So Eileen and I walked to church yesterday despite my lingering cold. It was beautiful, especially on the way back. Eileen kept remarking on the way the snow outlined the branches of trees and grass. I suggested she take a picture but her phone had been dead that morning and she had left it home to charge.
It was dangerously icy here in Holland Michigan yesterday morning. So choristers were slow to gather. But the conditions of the morning seemed eventually to charge up those who chose to brave the weather and come together. They remained in the common area, talking enthusiastically to each other until the last moment before church.
I began the prelude on the hour. The Heiller got off to a shaky start for some reason even though I have been working hard on it. It is often difficult for me to transition from strategizing on how to help a choir sound good on an anthem to a calm and clear performance of a piece on the organ. I think that came in to play. At any rate by the time I got to the good part (the last two pages of my four page excerpt of Heiller’s lengthy piece on the chant Salve Regina), it had settled down and I nailed the rest.
This year in our annual Advent IV Lessons and Carols, I only scheduled one anthem and that was at the offertory. This meant that the Lessons and Carols was only readings and hymns sung by the congregation. I will be interested to hear my boss’s feedback on she thought that went. The congregation seemed very engaged with the singing of the hymns. I dropped the organ out of “The Angel Gabriel” and it sounded nice.
I managed to pull together the choral anthem pretty well. “There is a star” by Mendelssohn is often a “screamer.” I think we kept that at a minimum yesterday. There were people videotaping the choir throughout the rehearsal and service. I just checked and no one has emailed me a link or put anything up on Facebooger or I would share here.
At the end of the anthem where the chorale comes in, the congregation joined in on the singing. That seemed to work.
I forget sometimes to comment about how much improvising I do in a service. I tried to keep the accompaniments at the organ interesting yesterday despite the paucity of resources of my little instrument. I related the accompaniment of the two Gregorian chants in the service, “Creator of the stars of night” and David Hurd’s new plainsong fraction anthem we are singing at communion. All I did was hold a fifth down for the entire duration of both pieces. We sing only the first three stanzas of “Creator of the stars of night.” I added volume to the accompaniment as the hymn proceeded but did not change the notes. This seemed to work.
Our sequence hymn was a new text paired with the tune for “Good King Wenceslas. I often improvise as the gospel procession returns to the altar area. Yesterday I used snippets of this melody and scattered them over the range of my little reed alternating with flourishes on a flute stop. I thought it worked.
At the end of the service I played a rather lengthy postlude, the first movement from Mendelssohn’s Sonata for organ in Bb. I nailed it. By the time I had finished most of the congregation was gone. But a few hardy listeners seemed to appreciate it and hung around to listen. I don’t mind. I had fun.