A Noble Effort

A Noble Effort A host of activities scheduled Oct. 8-10 in Vermillion will honor Jack Noble for his 60 years of music ministry in Vermillion. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Dickenson) by Erin Oliver It's only fitting that a Vermillion man's musical contributions to his church and community will include a joining of voices in a choir named after him.

The perfomance of the Noble Choir is just one of a host of activities scheduled in Vermillion Oct. 8-10, as the community and the United Church of Christ, Congregational celebrate Jack Noble's music ministry here.

Noble spent over 60 years as the choir director at the UCC-C Church in Vermillion before retiring in July 2004.

And at Noble's retirement ceremony Oct. 8-10, the music he has played for so many years will echo back from friends, family, colleagues and individuals whom he inspired.

A musical beginning

Noble, born Nov. 4, 1922 in Longmont, CO to Leo and Lois Noble, grew up in a musical family. A broad range of instruments, from violin to piano to organ, have filled his years. He even studied music in seminary, receiving his masters degree in sacred music.

His mother, whom Noble calls "a fine singer," and father had five children.

One of the children, Bruce, died at 21 months.

The rest of the children played instruments including the violin, piano, organ, bassoon and trombone. Noble's father, who spent most of his career as a reserve officer for the Civilian Conservation Corps, taught his children how to play the violin, though he wasn't able to play it himself.

Piano was Noble's instrument of choice in high school. Though he was determined to study piano in college, Noble was persuaded by his roommate to switch his studies to organ during his junior year. A heart murmur kept Noble in school during military action, and he graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1944 with a B.A. in music performance at the age of 21.

Family and career

In the fall of 1944, Noble accepted a position at USD, teaching organ, piano and music theory.

Noble soon became the minister of music of First Congregational Church in Vermillion. He lived with his voice professor and took meals at a boarding house on Forest Avenue.

Noble married Phyllis Hauptman, whom he met through his sister, on Christmas of 1947 at the Warren Methodist Church in Denver. The two took up residence in a portion of Vermillion's Austin Whittemore House.

The couple spent 1948-1949 in New York while Noble earned his master's degree in Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary.

The couple moved back to Vermillion and raised six children: Bruce, David, Jane, Kris, Paul and Ruth.

After surviving pioneering heart surgery to replace a valve defective since his childhood, Noble returned to Union Theological Seminary in 1959 for additional studies under a Danforth teaching grant. He commuted to school in New York, and his family spent the year in New Jersey.

In 1962, the Nobles bought their current residence, located in a historic district of Vermillion, from the Richardsons, becoming the second family to live in the house.

"It's a perfect location," Noble said. "One block from the university and two blocks from the church."

Never a dull moment

Throughout Noble's career in Vermillion the minister and teacher has remained active, serving two sabbaticals in London, traveling the U.S., serving on USD's building committee, raising funds for the organ in USD's Colton Recital Hall and serving as UCCC's choir director for 38 years.

During Noble's time at

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UCCC, the Christmas Carol Service became a hallmark event of the year, with the first service being held in 1949. The end of choir season was always marked by a picnic in the Noble's backyard, where homemade ice cream was served by the couple.

In 1950, Noble started the Crusader Choir for fourth- through sixth-grade children and the Carol Choir for second- and third-graders in 1964. One of Noble's young students was Shawn Colvin, who won two Grammy Awards in 1998 for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

The Noble Organ Scholarship Fund was established in 1982 to encourage promising organists.

In 1984 Noble relinquished his duties as choir director after undergoing surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma, leaving him deaf in one ear and with difficulty enunciating.

Noble retired from his teaching position at USD in 1988 after 44 years of service and was accorded emeritus status. He continued to be active in private instruction, performance and practicing.

The largest church organ in Vermillion, located at UCCC, was christened the "Jack L. Noble Organ" on the anniversary of his 50th year of service to the church.

