Chester Martin Remembers His Anna B. Lacey Classmate Judith Parrish Moore, Organist At Famous Spanish Mission

Monday, February 27, 2017 - by Chester Martin

Judith Parrish Moore I have known since second grade at Anna B. Lacey School in what is now called East Ridge! That was school year 1941-'42, and Judith's personality and smile served to brighten those darkest days of World War II. Our paths crossed numerous times afterwards, as we took piano lessons from the same teacher(s), and, in our teens, we shared an interest in radio - she as an entertainer, and I as an announcer.

She went on to City HS - where Annalee Huffaker was in charge of the Music Department, and I went to Kirkman Vocational HS, where Frank Huffaker (husband of Annalee) was Principal. Earlier, we had both met Mrs. Huffaker while she was still Head of the Music Department at Brainerd Junior HS. Those were the days when our City schools had a strong music program, and Judith's story clearly reflects that influence. Read how she became Music Director for the Mission of San Luis Rey, near San Diego - oldest of all those famous Spanish missions founded by Father Junipero Serra in the 1700's. The following story is in her own words...

I lived the first five years of my life in Highland Park very close to my Aunt and Uncle's house on E.14th Street between Hawthorne and Hickory streets. They had the house built in the late 1920's and promptly invited my maternal Grandparents to live with them.  I remember that house as a gathering place for many members of my extended family on my Mother's side.  When I turned six years old in February of 1941, my father started me in the 1st grade of a Lutheran school that I believe was on Hickory Street.  He was told that I would still have to complete first grade that next Fall, because there were just three months of first grade left that year..  My Sister, Diane, had been born the preceding September, and my folks bought an unfinished house on South St. Marks, right across from the playground of Anna B.Lacy School, where I was able to start as a second grader, after all!  This was probably fortuitous for me as I was already five feet and  10 inches tall when I was in 6th grade!


My folks bought an old upright piano that same year and started me on piano lessons from Mrs. Anderson who lived on the same street as us.  I took lessons from her and then "graduated" to her Mother, Mrs Peak, who lived over on South Moore Road.   I took lessons continually all through elementary and Jr. High school at Brainerd.  I don't recall what precipitated the circumstances, but when I was 13 and 14 I had a weekly 15-minute radio show on WAGC  called:" A Date With Judy".  I sang and played on piano the popular songs of that era, and my Dad insisted that I end the program with a hymn. I remember that WAGC was the first FM station in Chattanooga and that my Grandmother's brother, Los Chandler, who was a Pharmacist in a drugstore somewhere on Main Street, was the sponsor.  My Dad was the only driver in our family, so he would take me downtown every week for the program and then we would usually stop at Belvoir Drugstore, just out of the tunnel on Brainerd Road, where I got to buy a new piece or two of sheet music!  About this same time, I entered a Talent Contest held by a different radio station.  It might have been WDEF or WDOD, but Jon Robere was the Music Director there and the person holding the  

auditions.  I learned Chopin's "Minute Waltz" and went for my audition.  He was very kind.  He asked with whom I studied, and if my teacher had helped me with my piece, to which I proudly answered that I had taught it to myself!! I did not play in the talent show but Jon became my teacher and a lifelong friend.


I have to say a little about how my family's faith and church attendance influenced my career as a musician.  As a child until I was about 15 years of age, we attended the First Nazarene Church which was on the corner of Main Street and (I believe) Willow Street.  Because I could play piano and sing I was encouraged to share these gifts in Sunday School and later in the Church. When I joined Woodland Park Baptist Church as a teenager, I usually played every Sunday night in the main service. Ray Moore, my future husband, heard me in a chapel service at Tennessee Temple College where he was a Sophomore, when I was featured in one of their programs while I was still in high school.  I remember Jon Robere was my accompanist when I was a vocal soloist there.  I became organist at Ridgeview Baptist Church on Brainerd Road when I was 18 and was still there until I married and moved to Chicago.


