Every Sunday morning, sunshine floods through the stained glass windows of historic St Clement’s Anglican Church, and an equally beautiful sound escapes its welcoming doors, heard in the churchyard and even in the surrounding streets. It is the voice of Mrs Susan Gruber, skillfully accompanied on piano by Mrs Kerry England, which has been blessing the Church for two decades this year. As parishioners arrive at Church and the service begins, a chorus of joyful voices joins Susan and Kerry as they lead their congregation in worshipping God through song.

The pair first came together when they both joined the previously established music group at St Clement’s, singing alongside many other musicians. Susan remembers how great it was when Kerry brought her piano skills to the group. Now, after twenty years, the pair still sing together on a Sunday morning and at various Church and community events.

“Singing together with someone you’ve known so long is just absolute ease; you don’t have to really think: ‘What are they going to do?” You just know what’s going to happen– it’s a comfort,” Susan and Kerry agreed.

The pair have made many wonderful memories together, finding the Christmas Eve midnight services and Lighting of the New Fire early morning Easter services, particularly special.

‘Coming in and singing in the dark church, there was something so spiritual about it,’ they explained.

Recently, Kerry and Susan shared a new experience of performing at the Yass ANZAC Day Ceremony down at Comur Street this year. When Rev. Steve Neuhaus suggested they sing at the service, they looked at each other for a second, considering it, and thought, ‘Well, why not?’ Despite the larger audience, the pair found it much easier than expected because they had so much experience playing together at Church.

Anzac Day, Yass 2022

Music is a deeply important part of Church and personal Christian life for both Kerry and Susan.

“Music opens up my spirit to God, because music is such a part of me,” reflected Susan.

“To be a part of worship is to play music. I can’t separate it,” Kerry added.

The pair both find great inspiration to continue singing and playing music at Church in the Psalms of David, with so many chapters being musically inspired. Kerry quotes Psalm 150 in particular:

‘Praise him with trumpet sound;

praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals;

praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!’

Kerry’s fingers first touched a piano at age 8, when her mother’s Aunty gave her a piano. “It was a beautiful pianola, and I always played since then. I always did practice, I probably had to be reminded occasionally but I was very self motivated. I just loved it,” she recalled. Later, at 15, she began playing organ at St Aiden’s Anglican Church in Hurstville Grove. Kerry later formally trained in music teaching at Alexander Mackie Teacher’s College, which brought her to Yass to teach music at Yass High School.

Music has always been instinctive for Susan, who learnt music and was involved in singing while growing up in Kiama. When her parents bought a farm out at Bookham, she began attending the St Andrew’s Youth Group. There, she met her husband Gary from the Anglican parish, which didn’t have a youth group at that time. When they were married in 1980, Susan went with him to St Clement’s, bringing her musical talent along with her.

For a long time, Susan chose the Church’s weekly hymn selection, but recently this has been Kerry’s job. Now Kerry has a new keyboard,  picking music is made easy because they can click buttons to transpose music into the right key for Susan’s voice.

“It used to be really tricky, if it was too hard for my voice I would have to just sing down an octave, and Kerry used to transpose by hand sometimes.” Susan explained.

Susan and Kerry have many favourite hymns. They both love the old hymns as it’s what they grew up with, but also love more contemporary music such as that of Stuart Townend and Irish hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty. ‘Be Thou My Vision’ is Susan’s favourite classic hymn, and she often finds herself often singing ‘Trust and Obey.’

If you would like to come and appreciate Susan and Kerry’s beautiful music, you are in luck. The doors of St Clement’s Anglican Church are open to all every Sunday at 10 am, 20 Church Street Yass. As you walk in and find a pew amongst the friendly congregation, you will listen to an opening hymn.

Throughout the service, you will join Susan and Kerry for several joyful or reflective songs of praise. While the congregation takes Holy Communion, they will play peacefully, often singing a beautiful rendition of ‘Kyrie Elision’ (‘Lord, Have Mercy’). Finally, Susan and Kerry will lead the whole Church, raising their voices powerfully as a congregation to sing the closing Song of Celebration.

Southerly Jones