One year, I went to a workshop led by the guru of all things having to do with children’s choirs in the church, Helen Kemp. Helen said something simple that rocked my world that year. She said, “Routine relieves anxiety.” In fact, she had a big, beautiful poster with those words that I can still see in my mind’s eye. Helen already knew what I would soon learn and put into practice. When children know what to expect—when they know that the routine of the rehearsal will include things like sitting in a seat labeled with their name; a sung, responsive roll call; a warm-up; a hymn; anthems; then a closing prayer, for example—they come to rehearsal without fear of the unknown. This healthy, predictable environment provides a safe place to be open and learn.Read More > >
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7Read More > >
“Spirit, open my heart to the joy and pain of living. As you love may I love, in receiving and in giving. Spirit, open my heart.” (ACS 1043)Read More > >
As a pianist who is not an organist, I sometimes lament the inability to aid the assembly’s song with sustained sound. After all, the attack of a hymn’s final chord is immediately followed by a decay, or dying away, of the sound on the piano. My experience has been that congregations often follow that lead and pull back with their voices, rather than hold on to a final chord with gusto.
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My theme for this past year became flexibility. It took me some time to get there. I’m a planner. Any good church musician needs to be. Pre-pandemic, I planned my entire choir year in the summer before rehearsals started. Every anthem, every rehearsal, every worship service was organized around the lectionary, the school breaks, confirmation, and other youth activities. It was a puzzle I enjoyed working on, and it enabled the year to go smoothly. Sure, there were little bumps in the road, and I would make adjustments, but the puzzle pieces all fit. It worked until March 2020, when the puzzle fell apart. Actually, it wasn’t even a puzzle anymore; it was a whole new game. New feelings swarmed: fear, excitement, disinterest, exhaustion, and curiosity, to name just a few.Read More > >
Who is the first person who comes to your mind when you think of an extraordinary mentor? What is the value in taking time to think about this question?
Several years ago, I was sitting in a breakout session at an ALCM conference listening to someone whom I consider an amazing mentor. He was dropping pearls of wisdom for those of us fortunate enough to hear. As I looked around the room, I saw many people engaged and, from the outside, some who seemed not to be. It struck me that it is easy to overlook opportunities to learn from a truly great musician.
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“My life flows on in endless song; above earth’s lamentation, I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.” (ELW 760)
Hymn texts have come to life in a new way since our world changed in early 2020. A new year is upon us and if we listen closely, we may hear that far-off hymn hailing a new creation. How can we, as church musicians, bring about a new creation? What gifts can we give our parishioners, communities, and cities?
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December 2020 will be like no other holiday season we have seen in our lifetimes. Gatherings are limited, and singing is prohibited. We church musicians are accustomed to being extraordinarily busy during this time, often to the point of exhaustedly cranking out notes and crossing each musical concert or service off our list. This Advent and Christmas, my schedule is drastically reduced. Is this a loss? Yes, but could it also be a gift?Read More > >
The contemporary/traditional dichotomy that came to exist in the last few decades of the 20th century has caused discomfort and even emotional pain among many worshipers, church musicians, and pastors alike. The effects of these “worship wars”—as they came to be known—will likely last for decades to come. Much has been written about this topic, but perhaps examining it under the lens of social capital—the shared values that enable groups to trust each other—can provide some insight into how to move beyond the dichotomy.Read More > >
“Sometimes our only song is weeping, our only sound a gasping breath . . .” (ACS 1050)
This is the first line of a new hymn in All Creation Sings, the upcoming worship supplement from Augsburg Fortress, found in the subsection “Lament.” Along with other new hymns in All Creation Sings, and their siblings in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, they are powerful source material as we grieve widespread sickness and death, old inequalities and fresh injustices. Hope itself can seem lost.Read More > >