The January issue of Choral Journal is now available online at acda.org/choraljournal, and it should be arriving in mailboxes soon if not already. This issue is a preview of the 2019 National Conference in Kansas City, Feb 27-March 2. This will be an exciting conference, with tried-and-true offerings along with brand-new opportunities for networking, learning, and listening.
One of the offerings at the 2019 conference is a music and worship service. In anticipation of these performances, Terry York shares some insight into this theme in a special article found in the January 2019 issue on page 11. Below is an excerpt of the article.
Enough talking, already. It all sounds like Charlie Brown’s school teacher. Sing. Sing so that we might learn, again, how to listen to what we hear.
With patterns of tempo and expression, choral directors sculpt the clay of sung truth and beauty. It is beauty that first comes to mind when we think of art, but a new and urgent day has dawned. We must now think of art in terms of truth seeking and truth telling. An image planted by hymn writer Ernest Shurtleff in 1887 has blossomed full in our day: “Lead on, oh [God] eternal, the day of march has come.” Community and peace must be sung with renewed purpose and resolve. It is not from a podium of red or blue that I write, but from a pulpit of Lenten purple.
We have seen the concepts of community and peace twisted by agitated and frightened agendas. Choral directors, sing the truth of community, sing the truth of peace. Sing until the fog of fear clears from our congregations and audiences. Sing until they recognize—and cringe at the sound of—propaganda. Sing with faith and its twin, creativity. Sing with humility and its twin, courage. To do so is to sing the gospel.
Anthems and hymn-arrangements create five-minute worlds that float in sanctuary and performance hall. These worlds are crafted with detail and nuance of lyric and music. There is much to see and hear, much to consider. Compelling performance awakens imagination, inviting the singers and listeners to enter those temporary worlds, to look around, to listen. There are insights to be discovered in these worlds. At the cut-off , the singers and hearers return to their individual worlds of tough questions and demanding responsibilities. But they return changed by the journey, even the short journey. They return better equipped for the important work of discernment, for the important work of making a difference.
It has long been known that travel, journeys, and pilgrimages expand and enrich one’s worldview. Concepts of community and peace are high on the list of sensibilities that can be changed for life by travel. Choral directors create compelling worlds of community and peace, then shepherd the congregation from pew to pilgrimage and back to pew; usher the audience from numbered row and seat to newly created destinations of truth and beauty.
This is your work, and your work has never been more crucial than it is now. The church choir is a key ensemble in this choral commitment to community and peace. