After more than four decades as the musical director and organist at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Joe Lowe will no longer take his place behind the Duval Street institution's keyboard.
Lowe, a Key West native, was well-known for his "noonday concerts" at the church, as well as for playing the organ during weddings and funerals.
A representative of the church on Friday confirmed that Lowe was being replaced in his role by Linda Sparks, an accomplished musician who moved to Key West in 2010.
"Recently, the vestry approved a new vision for the music ministry at St. Paul's Church," said Senior Warden Wendy Coles. "It's an expanded music ministry that broadens the scope of the program, and includes such things as a children's choir, and connecting with the high school music program, among other things. Joe has provided for nearly 44 years the phenomenal music for St. Paul's, but he is not interested in supporting our new vision and therefore it's time to part ways."
Coles' tone may be amicable, but at least one member of the congregation isn't happy. On Nov. 17, parishioner Mary Deasy was picketing the church with two signs protesting Lowe's sacking.
"Support the truth! Support Joe Lowe!" one sign read.
"Fired, not retired!" read the other.
Coles on Friday cited Lowe's unwillingness to adjust to new realities as part of the reason for his firing.
"We invited Joe to retire in November, still desiring him to be a part of the church with his noonday concerts, and being available to do weddings and funerals when requested," Coles said. "So we are hoping to still enjoy and celebrate Joe's music at St. Paul's. However, it is the decision of our rector to have a staff which supports the direction of the church. If you have a staff member who doesn't want to support the direction of the church, it becomes clear what has to happen."
The Citizen was unable to connect with Lowe for this story, but St. Paul's rector the Rev. Larry D. Hooper sent out an email blast last week announcing the hiring of Sparks.
"She believes that one of her gifts is finding and enabling musicians of all levels to greater enjoyment and fulfillment," Hooper wrote. "Given the rich history of the Episcopal church's music and its high regard of quality in a variety of genres, she sees her local goal as 'continuing St. Paul's musical excellence and establishing its status as an outstanding cathedral music program in its choirs and instrumental programs as vehicles for worship.'"
Sparks holds degrees and certificates in music theory, music education and oboe/English horn performance, and has performed professionally for three decades in orchestras throughout the Southeast.