Music finally stops for 88-year-old organist


Gilbert Cicio, the retiring organist at Northwest Baptist Church, sits at the organ he helped to pic out for the church before a retirement ice cream social for Gilbert, at the churches Fellowship Hall, in Gainesville, Sunday June 30, 2013. Cicio has played organ at Northwest Baptist for the past 11 years and has played the organ for 67 years around the country from New York to Ft. Lauderdale to Gainesville.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 10:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 10:12 p.m.

Dozens doled scoops of ice cream into bowls from a parade of half-gallon containers that stretched through the center of the Fellowship Hall at Northwest Baptist Church, at 5514 NW 23rd Ave., Sunday night.

Enlarge

Gilbert Cicio, the retiring organist at Northwest Baptist Church, sits at the organ he helped to pic out for the church before a retirement ice cream social for Gilbert, at the churches Fellowship Hall, in Gainesville, Sunday June 30, 2013. Cicio has played organ at Northwest Baptist for the past 11 years and has played the organ for 67 years around the country from New York to Ft. Lauderdale to Gainesville.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer

The people gathered with their ice cream bowls to honor Gilbert Cicio, an 88-year-old New York native who played organ for the church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night for the past 10 years.

“It just kind of timed out to where we said, hey, why don’t we use this night just to set it aside and honor Gil and let people come love on him,” lead pastor Craig Canton said.

Cicio said he has played the organ since 1947, serving as the organist for a long list of temples and churches throughout his life.

Interested in organs as a kid, Cicio would take a bus from Kingston to Buffalo, N.Y., to listen to a pipe organ at a local church.

“I never figured I’d ever play, I had no idea,” he said.

Cicio dabbled in theology at Nyack College and then changed his major to music. He moved to Gainesville in January 1977.

He described playing organ as “just a thrill.”

“You just got a lot of instruments at your fingertips. You got strings, you got brass, you have percussion because of the bass and the added PR-300 that we add on there that make all kinds of different sounds. You can make sirens, you can make thunder...,” he said.

Because of some issues with vision, Cicio has decided to retire from playing for the church, but believes he will still play the piano at home.

Cicio smiled warmly as he said he hated being the center of attention at the ice cream social.

“What I do, I do for the Lord. I don’t need the praise of people,” he said.

Cicio said he feels closer to God through playing the organ, and even just listening to others play it. He said he often would come and practice at 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings.

“It draws me closer to the Lord, I really feel that. I almost tear up when I talk about it. I am the teary-up-est guy you ever knew,” he said as his eyes welled-up above a huge grin.

“He’s going to be greatly missed as an organist,” Bob Pearson, member of Northwest Baptist Church since 1973 said. “He has been a blessing to our church.”

Pearson said the church bought a new organ when Cicio served as the church’s organ player. “We spent a lot more money than we should have; it is a nice organ,” Pearson said.

The organ at Northwest Baptist is an electronic organ with three tiers of keyboards. Two sets of speakers are nestled in the corners of the sanctuary to broadcast the organ’s sound. Cicio said the new organ, which cost the church more than $60,000, could not even be compared to the smaller organ that he played previously for the church.

Friends and family were given a chance to come up and swap stories and admiration for the experienced organist.

Interim music director Lester McCullough described Cicio as a Christian gentleman who has served with graced.

“You have been more than just a musician, you have been a minister — one who cared for people. It was very obvious,” McCullough shared with the group.

Cicio stood up with arms outstretched and graced each speaker with a hug after they finished sharing.

After presenting a plaque on behalf of the church, worship pastor Chris McDonald closed his eyes, picked up a shiny, silver trumpet and played a smooth rendition of the hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, with piano accompaniment.

McDonald said he is not sure whether the church will hire another full-time organ player to take the place of Cicio.

“Whatever we do, it’s the end of the era for sure,” McDonald said.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top