VERNDALE – The music begins, a keyboard in the front right corner of the church building is the source of melodies that sing of the birth of Jesus Christ. The man’s head sticks out from behind the partitions. His voice leads the crowd as they sing, “Blessed are those who fear the name of the Lord. He arranges his scores and looks at the audience, the priest, the scores and vice versa while sharing his musical talent.
Ted Masog sat ready at the piano for the last time at St. Frederick’s Catholic Church in Verndale on December 28. With compliments on being a professional and irreplaceable, Masog gave a thumbs up when his retirement was announced by father Lauren Germann. The retirement comes after playing church for 52 years. And his musical career includes teaching, clarinet and saxophone in the Army 3rd Infantry Division Band, accompanying the Staples Men’s Chorus and St. Mary’s Catholic Church Men’s Choir in Little Falls, playing the organ and piano at churches, weddings and funerals, and performing on WCCO radio. After he retired from teaching at Verndale Public School, they even named the place where he conducted so many public performances, “Ted Masog Auditorium.”
For his closing accompaniment, Masog performed “O, Come All Ye Faithful / Adeste Fideles”, “The First Nowell” and “Joy to the World” as well as songs between scripture readings and prayers during Saturday mass. . After photos with his family and Germann, Masog tells his family, “Oh my God, I made it.”
He made sure the piano was off, “Is there an outlet there?” Masog asked his family and ordered them to remove him. And with that, they gathered Masog’s music case – a canvas tote bag – and a walking stick, and walked down the stairs to his walker, which he slid down the road, to his house, while singing Christmas carols. And when we walked into his house, a piano greeted us in the hallway.
His musical career comes with many memories, although Masog says, “I’m not too philosophical about it. He finds music to be something he is good at.
“For me, it’s like, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ People like that. Although I wish everyone would sing when it’s time to sing. (Laughs) But I don’t know. No, it’s something that I guess you can do, you can. just do it,” Masog said. “Most of the years have been really, really good.”
With three questions asked, Masog began sharing stories from his musical career, beginning with his time in the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division band. He performed in Germany, notably in a parade for the 800th anniversary of Munich.
“I just love the music. … Hell, I don’t know. I played in an army band,” Masog said. “I played overseas and I have that advantage cultural. The Germans love music. I mean then they used to get in there and they sang and they walked and they danced and they played and they sang and they walked and they danced again. And if you can come and help make good music, boy, you’re in. No question about it.
Masog was stationed in Germany for a year and a half and spoke of how easy it was to travel across countries in an hour. One of the paintings in his home – a photo he took and painted by his mother – depicts a church in Austria, a scene he couldn’t help but smile at as he told the story after that his daughter showed him the photo. It was almost Palm Sunday and at the bottom of the hill there was green grass and “blooming flowers”, according to Masog.
“There was kind of a ski resort, so we took the little chugalug up and it was wet and slushy, but you could look up and see this church in the snow. (Laughs) It wasn’t totally three seasons in one but it was like that. Felt like a beautiful spring day at the bottom and halfway through it was chilly but it was okay. Just wonderful. My God,” Masog said.
Masog began playing the piano in fifth grade, around age 10, with lessons from nuns until he went to college at St. Cloud University and UCLA.
“Sister Renee was one of those girls who was really strict. But she knew exactly what she was doing,” Masog said.
He also remembers three of his professors from UCLA: “They were so good, wow. Scary.” Before college, around age 16, Masog performed on WCCO radio when Cedric Adams was a newscaster, “probably the most popular in Minnesota at the time.” He performed one of his favorite styles of music: Russian, including songs by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
“I still remember it,” Masog said.
Although he hasn’t played Rachmaninoff’s preludes for years, Masog still loves Russian music. He also enjoys playing Johann Sebastian Bach songs on the organ, although he has said, “I have so many favorite songs that I don’t know if I have any favorites.” His daughter suggested Christmas music as another favorite, and he thought of others including Frederic Chopin and classical music in general. As Masog thought about the songs, he sang the tunes and tapped his fingers on the coffee table.
“I guess…one of my favorite things if I had to pick something off the tip of my tongue, there are so many, would be Bach’s D minor toccata and fugue,” Masog said. “Oh, there are so many things.”
When the question came up at the end of the interview, Masog added another song, the one he performed during his retirement performance.
“My favorite anthem has to be, ‘O, Come All Ye Faithful.’ (Laughs),” Masog said. “He has a certain variety of dynamic markings with him. He has the ability to be… changed.
Accompanying churches and choirs, Masog was busy and “out of trouble”. Although he may relate to these demands – “kind of hard work sometimes” – Masog also praised the region’s musicians.
With his retirement, Masog looks forward to rest and possible trips to Fargo.
“I like to play. But it was getting so difficult,” Masog said. “It’s fun. It’s nice to be able to do that. But it’s nice to rest.
After a phenomenal music career, Masog said at the end of the interview, “Don’t write too much. Just say, “He played, yes.”