Archive for the ‘General’ Category
(Guest blogger, Heather, shares her thoughts as a congregation member).
My home church is in Calgary, Alberta but we recently traveled to London, UK. While there, we attended a service at Westminster Cathedral. The singing was amazing. The choir was all men and boys with the white ruffled high collars. They entered and departed the sanctuary from the back, singing the entrance and exit antiphons as they walked. They filed right by where we were sitting, and we could hear individual voices as they slowly passed us. It was really nice. For such a big space, hearing each voice travel past was somehow a personalizing experience.
For Father’s Day we invited all the men in the congregation – young and old - to sing together in the spot in the service where the choir usually sings. We had quite a range, the youngest man was twelve and the oldest was eighty-three. This was similar to the special women’s chorus we had on Mother’s Day.
We had a short practice about 20 minutes before the service. I chose a well known piece, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, for them to sing, had the pages printed up in large print so each person could easily read them whether they forgot their glasses or not. One of the best sources I’ve found for hymns that are public domain is a site called Timeless Truths. The best thing is that not only are the words and music available, but if you install Scorch on your computer, you can adjust the key of the music, raise or lower it, to suit the singing group.
Since the song had three verses, I asked for a volunteer to sing the middle verse. One of our choir members stepped forward. As I looked at the group, I asked if someone would like to sing with him thinking to get another volunteer from someone who doesn’t sing in the choir. The fellow beside him nodded and agreed to sing so that made it a duet for verse two. Turns out the fellow standing beside our choir tenor was his son who was visiting and came to church with him. So on this father’s day, we had a father and son sing together. That was a marvelous gift and surprise!
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?