When Tim Wilborn came to First Presbyterian Church 14 years ago, we immediately noticed a difference from any organists that had preceded him. We marveled at his seamless transition from the offertory to the response that followed, a crescendo informing choir and congregation of its time to stand as he modulated from key to key with perfect control of the organ.
He also loves creative introductions to hymns. We’ve heard delicate things like bird calls for “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” a bagpipe sound for “Amazing Grace” and countless other imaginative and tasteful introductions, before a line or two of solid sound to cue singers.
Tim does not overdo this, his goal being to enhance and add interest to the service. But he has amazing skill when something special is needed — for example, an earthquake during our choir’s presentation on Good Friday. We heard a low rumble, a crescendo of fast scale passages and tremendous blasts of powerful dissonance gradually fading again, all within about a minute.
In playing for the public, it’s no-holds-barred as Tim creatively presents a wide range of classical and popular music. In one of the first concerts, he appeared in mask and black cape to do “Phantom of the Opera.” Always he looked for something new, rarely repeating a piece unless it was a particular favorite. A special plus is that he has always involved the youth and children. “We’re one generation away from death,” he says.
Hearing of a theater organ for sale in Spokane, Washington, Tim flew there in mid-winter, to buy and bring it back over snowy mountain roads in a rented U-Haul! Having some acquaintance with such roads, I was horrified! He did admit he was praying all the way. Later, that organ figured in a concert involving two pianos and two organs. We saw how much fun and skill he brought to playing theater organ style as he had with huge organs in large cities.
Tim rarely talks about the past, always moving forward, but he once wrote a reminiscence of communion services that meant a lot to him, from Mo-Ranch as a youth to many places over a lifetime: youth conference at Trinity University, San Antonio in the 1970s; Princeton’s Westminster Choir College; Washington Cathedral; a backyard in Houston; a Broadway stage after “Godspell”; Nova Scotia; Christ Church, Oxford; Full Gospel Church (world’s largest congregation) in Seoul, Korea; Valley Forge camp site, Pennsylvania; and with his mother at Hill Top Village, Kerrville. Tim devotedly cared for her here after his stepfather passed away. He said, “All times and places included God’s presence. Isn’t that miraculous?”
Every year since his arrival on the 4th of July, Tim has presented patriotic music in church or as a concert. He also was quickly involved in playing or directing musicals at the Point Theater and playing with the Symphony of the Hills. “Kerrville has an amazing community of music lovers,” he says, “for example, world-renowned artists performing at the Cailloux Theater.”
Tim’s description of his tenure at First Presbyterian Church is “a miracle of longevity working with four different choir directors. A source of inspiration has been the tremendous quality and dedication of the adult choir. I am also greatly indebted to office and ministerial staff for trusting me to go outside-the-box with performances.”
Tim has also directed handbell choirs for children and adults. Everywhere he has been a whole-hearted part of the camaraderie and fun of these choirs and has included members in his concerts. He has also given lessons and supported the very talented young musicians of our church by accompanying them in their UIL and other performances.
Austin has attracted Tim’s interest as it has become a center of technical innovation similar to Silicon Valley. He has already dabbled in its innovative landscape of the arts melded with technology, for example exploring ways to blend sound and sight together for an exceptional concert experience. Tim will be greatly missed at First Presbyterian Church and in the community. I shall miss tremendously one of the best experiences of my musical life, the privilege of playing piano-organ duets with Tim. We will do our last one as a prelude at our 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. services next Sunday, May 19. You are welcome to attend.
Verna, who lives in Kerrville, worked for the U.S. Foreign Service, which took her across the globe, including to Argentina, Taiwan and Chile.