Music has been a part of Romney King’s life for almost 90 years. And he continues making music as a church organist at the Lilydale church. Born in Warburton, Victoria, he turned 98 in October 2022. His father was an editor at Signs Publishing, and his mother and sister were accomplished violinists.

At the age of nine, he began taking piano lessons with a woman who lived in the area, and then with an older woman who couldn’t play the piano because her hands were “crippled up,” he says. While at school, he reached the AMusA level.

During the Second World War, he served as a signalman in the air force. After the war, he continued his music study with four years at university. Piano was his “chief study,” and organ as a “second practical study.” Later, he added clarinet.

His university teacher, Raymond Lambert, from Belgium was, in his words, “a very good teacher.” Lambert and others “helped with the technical strictness needed to be a good musician,” he says.

He taught individual students, but also taught piano and organ, and theory at Avondale College for four years. On returning to Melbourne, he taught music in the Victorian Education Department for 28 years while continuing to teach individuals at home.

On church music, “I started being an organist at Warburton church at the age of 12.” From the age of 16, he was also playing for weddings, funerals, and concerts.

He looks back with fondness to the times when people sang from hymnbooks with words and music that guided people to sing the various parts. In that sense, he says putting the words up on the screen is a “disaster because everyone only sings in unison.”

He enjoys playing: “I still practice at home.” He visited a violinist a few months back and they spent two-and-a-half hours playing together. They then played music together at Nunawading’s AdventCare, and plan to do it again.

“I enjoy leading out with the organ. The organ has a sound that is reverent. Piano is good, but the organ has a sustained sound.”

He explains: “With the piano, as soon as you hit the note, it dies. You can hold the sound with an organ. And you have the voices of other instruments as well.”

Will he ever stop? “No, as long as my fingers keep going, I’ll keep playing.”


Bruce Manners