The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


And a pluck, and a strike and a blow ...

It's the St. Luke Bottle Band

If the bottles weren't so clean and orderly, you'd think the room was filled with remnants from a party. But it's just a rehearsal for the St. Luke Bottle Band, a group of Lutherans who can make impressive music come from beer bottles they may or may not have emptied — they're either not telling or they've lost track.

And it's easy to lose track after nearly 33 years. That's how long the Bottle Band of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Park Ridge, Ill., has been performing for everything from small church functions to two stints on the Late Show with David Letterman (1996 and 1998).

"It's remarkable that we've endured all these years," said Paul Phillips, director. "We've just kept thinking of things to add, bottlephones that are hit with the mallet, then the pluckers. ... It's organic really. It just grew on its own."

Kyle Cartwright (right) and her son,
Kyle Cartwright (right) and her son, Adam, are pluckers with the Bottle Band from St. Luke Lutheran Church, Park Ridge, Ill. The band has delighted Lutherans and others for years, performing for National Public Radio, network TV and a Churchwide Assembly

The idea was hatched in 1978 when Phillips waited tables at a mother-daughter banquet at another church. The evening's entertainment was a small bottle band. "They were so funny to watch and hear, I thought, 'We have to do this,'" Phillips recalled.

His music background is in piano and trombone, not theory, so Phillips enlisted the help of Valerie Shields, then-music director of St. Luke, who helped him score Bottle Band pieces.

"We started with Coke bottles on my mother's dining room table," he said. "First three simple pieces, then a church variety show, and we kept doing it again and adding to it. Pretty soon we had a half-hour program and then enough for almost a full show."

Now their shows are two hours long (with an intermission) and include vocals, skits and costumes (think sparkly dresses, polka dots, boas and hats of great variety). Phillips scores all the music, writes the skits and dreams up props. Despite fairly typical family dynamics in this tight-knit group, band members use words like "genius" to describe him.

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

text size:

this page: email | print

March issue

MARCH issue:

All are welcome