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Religion & Culture | Karl Fuller: 'The Organ Man' - A passion for music drives the host of RJR's 'Great Christian Hymns of Our Time'

Published:Thursday | August 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Karl Fuller enjoying the classic J.W. Walker & Sons pipe organ at the St Ann Parish Church.
Custos of St Ann Norma Walters (left) in talks with Karl Fuller (centre), and JN Bank director Jennifer Martin, at the launch of JN Bank in Ocho Rios last February.

"It is generally older people who are going to church who truly appreciate the music," Karl Fuller, the organist at St Ann Parish Church, noted sadly.

A successful businessman and public servant in St Ann, Fuller has been inspired by music throughout his life. This, along with his dedication to the church, moulded him to become one of the country's leading hymnologists and choir directors.

"I was homeschooled by my mother, and one of the things she taught me was music, which became the great passion of my life," said Fuller, whose father, Percival, was posted in several parishes while he served in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

His mother, Eleanor, gave up her career as a teacher to ensure that Karl, his brother, and their four sisters had a solid home life, as they followed their father around the country.

"She was a giant," Fuller said of his mother, who had the greatest influence on his life. "I am what I am today because of her."

His mother instilled Christian values in her children, along with the love of music. At the time, he said, "We attended whatever church was nearest, and we were at church every Sunday."




The young Fuller gained entrance to the exclusive Munro College, where its Anglican influence would shape his religious identity. After Munro, he moved to Kingston to work as a legal clerk, at the Manton & Hart firm of solicitors in 1953.

This was the ideal preparation for him to move to the Legal Department at the Kaiser Jamaica Bauxite Company, which was developing its operations in Jamaica.

The move from Kingston to St Ann in 1958 would take him to what would become his spiritual home at the St Ann Parish Church.

With its massive cut-stone walls, the 19th-century church had been recently outfitted with a pipe organ from English specialists, J.W. Walker & Sons.

"The nicest thing I can do in life is to play an organ," he said. Fuller was soon established as the church organist and took over the direction of its choir.

Settling down spiritually was accompanied by professional success. From his role in the Kaiser legal department, he was promoted into the bauxite producer's personnel department, of which he would ultimately become manager.

It was during this period that he became a member of the St Ann Benefit Building Society, which in 1970 would be incorporated into the rapidly expanding Jamaica National Building Society.

"I was brought up to be financially aware," he said. His professional background, combined with the recognition of the value of thrift, was the basis of a relationship with Dr Lenworth Jacobs, chairman of St Ann Benefit, along with its secretary, Lawrence Barnes.

"It was challenging in the early 1970s when I was building my first house," he revealed. "Jamaica National provided part of the financing."

This was also when he married Joy, now his partner for 45 years. He subsequently spent almost two decades at Kaiser as property and land transactions manager, and getting his BSc and MBA from Nova University, Florida, before retiring in 1994 to start his own business, Excelsior Realty Company in St Ann's Bay.

That change gave him the flexibility to indulge in his passion for music.

"I have been a church organist for 55 years at the St Ann Parish Church," said Fuller, who also plays at other churches on invitation.

"It is sad that so many churches have instruments and don't have someone to play them," said Fuller revealed. "The number of people who are able and willing to play the organ in church is decreasing."

He not only plays the organ at the St Ann Parish Church, but also directs its choir. And, it was based on this work with the choir that he was invited to host the weekly RJR programme 'Great Christian Hymns of Our Time', which provides insights into the origins of well-known hymns.




He also served as a member of the team responsible for the 2010 publication of the new Anglican Hymnal used in the churches in the Province of the West Indies, and last year was one of the 10 inductees into the musical Hall of Fame recently established by Jamaica's Diocesan Festival Choir, in recognition of his contributions in choral and sacred music presentations.

The founder and conductor of the St Ann's Bay Singers, Fuller received the Bronze Musgrave Medal for Outstanding Service in the field of Music in 1986 and Order of Distinction (Officer Class) in 1993, along with several other distinctions.