them.”

A step-father of two, Madge is also hugely involved in the musical community, offering his musical and sound knowledge to service groups and Simcoe Little Theatre for almost as many years as he’s been a church organist.

On Sunday, Nov. 5, St. Paul’s and Madge will celebrate his anniversary and a long and pleasant partnership by pulling out all the musical stops.

There will be some classical works and guitar-duet pieces, music such as Cavatina and Let the Bright Seraphims, and the service with end with the pomp of Zadok the Priest.

“It’s going to be musically challenging,” Madge promises.

— Brantford Expositor

SGamble@postmedia.com