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Thirty years at the organ is no grind


Quarino's passion is playing, building and collecting organs. In addition to being Rivercrest Community Church's music director, he made music for pizza lovers at the Organ Grinder Restaurant for more than twenty years until it closed in 1996.
Mid-county Memo photos/Tim Curran
Rivercrest Community Church organist Paul Quarino was feted with a ceremony and reception honoring his thirty years as music director at the outer east Portland church last month.
Nearly every parishioner of Rivercrest Community Church turned out for a ceremony to honor organist Paul Quarino's thirty years of making music at the outer northeast Portland church.

The ceremony included a video presentation, friends' tributes, anecdotes about Quarino's long service, performances by him and presentation of gifts and a plaque. Presenter Marjorie Woodfill said, “We wanted to attend a church with an organ. I just want to tell you how much your music means to me. And I love you.”

Since 1997, Quarino has worked full-time for Rodgers Instruments, an organ making company in Hillsboro.

Quarino told the story of how the people interviewing him for the job at Rivercrest 30 years ago were shocked because he made sounds come from the organ the interviewing committee did not know the instrument was capable of making. He said, “It took them five weeks to get back to me. I think they were afraid of me.”

Once hired, Quarino recommended installing a new organ. With his knowledge of how to build them, and a console bought from First United Methodist Church, Quarino built the organ from parts he had been accumulating over the years. “It's an old organ, but a current one,” he said.

At one time or another, Quarino has been on every church committee and filled every operating position, including 13-years as church custodian. “I can do anything except preach,” he said. “You haven't lived until you're playing the organ in the middle of a service when a little old lady taps you on the shoulder and says 'Excuse me, the middle stall is stopped up in the ladies room.' ”

Quarino's signing accompanist Judi Smith said, “I want you to know what a thrill is has been to work with Paul these past couple of years that I've been here. I do not sing and he does not necessarily accompany. I feel we actually do a duet. It's just so wonderful; we just kind of feel these things together.”

From 1974 until it closed in 1996, Quarino was an organist at the Organ Grinder, a large pizza parlor on Southeast 82nd Avenue boasting the largest, most complete and authentic theatre pipe organ in the Northwest.

Parishioner Jane Bohnstedt said, “He's part of our worship service every Sunday. He's wonderful; he's very dear to us.
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