As the old saying goes, “It’s not truly a party until someone breaks out the accordion.”
Community members are invited to party to the rhythm of David Locke’s accordion, which will fill the nave of the First United Methodist Church in Oak Harbor with Christmas music at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1.
Locke, who lives in Langley, has 71 years of experience with the proverbial squeezebox, which he began playing when he was 9 years old and he fell in love with its sound that could be funny, but also solemn. Even as the rise of rock ‘n roll made the accordion seem uncool and comical, his loyalty to the instrument has only grown stronger over the years, just like his indifference to the “cruel jokes” people would make about it.
He recalled a woman who approached him after he played the accordion at a friend’s celebration of life to tell him that, to her great surprise, he had made her realize the accordion could be a beautiful and touching instrument.
For most of his life, the 80-year-old Minnesota native has been sharing the joys of church music, making some people feel closer to God. To Locke, who has a bachelor’s degree in church music, the act of playing music is a spiritual experience in itself, and conveys his spirituality better than the spoken word ever could, especially through the organ and the accordion.
The accordion, he said, can also elicit feelings of hilarity and nostalgia in his audience. He found this to be particularly true with people suffering from dementia, for whom he has played many times.
One of these people was an elderly woman who lived in Santa Barbara and had grown aloof as her mind deteriorated. Every week until she passed away, Locke would play the organ for her, which he said would bring her back to life. To this day, he plays for dementia patients at the Memory Cafe Oak Harbor chapter, helping them reconnect with their memories.
These experiences have deeply touched him and also convinced him of the power of music on the brain, even those that do not suffer from memory-related conditions, as it brings back memories from simpler times.
“I think it just helps people remember their past and their childhood,” he said. “It gives me a reason for being here.”
On Friday, anyone can take a seat and enjoy an hour of holiday tunes, some of which are from France, Scandinavia and Brazil. At this informal event, Locke said, guests will also have the opportunity to make song requests and sing along if they “want to warm up their voices on some Christmas carols,” as he said.