Organist honored for five decades of liturgical music-making

  • Written by Brian LeBlanc
  • Published in Local
Longtime church organist Lois Hanson was honored recently by her parish at a special recital featuring performances with Joseph Adam, the organist from St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Photo: Larry Hanson Longtime church organist Lois Hanson was honored recently by her parish at a special recital featuring performances with Joseph Adam, the organist from St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Photo: Larry Hanson

FEDERAL WAY – Lois Hanson says she has the best seat in the house.

For nearly 50 years, Hanson has been principal organist at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way. “When people join in song along with the organ, I’m helping us all to pray together and give God glory,” she said.

Hanson was honored for her half-century of liturgical music contributions to the parish with a Sept. 27 organ recital and reception at the church.

“Lois has a great talent in music, a keen sense of liturgy, and a wonderful, positive way with people of all ages,” said Father William McKee, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish.

Hanson, who has taught music for many years, joined St. Vincent de Paul Parish as principal organist for Christmas midnight Mass in 1964. “I’ve always felt called to help people sing and in the early days [after Vatican II], Catholics didn’t sing much — it was a hard thing to do, especially coming into the vernacular from Latin,” she said.

According to Father McKee, Hanson’s efforts and encouragement played a key role in St. Vincent’s becoming known as “the singing parish.”

Lois HansonLois Hanson has been playing the organ at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way for nearly 50 years. Photo: Larry Hanson


Besides playing organ, Hanson was the parish’s music ministry director for 34 years. Although she stepped down from that role in July, Hanson will continue as principal organist and director of the parish children’s choir.

Nan Merlich, the parish’s pastoral assistant for music and liturgy, said Hanson “has been an amazing mentor for me” and is “a pillar in the community.”

Hanson’s life has been filled with music. She began playing the piano at age 6 and took up the organ as a teenager. Her late husband, Lee Hanson, was a cantor, and all four of their children are musicians.

“I love the organ because of all of the creative things you can do with the sound,” Hanson said. “Even simple things can be beautiful.”

During the recital in her honor, Hanson performed organ pieces along with Joseph Adam, the organist from St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Adam, who performs regularly with the Seattle Symphony, has been a teacher and mentor for Hanson.

Among the church’s liturgical celebrations, Hanson said she most enjoys playing music for the Easter Vigil. “It’s very long, but it’s very dramatic and has so many opportunities for so many different kinds of music in it,” she said. “It’s the story of our salvation, and it crowns the whole year.”
 

Hanson said she is grateful for the support of her pastors and parish community during the past 50 years. “When I look back, I’ve had an opportunity that most people haven’t been in on,” she said. “It’s been an amazing blessing.”