The lives of musicians, probably any creative person, is a challenging one. One thing is for certain; I could not be a 9-5’er and sit at my desk doing what many of you do, or have done. My mind is too scattered at times, calls come in, emails show up in my inbox, and I get distracted. Just today, I had several phone calls, and 5 emails in a row within about 45 minutes that took me away from completing yet another email with all the bulletin details for this Sunday.
In the last few months, a few of these images have been floating around the internet. It sums it up pretty well:
Each is often like the one before and the one after, with floating pieces that find themselves pushed into the next day if they don’t get done that day. There’s lots of score study – examining the details of each anthem a choir is singing, or hymn, or organ piece. Just relying on the knowledge that’s been accumulated over years or decades isn’t enough.
In order to keep singers fresh and engaged, I must evaluate every song as if I were approaching it for the very first time. How many breaths will happen in the course of a phrase? What does the text say to me after however many years I have been conducting/playing/singing this work? Is there something new that I can bring to the next rehearsal? What will it say to the congregation in the particular spot it’s placed in the service…does it fit between readings, or is it more appropriate during the offertory?
After over 35 years of playing regularly in worship services, finding new and creative pieces for the various parts of worship can be daunting, but energizing. When you’ve listened to that work and you know exactly where it belongs in that special service, it’s like that feeling you get as a child on Christmas morning….you can’t wait for that date to arrive or those rehearsals to start on that piece.
Because I and every artistic/creative type can’t just leave our work at the office, quite often I’m scouring the internet while I’m watching tv in the evening. Chatting with friends about their choirs, that song they’re working on for an opera audition, or prepping for a Broadway show, watching Youtube videos of what my colleagues have done in worship in the last few weeks. Finding those new warmups for rehearsals, or creating a descant for an opening hymn.
Of course, there are those meetings…weekly staff meetings, quick meetings with clergy about worship details, who needs pastoral care, budget considerations, music committee planning, and myriad other one-topic conversations for future program or event ideas. It’s what those of us involved in church work deal with on a daily and weekly basis. Would we like to do something else to make money? There have been times that I wish I could do something other than working for the church. Could I really do it? Probably not.
The time between June and August is my planning time for the entire church year. I plan the entire year, as much as I can, for each anthem, each choir, prod and push the clergy to give me broad strokes for their topics for each Sunday. Ideally, I like to start the new program year knowing, as best I can, that each Sunday is accounted for, that each Sunday has a balance of music that supports the scriptures/topics, and vice versa. It doesn’t always happen. Honestly, the older I get, the more frustrating it is for me not to know what is happening as far in advance as I can plan. But, then I just have to let it go.
Then there are those moments we experienced yesterday during Tom’s sermon. Originally, I planned “King Uzziah” for September 28. I knew it was special in particular to the Saari’s, and a few of you. Reluctantly, I moved it around to accommodate schedules and thought “well, the text is speaking about a call to ministry, so let’s put it on the Sunday when Tom Stiers is here.” And when he said that that text was used in his ordination service, all was made clear. The Spirit was alive and working farther in advance than any of us can imagine. And that, my dear friends, is why I do what I do. Because I couldn’t ever do anything but be in music ministry…and I love sharing this ministry with all of you.