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Organ recipient to give organ concert / August 15, 2013
There are certain pivotal moments in people’s lives that change them forever: a marriage, a death, a new baby, or a realization about oneself. In the case of Bob Davis, organist at First Baptist Church in South Boston, it was an organ donation. And it’s not the donation of a beautiful musical instrument typically heard in a church sanctuary, but the donation of a human organ.

Davis was the recipient of a liver ten years ago on Aug. 16, 2003. The donor was a young man named Brenton, a man only 21 years old, who was killed in a car accident. Yet his family made the decision to donate several of his organs, including his heart, his kidneys, and his liver. And because of their generous decision in a most difficult time, Davis was able to continue his life.

To honor the memory of Brenton, as well as to celebrate his own life, Davis will be using a different ‘organ’ this coming Sunday at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church on North Main Street in South Boston. Davis will be giving an organ concert, including several well-known classical pieces and some well-known hymn variations. The concert is free and open to the public.

The First Baptist organ is a 38 rank Estes organ, originally built in 1924 but renovated and augmented several times since then. The latest edition to the organ is a midi, which gave it over 100 additional voices. The organ, like Davis, is a survivor. The church had a major fire in 1934, but the organ survived that fire.

Davis, a lifelong resident of Roxboro, N.C., has been organist at First Baptist for the past 17 ½ years. His wife, Susan, is the minister of music at the church, and they have two grown daughters, 20 year old Emily and 19 year old Erin, both college students.

Yet when Emily and Erin were young girls, Davis had to explain to them that he might not be there to see them grow up. He had made his own funeral plans. He had already been on a waiting list for 18 months but was told it might be two more years before a liver became available. Yet Davis also knew that he might not live two more years. And then the fateful call came that changed his life.

Davis was actually third on the list of people to receive the liver, but the first two on the list ended up not being perfect candidates. The match wasn’t good enough for the first, and the next person on the list was too sick to receive it. Davis was a perfect match, and he had a quick recovery for organ transplants.

Davis said his skin had become so yellowed that when his wife first saw him after surgery, his face seemed so red that she was worried that he was running a high fever, yet the doctor explained that his color had come back that quickly. It had just been too long since she had seen him with a healthy flush.

Currently there are over 119,000 people on the waiting list to receive an organ, and there have been a little over 11,500 transplants done this year so far from about 5,600 donors. Each day approximately 77 people receive organ transplants, yet about 18 people die daily because there are not enough donors. There will be a table in the church lobby giving information about organ donations and how to become a donor.

Davis was one of the fortunate ones, and it is with this sense of gratitude that he decided to use his gift of music to honor the man who made his “new life” possible. The first selection in the recital is an improvisation by Davis on two well-known hymns: “Praise to the Lord” and the “Old 100th,” better known as the Doxology.

Other familiar selections are Stanley’s “Trumpet Voluntary,” “Londonderry Air,” (“Danny Boy”), and Bach’s “Toccata in D Minor,” which many people know as the “Phantom of the Opera” music.

One special arrangement of a hymn Davis will play is a variation of “It Is Well with My Soul,” Davis’ favorite hymn. Many people are familiar with the tragic story behind that hymn, written by Horatio Spafford who had just lost all four of his daughters in a ship’s accident in 1873. That man’s strength in spite of horrible loss stands as a testimony to his faith. David said he also wanted this song to show the importance of family versus material possessions.

Davis said he has questioned, “Why me?” Why was he so fortunate when others have not been as lucky? It makes him appreciate his life, his family, his gift of music, and his faith. Davis says, “I’ve been blessed.”

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