all saints report

All Saints Sunday is kind of a high holiday in the Episcopal Church. The noise level was higher than usual as people were buzzing about and preparing for church. I have discussed this with my boss and neither of us quite knows what to do about this part of the service (the prelude). My liturgical training tells me that the beginning of worship is a time of gathering. This entails greetings. On the other hand as the musician I am often performing some fine music that frames the prayer that will ensue.

I ascribe some of the loud chatter and obliviousness to the moment to the way our entire society treats the arts and music in particular. Music has largely become a commodity.

It’s also the soundtrack of living.

Rarely is it the prism into meaning that much of it attempts to be.

Anyway, I kicked up the registration slightly to the prelude. Still some parishioners complained to me that they couldn’t hear it.

Of course they sit at the other side of the room.

Whippy skippy.

My failing strategy is to do excellent music well. I find that my fallback reaction to leading with content and not perception pretty much fails in all situations these days.

When we have visiting musicians, people are a bit more aware that music is happening before and after the service. I feel that this is partly politeness but also I feel like perception that something is happening has risen with the present of visual instruments. The organ pipes are presently not visible. I am guessing that if there is ever a more obvious organ installation at my church where you can see the pipes perception will rise that someone is actually doing something with it before and after the service.

Part of my whining about the educated and trained musicians is that I have a strong conviction that what I and my music ministers offer musically is a cut above the average church music that can be experienced in most churches. But still most of the educated musicians seem to act as oblivious as any of the other people in the room.

Fuck the duck.

The best I can do these days is to turn away from this obtuseness and center myself as much as I can on what I am doing.

My boss (who was a semi pro athlete) understands how distracting this can be. An athlete or a musician must be prepared for distraction. I use sports analogies with her quite a bit. When I brought this up recently,  the distraction part of the analogy made sense, but I pointed out that what I am trying to do with music is communication. I guess this inevitably fails more than it succeeds in the kind of environment I am working.

Nonetheless I persist. The music went well yesterday.  We make a big deal out of the Episcopalian hymn, “For All the Saints.” The choir sings two of the 8 verses in a choral arrangement. Yesterday I had high voices (women and children) on verse 6 and low voices (men) on verse 7. I change the accompaniment to fit these variations. And we had descants on a couple of other verses. All in all, it’s a pretty cool way to start All Saints Sunday.

The kids choir sang a few measures by themselves in the anthem I had tried to teach them. Then I had the chamber choir gently join in. This worked okay. As usual all three kids in the choir were also altar servers. I’m not sure if this is a drawback or not. It might help assure their attendance since all three are enthusiastic new altar servers.

The choir ably sang C. V. Stanford’s “Justorum Animae” at the beginning of communion. It’s hard for me not to think that music at my church is pretty good.

I should add that I know that many people at my church do appreciate the music and perceive much of what is happening (if they can hear it, heh).


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