Noble sings in the Double Eagle Choir, and has accompanied singing at Rotary meetings for "more years than anyone can remember," according to a biography of Noble written by fellow church member Sandy Dickinson.

And in July 2004, Noble resigned from his position at the church after more than 60 years of service.

Ruvinoff and his violin

You can't teach, raise a family and make music for over a half-century without some interesting experiences.

Take Ruvinoff and his violin, for example.

Ruvinoff, Noble said, was a secular artist who, many years ago, wanted to perform at the UCCC Church.

Noble was dubious. The pastor allowed Ruvinoff to perform, however, the man couldn't play hymns because he couldn't sight read music, Noble said.

Noble figures Ruvinoff was simply trying to drum up publicity for himself, but thinks the plan may have backfired.

Well traveled, not

planning to move

Noble and his family have traveled extensively over the years, visiting relatives in the U.S. and taking two sabbaticals in England.

With his wife and three young kids in tow, Noble toured many cathedrals during his first year of sabbatical in England.

"We'd spend whole days in cathedrals," Noble said. "We'd hear wonderful music."

On his second sabbatical, this time with his wife and without his kids, Noble was able to practice organ in a "little Anglican church" and sing in a men's choir.

Noble also toured Whales with Theo Wee, a USD graduate, friend, colleague and professor of music at St. Olaf College, who is scheduled to give an organ recital in honor of Noble at 4 p.m. on Oct. 9.

Noble has resided in Vermillion since 1944, with the exception of his two years in New York and two years in Europe.

While Noble has no plans to move now that he has retired, he hopes to travel and see his relatives scattered throughout the country.

"We hope to go to Alaska next summer," Noble said. "We've always wanted to go. We've been to the Canadian Rockies, seen the fall colors in New England. We travel as much as possible."

Philosophy and the future

Don't except Noble to disappear from the Vermillion scene any time soon, however.

He plans on assuming his old duties when needed, and will continue to play weddings and funerals.

Of all his life experiences, Noble says the musical aspect of his life has been the most fulfilling.

"It's been very enjoyable, playing for the church and playing piano for violin and cello recitals," Noble said.

"My objective is to love my fellow man. We have five wonderful children, whom I consider my greatest achievement, and four grandchildren. Faith is very important."

An appreciated man

Noble's years of service will be celebrated with three days of festivities in Vermillion.

On Friday, Oct. 8, a brown bag lunch, entitled "Stories of Surviving Pennsylvania-German Organs," will be held at the National Music Museum.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, a tour of keyboards at the National Music Museum will be given at 1:30 p.m. Wee will perform an organ recital at UCCC at 4 p.m. A celebration banquet will be held at the Buffalo Run Winery at 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 10 will feature a 10:30 a.m. worship service, a 1:30 p.m. rehearsal of a choir assembled just for the weekend's events, a 4 p.m. concert by the Noble Choir and a 5 p.m. reception, all located at UCCC.

Sunday's Noble Choir performance will feature the commissioned anthem In the Bulb There is a Flower by Dr. Stephen Yarbrough.

All events, organized by the church, stem from UCCC's gratitude towards Noble.

"I would say that Noble's impact in the church was enormous," said Steve Miller, UCCC's pastor. "Through his music, people were able to truly receive a rich experience of God's love and grace. He has been an excellent partner in ministry and it has been an honor for me to serve with him."

Jeanne Dahlin, choir director at UCCC, has similar feelings of Noble.

"I think he always called (the church), musically, to a high standard in terms of traditional church music and it was always challenging," said Dahlin, who came to know Noble as her choir director in 1966. "We got to perform some interesting things and because I was a music major I was looking for that as part of my spiritual experience."

Dickenson, who has known Noble for 15 years, said he influenced the lives of her children.

"It was very good for my children (to be in Jack's choir) when they were younger," Dickenson said. "It allowed them a chance to be on stage, to perform. It gave them an enormous amount of confidence. One of my daughters is now a theater major and I think it all relates back to opportunity the church gave (her) to express (herself) through music."

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