The year was 1969. Aubrey Lindsey and his wife had recently finished college and just gotten married. They were both public school teachers in the area.
“And so you can imagine the salaries we were working with,” Aubrey Lindsey explained with a glint in his eye and a smile. “We were just starting out with two school teacher salaries,” he said.
Lindsey had played piano at Chester Presbyterian Church in high school and they asked him to come and help out and fill-in for a while. He was looking around for extra income. “I decided I needed some extra income so I said sure,” he added. And the rest is pretty much history — a very long history just shy of 45 years serving the music interests of Chester Presbyterian Church.
He came as a fill-in organist and quickly moved into a permanent role as the organist, and within one year he had expanded that role. He became the choir director after the first year and took on both roles at some point until he became the music director for the church, leading the music ministry for Chester Presbyterian Church (www.chesterpres.org).
Pastor Gordon Mapes has worked with Lindsey at the church for the last few years and feels lucky to have had the opportunity. “I have appreciated these last two years working with him and watching him help other people develop their music,” Mapes said. He shares a story that he said is indicative of the kind of music director Lindsey has been. “I can remember a time when he has had Thomas Dale music classes on the pulpit teaching and sharing the gift of music at the organ.” Mapes feels Lindsey has been such an incredible music director and friend.
After joining the church as music director, Lindsey became Principal Lindsey in the Chester area. He was principal of Carver Middle School in the ‘70s, and Lloyd C. Bird High School in the ‘80s, and Thomas Dale High School in the ‘90s. He was the first principal of Bird High School. “I opened the doors for the first time at Bird,” he recounted.
He went on to work in central office for Chesterfield County Schools and retired around 2007. So, he was very active in the community of Chester on the education, religious, and music fronts. “I couldn’t give up on the music,” he said. “It was too much a part of my life.” You see, Lindsey was raised in a musical family and had an aunt that taught music in Richmond, but was from Chester, and influenced him greatly.
As music director he said he has seen a lot change. He said the music program has grown and changed over time. “Thirty years ago we tried to do some music at this church that was somewhat equal to contemporary music,” he said. “Our parishioners said NO, that they wanted the quality and traditional religious music.” He said he’s seen a few major changes in the church while serving as the music director. “At one time we had an adult choir, three hand bell choirs, a children’s choir and a youth choir,” he shared.
“Now we have only an adult choir and one hand bell choir.” He credits the economy for some of the changes.
He’s seen the music program at the church change and evolve. “The biggest thing I’ve seen is the growth of the church over this time and the change to the music program has been to grow in numbers…and in quality,” Lindsey explained. Just in the last few years the church began the Arts Series in the spring. He said his boss, Pastor Mapes, asked if he’d be willing to take the Arts Series on. He said, “When Pastor Mapes suggested the Artists Series I said ‘why not?’”
Along the way, in between his many jobs and commitments, Lindsey and his wife managed to raise two children and have three grandchildren and a fourth soon to arrive. He thanks his wife for all the hard work. “My wife Helen supported our children,” he added. “She did a good job raising them because I was always here or at the school.”
When Lindsey started out with the much smaller church they had a little pipe organ. After growth and movement and additions to the church, he’s seen several organs come and go. In December 2002, the church installed a new 31-rank pipe organ manufactured by the A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company. Some of the resources from the previous 10-rank organ were revoiced and used in the construction of the new organ. That organ was recently valued at $1 million to insure so it performs with clear warm sounds and great versatility.
Sandra Walker, a choir member for 22 years has worked under Lindsey’s direction. She said, “In order to get perfection you must expect perfection and he asked no more than he’s willing to give.”
A parishioner at the celebration of Lindsey’s retirement said, “I’m sad that Aubrey is leaving but the great show couldn’t go on forever; he did all he could do.” Many said he was a hard taskmaster. He strived for quality in the music program. The music performed at the church Lindsey said is “a mixture of 35 percent historical and 65 percent modern.” Lindsey is also an ordained elder in the church and he has been a proud taskmaster. “He is very talented in so many various fields of music from classical to traditional and a bit of the western genre,” explained Walker. “He is very well-respected in the religious music community even internationally.”
He himself put it succinctly at the arts series presentation of organ music by Michael Simpson and his retirement. “Quality music is part of an inspirational worship,” Lindsey recounted. “High-quality music reaches us, touches our souls.”
Pastor Mapes echoed those thoughts. “Mr. Lindsey has shared his commitment to quality worship music and his length of service signifies a pretty special bond and the work will be to continue that legacy.” Mapes believes a person’s legacy is more than silver and gold and Lindsay “has been worth way more than silver and gold to us through his helping other people share the love of music.”
About his future plans, Lindsey said he is looking forward to time on the golf course and has no immediate plans to take on anything more. He does some consulting with a group in Georgia called the Southern Regional Education Board. He said, “We plan to stay right here in Chester; there are a lot of golf balls left to be hit.” He added that he and his wife want to visit churches in Richmond and check out these large music programs. He just can’t seem to retire from the music!