I attended City High School and Mrs. Annalee Huffaker was a very encouraging and strict glee club and orchestra teacher.  She encouraged me to continue studying all the classics and not just  popular and church music. Since the piano was not used in every piece in orchestra, I also learned a lot about the percussion section of the orchestra , playing tympani and bells. In my junior year at City, I acquired two part-time jobs.  Mr. Robere had me help some of his beginning students with fingering, hand position and scales and one of the A.M. stations hired me to be the accompanist on Saturday afternoons for various churches who had programs and singers that might need accompanists.  One Saturday in early 1952, a minister and a group of singers and a very tall young man who played the saxophone came in the station.  They were a group called Volunteers For Christ, and the saxophonist needed an accompanist.  His name was Ray Moore and he was a Junior at Tennessee Temple College.  I accompanied him and have been doing so for the last 63 years!  


I attended Tennessee Temple College for my Freshman year as Ray finished his Senior year and graduated and then we married that Spring and moved to Chicago, where he attended Northern Baptist Seminary and I attended American Conservatory of Music.  After  school in the "Windy City" we moved to Southern California where we worked in Baptist Churches with their music programs and with their youth groups. 


An opportunity came from the Southern Baptists to start a Mission Church in a tiny little town in San Diego County in the early 1960's.  San Marcos was an unincorporated area of about 1,500 people  populated over miles of agricultural land, citrus and avocado groves and chicken ranches. We bought our first home there and our children - by then we had four - loved the fact that they could have horses, dogs, cats and lots of trails to ride and play.  After five years I went back to a local college to study pipe organ, as one had just been installed.  This led to an immediate job at an historic United Methodist Church here in town.  By now the town was incorporated  and houses were springing up everywhere.  Ray had left the ministry and was working for an Aero-Space  company as a quality assurance engineer and graphic artist. I was asked to stay on at the College as a staff accompanist and later as a teacher in the music department. I heard about an opening at one of the original, historic California Missions and auditioned for the position of organist.  I had never even attended a Catholic Mass, so I was quite intimidated by the big pipe organ and much more formal Liturgy than I was familiar with.!  I got the position and it was to change my life in so many ways!  By then I had an established piano studio where I taught up to 40 students a week.  The job at Mission San Luis Rey was very involved: eight duplicate Masses a weekend, weddings and funerals, and Holy Days of Obligation. After a few years I was asked to be the full time Music Minister. At that time the Church had six choirs and was a multi-lingual community comprised of Hispanics, Samoans, Filipinos and, of course, English speaking.


 The old historic church is the original building built over 200 years ago.  All of the other 21 Missions, including famous San Juan Capistrano, have been destroyed over time and only a few have been re'built.  Toward the end of my tenure there, a huge, new worship center seating over 1,100 people, was built and I was fortunate to help select the organ for that structure    I served there for 25 years, and kept my private music students, and the College job most of that time, as well. About five years into my tenure at Mission San Luis Rey, I met a young conductor who suggested we combine our church choirs for a performance of the Vivaldi Gloria. This performance was so successful  that we formed the San Luis Rey Chorale, which is still making music with concerts 4-6 times a year and is now comprised of over 65 voices of  many church and non-church singers.


In the  meantime, our little town grew to a population of over 90,000, the city of San Marcos bought our property along with one of the huge ranches and the State of California built a four-year university there!  California State University at San Marcos covers most of the riding trails my girls and their horses used.Our family also grew to include one more child, for a total of five terrific, now adult, human beings!


After retiring from the Old Mission, I stepped right into the same type job at a local ELCA Lutheran Church right here in San Marcos, actually only one half mile from our home.  I fell in love with the people, the Liturgy and the strong support of congregational singing of the Lutheran faith. I served there for 13 years and then returned to the Old Mission San Luis Rey as a part-time organist for two of the eight Masses they have every weekend. 


I have been so blessed in my life with love, family, dear friends, my Faith and always my music and sharing it with others.  

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