Archive for the ‘General’ Category
We’re now in the Easter season and the extra music and preparation you may have put into special music during Lent, Holy week and Easter Sunday is over. What are you doing to give yourself a reward/recognition for the extra practice/hard work you put into preparing for and playing over this season?
I believe it’s important to thank yourself – from the simplest action of raising your left hand up to the sky and bending it at the elbow to give yourself a pat on the back, to buying yourself a new music book, or even giving yourself a gift of time – 15 or 20 minutes to do whatever you feel like. Thanking yourself is an essential step to keeping yourself healthy and growing as a church musician.
Sometimes I put off small celebrations or thanks to myself – I say I’ll do it tomorrow or next week or when I have time. I’ve found I forget, or never get around to it and end up giving myself a negative message. So please learn from me – do it! Don’t forget that not only are you doing it for yourself, you are modelling to those around, whether spouse, children, grandchildren or friends, you are valuable.
Give yourself a gift to reward yourself every time you put out extra effort. You are so worth it!
This past week, the first church service that I play for was a bit shorter than usual, and ended about 6 or 7 minutes early. I had a bit of breathing space between finishing, packing up and zooming off. (I don’t really zoom too fast, as I’ve seen a police car on my route several times!). I even had a few minutes to talk to people after the service ended. That was nice.
I felt relaxed when I arrived at the other church for the 11 am service. I got there a few minutes early, so I had lots of time to unpack my music, turn on the organ, open up the piano and set up the music for the prelude, offertory and postlude. As I write about it now, I still feel the calmness.
It makes me wonder how I could create a feeling of calmness EVERY WEEK regardless of what time I arrive. I know some serene people who always act calmly. They have a steady approach that I admire and they don’t ever seemed rushed, in a flap or in a hurry. I think I need to work on developing this calmer state of mind. When I start moving quickly and talking fast, that’s often the first indicators that I’m rushing. So I’m going to work on catching these early signals and then talk myself back to a calmer place. I’ll let you know how I do.
What do you do to calm yourself down when you are late or tight for time? Any suggestions for me?
Last Sunday was an interesting day – the morning after a time change where we “spring forward.” People often seem to be a bit slower moving, maybe still a bit sleepy on this Sunday. And sometimes some folks arrive just as the service is ending.
Everything seemed a bit off kilter for me. When I stopped in to pick up the paper, the friendly fellow at Mac’s informed me that the Sunday papers hadn’t arrived yet. So I headed off to the early service paperless, with my tea in hand. All the traffic lights were green so I just sailed right along, yet when I zoomed up to the church, the priest was already waiting. He assured me he had only just arrived, but I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I took a breath, relaxed and calmed down. A good thing, as when I pulled out my music to organize it on the keyboard, I realized I didn’t have the book with the music I intended to play at the end of the service. It was still resting on my piano at home.
Have you ever felt like you were moving in slow motion? Sometimes I think I just need to take a deep breath and let go. Stop being stressed or frazzled by such things and go with the flow. I find this hard, since I’m always thinking two or three steps ahead, but perhaps it is good to occasionally let go of the comfortable routine, and just experience events as they unfold.
For the month of February this year, I decided to play a series of spirituals – different pieces each week for the prelude and postlude. Using the book Spirituals We Love, I chose a number of ones I like and know the melodies to, as well as two that were unfamiliar to me. As the end of February nears, I realize I have been practicing more regularly, working on these scheduled pieces. I’ve also saved myself time each week by pre-planning all the February music at one time.
I’m not usually so disciplined in choosing the service music that I play each week during the rest of the year, except maybe during Advent and Christmas. I tend to have a couple of pieces that I’m working on, and rely largely on a couple of books that I already know to decide on what be suits the theme and mood of each week’s service. And then I wonder why I seem to miss or ignore practicing, hmmm. I can learn from this.
How about you? Do you map out the music you plan to play in each week in blocks and then practice what’s on your schedules or do you just work away on them as you feel like?
After a catastrophic website crash in January, our whole website was destroyed and after a week, we put up a simple blog site. Well, the website hosting company came through (after nearly a month!) and restored our old site. So we’re back again, with all of our website mostly intact. You may see a few glitches, and if so, feel free to ping us — it will take a week or two for us to check that everything is shipshape again.
In the meantime, we’re back same as usual and you can continue to access your free membership content.
The moral of the story: keep good backups!
So glad to be back!
All of the best of the holiday season to you and yours!
We’re off to spend some time with our families over the Christmas/New Years holiday break, so we won’t be posting again until January. See you in 2013!
In the meantime, have a little holiday cheer by looking at the nativity scene at the church where I play, Christ Church Anglican Church at Roches Point, Ontario.
