Demario Roach became a full-time organist after he fell in love with the instrument. (Picture by Ricardo Leacock.)
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If you ever visit All Saints Anglican Church in Pleasant Hall, St Peter, for a Sunday morning service, one of the things you will notice is the youthfulness of the organist and his obvious passion for job engagement.
Like the priest, organist Demario Roach is much sought after. Choir members seek him out; and church members, old and young, jostle to engage him at the organ directly after service or in the aisles as he is leaving.
And Roach makes time for all of them as he moves through the church like a breath of fresh air. This is one of the reasons the young organist is so hugely popular.
In addition, at 22, he still says “yes, please”, is charming and well-spoken and his warm personality draws one in. Watching him at the organ, one can get carried away in his obvious pleasure.
Roach’s involvement in music and church are intertwined. For him, churchgoing is also a family tradition.
“I was interested in music from the time I was in primary school. I started out on the drums and I was also in the choir at the Ignatius Byer Primary School [in St Lucy] under the guidance of Mr Hugh Griffith. When I transitioned over to secondary school [Frederick Smith], I started to play the saxophone and keyboard under the guidance of Andre Ford, Mark Husbands and Shawn Holder.”
With regard to church, his great grandmother, grandmother, mother and sister are members, so attendance every Sunday was a given.
“From birth I was involved in Sunday school at St Philip-The-Less [Anglican Church in Boscobel]. As a Sunday school, we would minister to a lot of other churches and there was one occasion when we went to St Clements [in St Lucy] and we took along two buckets and sticks as makeshift drums,” he said.
Roach became a member of the servers at St Philip-The-Less and later assistant organist there until his move to All Saints last year.
He began to play the organ while at St Philip-The-Less after being approached by Rev. Davidson Bowen, who asked whether he would be interested. He and two others were sent to Julian Bowen, tutor/organist at St Peter’s Parish Church, and he received a scholarship through the church. He is preparing for the Service Playing Certificate under Bowen’s tutelage.
Roach decided to become a full-time organist because he “fell in love with the instrument, hearing the hymns and chants being sung and chanted”. Meeting and interacting with other organists and encouragement from members of the church were also key factors.
The young organist’s involvement with Sunday school teachers at St Philip-The-Less led to his further interest in youth work, and he is now the president of the St Peter Youth Council.
“There is a large youth group at the St Philip-The-Less. There is a group of Sunday school teachers who seem to never get tired. They ensure that the youth participate in the youth choir, Sunday school and worship in general.”
The youth department there plans the main events. A jazz concert was conceptualised by Roach and Meagan Foster, another young organist.
“We try to get the youth of the church involved in a lot of things to help to keep them focused. We want them to feel as if they belong to the church. We also have a youth night, which is called Block Church, where we invite not only the youth of the church but other young people in the community, and we hold discussions, we play games, we even talk about the Bible.
“We also lead worship every first Sunday and the whole month of August, so we try to get them in love with everything,” he said.
Roach puts much effort into youth work because of what he sees as some of the challenges younger people face. These include not being understood or always being judged by older people; not taking their education seriously; difficulty finding a job; and some older people believing that youth were to be seen and not heard.
His immediate plans include applying to the Barbados Community College to study for an associate degree in music. In the long term, he wants to become a professional musician and accountant. (KG)