Lile to honor grandfather with concert

By Angela Dove | Jun 16, 2014
Photo by: David Wangerin Lile LIKE GRANDFATHER, LIKE GRANDSON — The Rev. Kenneth Lile helps his grandson, Christopher Lile, with the organ. Christopher will give a concert in honor his grandfather's memory at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 22.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, June 22, First United Methodist Church of Waynesville will hosts one of the area’s most exceptional young musicians, 18-year-old Christopher Lile, in a concert to benefit cancer research. Lile is dedicating the concert to his first organ teacher, his grandfather, the Rev. Kenneth Lile, who lost his battle to cancer almost one year ago.

Lile began studying piano at a young age, but was fascinated by his grandfather, who played the organ at Lake Junaluska’s chapel.

“I remember running up front at the end of the service to watch him play the postlude,” said Lile. “I was fascinated.”

“Christopher was so impatient to begin learning the organ,” said Rebecca Lile, Christopher’s mother. “As soon as he grew tall enough for his feet to reach the pedals, he ran to tell his granddaddy. Within a week, Dad purchased Christopher’s first pair of organ shoes and started teaching him.”

From that moment on, grandson and grandfather could often be found sitting together in front of the grand Casavant organ at First United Methodist Church of Waynesville.

“That time was so important to me,” Lile said. “It was something special that only the two of us shared.”

At age 14, Lile was the youngest musician ever chosen to participate in the Pipe Organ Encounter, Advanced, in New York City, New York.

“Christopher started playing weddings, funerals, church services — all kinds of events,” Rebecca said.

Lile and his grandfather could be found nearly every day, side by side, at the organ, practicing for the venues Christopher would play on the weekends.

The Rev. Lile was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent surgery and a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. On the last day of treatment, he was rushed to the emergency room due where a scan showed a second, unrelated cancer in his brain. This time, there would be no recovery.

“My dad had a motto: ‘Redeem the time,’” said Rebecca. The phrase comes from the New Testament letter to the Ephesians. “Dad believed strongly that we are all given a certain amount of time, and we are called upon to use it wisely,” she said.

Lile and his grandfather continued practicing, working toward a goal — Christopher’s first public concert.

“It was our plan to perform together,” said Lile. “But by the time I got proficient enough, his health had declined.”

By the end of his life, it was enough for the Rev. Lile to recommend pieces to his grandson, listen as he played and offer encouragement.

The Rev. Lile passed away as Lile began his senior year of high school.

After a brief respite, Lile returned to the organ under the tutelage of Kathy Baldwin, a local teacher his grandfather recommended.

Now the organist for Bethel United Methodist Church, Lile is ready to play his first concert.

The June 22 recital is more than a chance to hear a gifted musician perform — it is a grandson paying homage to the legacy of his grandfather through music.

“Most of these are songs we picked out together,” said Lile.

Others, like “Gabriel’s Oboe” from the film “The Mission,” were favorites of the Rev. Lile. Widor’s “Tocatta,” the final piece in the concert, was the song Lile performed at his grandfather’s funeral.

This free program is open to the public. Lile has asked that any donations made during the concert be given to the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Cancer Center at Duke University, where his grandfather underwent treatment.

Angela Dove is an award-winning columnist and author of the book, “No Room for Doubt: A True Story of the Reverberations of Murder.” For more information visit