His name is not the only unique thing about Hilary Marckx.
For the past 25 years, he has been pastor of Geyserville’s only church, the 134-year-old Geyserville Christian Church that stands in the heart of town.
At the same time, he has also been an old-time rockabilly and honky-tonk singer/songwriter, performing in nightclubs, bars and festivals all over the Bay Area.
Neither of these careers were something Marckx, 75, anticipated.
When he was in the fifth grade, his mother encouraged him to play the clarinet, but he says he had absolutely no sense of rhythm or timing.
“Despite this, she had me move on to piano lessons when I was about 13,” he recalls. “Unfortunately, the results were pretty much the same.”
Around 1968, when he was in his mid-20s, Marckx was riding with two musician friends to one of their performances when one asked what instrument he played. Confessing he didn’t play any, they stuck a harmonica in his hand and told him to practice until they got to the gig.
That night, he made his on-stage musical debut.
Over his lifetime, Marckx has held a number of jobs, having worked on a dairy farm; hauled hay; driven a tractor; picked peaches, pears and apricots; sold brooms and brushes door-to-door; worked for the State of California as a clerk; drove a delivery van; and been a tree-trimmer.
For many years, he had a successful career as a commercial photographer, but now only dabbles in photography as a hobby.
Although he was once part of a band in the Sacramento area, he has mostly performed solo as a one-man band. He recently teamed up with Cloverdale singer and VA social worker, Christiane Swartz, to form “November Rose,” a country duo performing classic country, rockabilly and honky-tonk.
He and Swartz met about five years ago at a local guitar jam. Before becoming a regular member of his congregation, Swartz says she initially attended out of curiosity to see what kind of church has a rockabilly pastor.
“I have come to admire the earnestness with which he supports the whole of his community, especially those in need,” she says. “I also admire the joyous hospitality he brings to our church, including dozens of incredibly moving worship songs he has written and shares with us each Sunday.”
Besides being a practicing theologian and an accomplished musician, Marckx also builds guitars and produces his own CDs. And while he primarily plays guitar and harmonica on stage, he also knows his way around a bass, banjo, keyboard and lap steel guitar.
To relax, he enjoys hiking the trails around Lake Sonoma and fishing in the streams of the Sierra Nevada’s eastern slopes. He has recently taken up quilting, creating works that look more like fabric pictures than pieces of abstract art.
Born in the Pacific Northwest, Marckx was named after his father, a fundamentalist preacher who had been named in honor of St. Hilary Poitiers. His mother was a talented musician who played the mandolin, an instrument Marckx plans to learn this year.
Despite having a masters in theology from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and a PhD from the Theological Union, also in Berkeley, Marckx never set out to actually be a pastor. His original plan was not to lead a congregation, but to do environmental work as an ordained minister. As it turned out, life had other plans.