Orien Johnson


My first awareness of music was B.C. - Beethoven and Chopin played by an accomplished pianist, my Mother, a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory.

She tried to teach me piano, but I flunked, so Dad bought me a cornet. I soon was playing first chair in the local city band.

Graduated from Wheaton College (music major) and stayed on as Band Director and trumpet instructor. One of my students was a tall, lanky southerner named Billy Graham. He was a poor trumpet player, but I understood he had other talents.

Formed a Brass Choir and found I had to write arrangements for it. We concertized throughout the Western U.S.

Met lovely Lillian. We got married in l935. She played the piano for me and we won a Major Bowes contest with my arrangement of the Carnival of Venice.

In Seattle I became Youth Minister at First Presbyterian Church and was song leader and soloist. Also wrote musical dramas for the radio station the church owned.

Wrote arrangements for vocal and instrumental ensembles for a weekly radio broadcast on KOMO.

Played my triple-tongue version of Onward Christian Soldiers for a Singalong in the capitol building in Olympia, Washington, attended by President Truman. He told me, "you have a good lip".

Edited a Young Life song book and wrote numerous choruses for the book used at the summer camps.

Met Fred Bock who told me if he published my songs that thousands of people would be singing them all over the country. I saw some of them in a Japanese song book once, and recently heard one being sung by a group in Tailand in a CBS documentary.

I directed choirs in five or six churches, including First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs.

I met Lois Bock via e-mail and she encouraged me to write more songs. By now I was a VIP (visually Impaired person), but thanks to a closed circuit TV Magnisight device I am able to write music.

Then I met Joe Spaniola, a brilliant young musician who composes and arranges music for the Air Force Band of the Rockies. I send Joe the lyrics and melodies of new songs and he does the harmonizing and accompaniments.

My legs refuse to take me to the sumit of some of Colorado's fouteen thousand feet mountains as they once did, and since the Department of Motor Vehicles won't let me drive a car, I let my chauffeur, whom I call "Honey" drive for me, and when I want to travel I listen to Talking Books and learn about Indonesia, China, Tibet, the Congo, or wherever capable writers take me.

Speaking of writing, which I just did, I love to do creative writing. Had two Christian Leadership books published and six humor books, and I had fun writing a weekly humor newspaper column. Most of these writings are out of print now, and I'd better sign off now before I run out of print. -Orien, the Octogenarian.

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