What are you playing these days during the service besides the hymns/songs and other sung pieces? I spoke to a nearby church musician last week. He talked about the classical pieces he plays during the service. Most folks in the congregation like to hear music during times such as offering or communion, rather than just chatter of conversation. I usually rotate what I play – one week I play something classical, next week, I’ll play something more contemporary but always something that I like.
Sometimes the congregation has musical tastes that may not be the same as yours. What do you do then? I’ve found that initially when I am new to a church, I tend to use some of their music – maybe arrangements of some of their hymns. Most people also enjoy hearing music that you like too. You might introduce them to something different from what they’re used to. As long as it fits into the mood of the service, it can add to their worship experience. While sometimes musicians may think they are expected to play something different each week, I have found that people like to hear a piece more than once and if you repeat a piece every 6-8 weeks, they likely won’t remember and if they do, they will enjoy hearing it again.
Don’t be afraid to stretch their musical experience! I’ve found that people will tell you what they liked or didn’t like that you played. What is your experience with this?
Sometimes things just work out. Have you noticed that? On Sunday, I had arranged for a guest organist to come. For several months, we had been practicing four organ and piano duets. Then just last week, Tom, a drummer who was home on mid-term break from university, told me that he’d be glad to come and play at the service.
I really wasn’t sure how drums would sound with organ and piano, but I thought “oh well the more the merrier”. When I checked with the organist, he seemed a little cautious but said he’d be ok with drums.
So Sunday morning came. I asked Bob to come to the service too, so I could get an unbiased opinion about the music. 11 o’clock came and the service started with the prelude (Thanksgiving Medley – a duet), then the call to worship and opening hymn, and it seemed like the sound of the three of us was OK – the piano, organ and drums. Oh, did I mentioned that while the organist and I had practiced a lot, the drummer had not practiced with us before??
As the service continued, the organist and I played a piece after the sermon, followed shortly afterward with music during offering. The drums seemed to add a finishing touch to the sound. As we played we just seemed to “get in the groove”. I’m not sure if you often get in that space but things just seemed to click and the music just flowed. I feel recharged when the music flows like that. The postlude was kind of the icing on the cake – people didn’t get up and leave as they usually do. They just sat and soaked up the music!
After the service Bob said we sounded very together, like we were professionals. He is very particular, and when I ask him to be honest he tells me when it doesn’t go well (which sometimes happens) or the balance is off – piano or organ is too dominant. So the lesson I learned is to go with the music possibilities that arise. Don’t say no (as I was tempted to do) to a new sound combination. Everyone wins!
What have you been doing to provide musical variety in your services?
Last week I talked about leading an evening of singing. During the 90 minute gathering, we worked on 5 new songs. Some attendees also added new songs to their repertoire including Spirit of Life, and Long Before the Night which came up in the favorite songs portion. We used two books – new songs were from More Voices, and favorites came from Voices United and More Voices.
I had been looking around for better ways to teach new songs to the congregation. When I read John Bell’s The Singing Thing too, I knew that I wanted to try his process. This event seemed like the ideal place to test it out. John Bell recommends that the congregation not use words or musical instrument until they have sung the tune through several times by singing along with la, la, la (to learn the melody and timing). It meant that I, as the leader, needed to know the songs quite well and have practiced using hand motions to indicate whether the melody was going up or down and by how much.
So the process started like this:
- I la, la-ed through the song first, chunking it up into manageable parts/phrases so the singers could echo it back to me. As I did this I used hand motions to help guide whether the notes were going up or down.
- The second time through, you la la the song and the congregation hums – yes hums along with you . That way they can hear both themselves and you and make sure they’re getting the tune right. Make sure you use hand motions this time through too.
- The third time through we all la la’d together, again I used hand motions to guide the song.
That’s it. It worked quite well! I was surprised at how well the group seemed to catch on to new songs. I’m going to use it again whenever we want to teach the congregation a new song to use in worship services. We have another evening of singing this month where I plan to continue to use this process (just to prove to myself it wasn’t a fluke)
Let me know how it works for you or if you have another way that works better for you.
I came across the idea of having a evening of singing to learn new songs in Richard DeVinney’s Wednesday Workout. Last week I gave this a try. Advertised to local congregations as ‘Sing a New Song’, it was a time to for them to sing a few favourites and learn some new pieces. I joined with the music director from a nearby church to lead this singing event.
The congregation seemed to have a good time. There was lots of energy in the singing. It was fun to see folks grab onto the tunes and sing with gusto. They added some new songs to their repertoire, and some also brought their musical instruments, which added new sounds to the singing experience. The 90 minutes session seemed a good length, long enough to explore a number of songs but not so long that the attendees got tired.
It was a time of sharing, laughing and having a good time. Our only refreshment was a pitcher of water,. Everyone had a glass to keep their singing voices happy.
I intend to plan another session next month. Next time, I see us switching roles a bit more, with my colleague, the neighboring music director, doing some of the song teaching.
What are you doing to help your congregation to learn and sing new songs?