By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Father Mike Volkmer, C.PP.S., brought down the house at the Annual Follies in Albia in a comedy sketch on “Making Church Music Relevant.” The pastor of St. Mary Parish in Albia played a contest judge in the sketch earlier this month. He was merciless, giving a thumbs-down to performances of “Amazing Grace” sung to different music styles like Swing, Country, Rock ‘n Roll and Disco.
After the last performance, Fr. Mike rose from his seat and signaled that he was going to perform. He pulled out his red Nebraska Cornhuskers baseball cap, placed it on his head backwards and put on a pair of wrap-around sunglasses. He looked the part of a rapper, even with his Roman collar, and proceeded to rap the first line of Amazing Grace.
The audience rocked with laughter. Someone video-recorded the sketch and it got posted on Facebook, where it received lots of hits, says Sharon Crall of St. Mary’s.
By the way, Fr. Mike doesn’t like rap music. “Whenever I hear it on the radio or TV, I turn it off.” But he agreed to do the gig during Albia’s Restoration Days because “I thought it would be good PR for the parish and the church and goodwill for us and the community.”
St. Mary parishioner Dan Walker co-directs the Annual Follies with his friend, Dave Paxton. Fr. Mike “comes to the follies each year and he really loves it,” Dan says. “Father is a musician himself, a very good musician … I happen to think he has perfect pitch.”
Dan and Dave, a Methodist, came up with the perfect sketch to entice Fr. Mike to perform: “What if people got so fed up with church music they weren’t coming to church anymore?” The two schemers envisioned singers and musicians auditioning in front of a committee — made up of Dan and Fr. Mike.
Father’s job was to give the thumbs-down to all of other styles of music and then approach the mike without saying word, but signal his intention to perform.
“He approaches the microphone and puts his darn Nebraska hat on and puts on sunglasses and raps to ‘Amazing Grace.’ It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,” Dan says. “He’s a natural; he’s subtle. He takes direction well. We were lucky to land him.”
Dan made suggestions about how to dress the part of a rapper and provided the sunglasses. “I don’t know how a rapper looks, but it was for the comedy effect,” Fr. Mike says. “I think the idea was that you wouldn’t expect this from a priest.”
People have seen the performance in person or on Facebook and are commenting. “I went to the bank today at an open house and several people said, ‘I really enjoyed it,’” Fr. Mike says. Would he perform again? “Well maybe, depending on what it would be.”