Church music rant

Yesterday church was a bit off kilter for me.

I had scheduled “The King of Love” by Edward Bairstow. This is a hoary old anglican type choir/organ piece. I have been working on with with the choir for weeks, but rehearsal attendance has been sporadic. I had a completely different group on Sunday than in any rehearsal in the last month.

This group is used to pulling itself together at the last minute and then singing very loudly. Both things drive me a little crazy as a choir director and I have been working against it.

One woman actually left during the pregame rehearsal never to return. I though I offended her with running the pre-game rehearsal past her personal limit for practicing in the church (two choir members have complained loudly that the choir should not be rehearsing right up until time for church. Which is something we actually never do. Because if we rehearse late, we still wait a bit until starting church to give the requisite time for everyone to settle down for prayer. Even though I have said this to these people, it doesn’t seem meet their personal criteria for how it should be done.)

I found out later that she was ill.

During church I had a series of mishaps. Very small ones but still disconcerting. Little mistimings on my part which usually I can pull off pretty gracefully. But not yesterday.

I had scheduled a devilishly difficult (for me) prelude. Often my hardest pieces don’t sound hard. This was one of those. It was based on the tune the anthem was based on and was by another English pastoral composer (like Bairstow) named Henry Ley. I probably shouldn’t have scheduled it. I had a perfectly good piece by another anglican Alec Wyton based on the same tune. I just thought it would be cool to have two English pastoral pieces in the same service.

So I was practicing this one right up until the last minute. As often happens the sections I worked on went pretty well, but I managed to blow other sections. Ahem.

Then during the anthem, I missed pushing a general stop and had to increase the organ sound with the crescendo pedal. This usually works but the anthem winds down at the end and Bairstow ends with the same quiet flute solo he began. As I pushed down the crescendo pedal I thought with horror, “Omigod, now how am I going to transition back to the correct sounds?” I managed to do this. But of course it wasn’t as graceful as what I had planned.

I take pride in my ability to play organ and conduct at the same time. It’s something I was taught to do by my teacher Ray Ferguson (and he was taught to do by his teacher Helmut Walcha).

The problem I have with my present crew of singers is they don’t always watch me. So I have my hands full just trying to conduct them. When I am conducting from the console I am further away and have less of a range of possible gestures.

Everything came off okay. It usually does. But I like to work a bit beyond doing okay and actually have some musical moments.

The postlude was by William Walond. I mention it here because once again the bulletin was fucked up and my postlude (inadvertently?) omitted.

Ah well.

Today I have nothing scheduled. I think I need a bit of time off.

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