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Piano key to Elizabeth's ministry in music

Piano key to Elizabeth's ministry in music

Piano key to Elizabeth's ministry in music

9 June 2020

Brisbane City Temple Corps pianist Elizabeth Brown at the keyboard at home.

By Darryl Whitecross

While the senior members of the Brisbane City Temple congregation in Queensland have been unable to attend corporate worship services because of the COVID-19 restrictions, they are still being blessed though the music of corps pianist Elizabeth Brown.

Elizabeth recorded about 25 favourite songs after having contacted several older people in the corps who she said she felt would be struggling with the self-isolation restrictions in place.

“I knew that that sense of isolation would be hitting them very hard because they are all very social and love finding out what's going on with the people in the rest of the corps,” Elizabeth said.

“I have been so fortunate over my time (at the corps) to receive such encouragement from the older generation, so, as I was still able to play, I felt I was able to give to people in a way that they could still feel connected with the corps although we couldn’t physically be together.

“I felt a bit of a loss not being able to play in the Temple. It’s a big part of my ministry. I feel blessed. I feel God blesses me when I play and I believe he blesses what I play for other people, so I felt that loss personally when we weren’t able to share in a congregational sense.”

The recordings came after Elizabeth sent an email to many older people in the corps not long after the COVID-19 social-isolation and social-distancing restrictions were put in place, letting them know she and her family were thinking about them and praying for them and asked whether they had any favourite pieces of music they would like her to record for them.

“I was quite overwhelmed by the response. I think there were about 25 songs I ended up recording in that session and that was purely all requests from the different older people in our corps,” Elizabeth said. “I'm actually going to do another round of recordings in a couple of weeks to add to that because there’s been more requests come in as time has gone by,” she said.

Colonels Don and Bernice Woodland, who have retired to Brighton, north of Brisbane, said that they had been “blessed immensely” by having received the recordings because they had felt very isolated from the corps because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Bernice said the couple had always enjoyed Elizabeth’s playing. “We got an email from Elizabeth to say that she was going to put some songs together and would we like to nominate some. We said: ‘Whatever you play, we just love so whatever you do we will be very appreciative. Then, within a few weeks, quite a big selection of songs came and it was just lovely,” Bernice said. The Woodlands initially sat down to specifically listen to the tracks but, since, have often had them “playing in the background”.

The recordings were posted to the web-based SoundCloud platform where audio files can be uploaded without cost: “The SoundCloud platform is easy enough for people to access, but I have put the recordings onto USB so those who don’t have access to the internet can get a copy of the recording,” Elizabeth said.

The music was recorded in an afternoon on the grand piano at Brisbane City Temple Corps. The technical side of the production was done by her husband Matthew. “I would have loved to have recorded it at home but my piano is sadly out of tune,” Elizabeth said.

Some of the tunes recorded include ‘It is Well’, ‘The Well is Deep’, ‘He Giveth More Grace’ and ‘Because He lives’.

Love of music

Elizabeth was born in Nambour, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, but her family moved to Brisbane when she was very young, although her pre-school and kindergarten years were spent in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, while her father, a TAFE teacher, completed what then was known as “country service” requirements.

“We moved back to Brisbane when I started primary school,” Elizabeth said. “My parents are both officers’ kids so I think they were pretty keen to not move around too much once they started a family.”

Elizabeth, who is now a radiation therapist at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, said she started learning to play the piano when she was seven or eight years of age.

“My first piano teacher was Paul Holley (who is well known in Salvation Army and wider music circles). He probably instilled the love of music into me,” Elizabeth said. “I really did enjoy learning the piano. My sister also learnt with me but she didn't enjoy it so much so she didn’t learn for too long, but I kept going because I do really enjoy it.”

Elizabeth learnt to play on her maternal grandmother’s old piano. “When Mum and Dad realised that I enjoyed it and I would continue playing, they bought a better one down the track,” Elizabeth said.

Much of Elizabeth’s early years playing the piano were confined to inside the family home. She said she did get to play at events such as young people’s anniversary weekends, which traditionally were a time when young budding musicians and elocutionists would practise for weeks for their time to perform.

“I didn't even do very much music at school. It was a bit more of a personal thing,” Elizabeth said. “Then, as I became a senior soldier, I actually started deputising for Fran Everett, who was the songster and corps pianist at the (Temple) corps. Probably the way I play now is very influenced by her. She is a wonderful accompanist. She taught me a lot of intricacies of how to accompany (singing). She is a great friend and mentor.”

When Fran and her husband Mark went to the training college to become Salvation Army officers (they are now Area Officers in the Hunter and Central Coast of New South Wales), Elizabeth easily slotted into the vacant roles. “That was a wonderful experience,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth has been part of the congregation at the Brisbane City Temple since she was about 10, having transferred with her family from what was then Mt Gravatt Corps, in Brisbane's inner southern suburbs, and became a senior soldier at 17. She married Matthew 17 years ago.

Elizabeth said she had an “all-round” taste in music: “I enjoy all different genres,” she said. “In terms of what I play normally, I’m probably more ‘accompanist style’ because that's what I’m used to – more melodic-type pieces – but, in terms of my taste in music, I have a range of music that I listen to. I enjoy a bit of everything.”

Elizabeth has now passed the pianist baton in her family to eight-year-old son Joshua, who has just begun to learn to play. “He's enjoying it at the moment,” she said.


  1. Andrea Murray
    Andrea Murray

    Beautiful account of a well-used God-given gift. Elizabeth's playing is inspirational and I'm so glad she has recorded favourites and shared them in this way. Blessings!

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