Lenda Sherrell is a native of Sparta, TN, the home to Lester Flatt of the legendary Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. She attended school with Flatt’s daughter and listened to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights with her father. Having sung in the choir at the First Baptist Church of Sparta, she knew by heart many of the favorite “old time” hymns.
At age nine, her classical piano teacher, Catherine Thom, introduced her to Bach. She was smitten. “Bach’s mathematical way of composing clicked with me,” said Sherrell, who continued her musical studies at Middle Tennessee State University while also earning a degree in business administration. She often returned home on weekends and played the organ at her church.
“It was the first time the congregation had heard Bach,” observed Sherrell, who in the years since has enriched worship services with her music at churches from Memphis to Montana.
She continues that legacy next month, with an organ recital of sacred and secular music to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of Christ Church in Tracy City, TN. The public is invited to the celebration event, which will be held on September 8th at 530 10th Street, Tracy City. Festivities kick off at 9 a.m. There is no admission charge.
“On the Rock”, a gospel group from nearby Gruetli-Laager, will perform outside that morning at 11 a.m., followed at 1 p.m. by “Bazzania”, an all-girl band with a unique Americana sound based out of Sewanee, TN. Barbecue will be served between the two performances. Sherrell’s organ recital begins at 2 p.m.
The organist is the former comptroller at McCallie, a prep school for boys in Chattanooga. Married to her high school sweetheart, obstetrician and Christ Church senior warden Jim Sherrell, they have two adult children and four grandchildren. Both are now retired and live on Monteagle Mountain.
The Sherrells have visited all 50 states and hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail. They have attended bluegrass festivals from Idaho to Virginia and many places in between. While traveling in Europe, they visited Germany where she played on many of the organs in the churches where Bach lived and worked. “That was a thrill,” remarks Lenda.
Sherrell follows in the footsteps of Albert Bonholzer, Christ Church’s organist from 1950 to 1986. While studying at the University of the South, he too visited churches in Europe and played their pipe organs. He was the first bell master, or carillonneur, at All Saints Chapel in Sewanee.
Installed in 1949, the hand-crafted pipe organ at Christ Church was built by M.P. Moller of Hagerstown, MD. Although some parts have been restored, the organ today sounds much as it did when it was installed, according to William H. Barger, whose company, Barger & Nix Organs, of McDonald, TN., services the organ.
For more information, visit the church’s website at www.christ-church-tc.org.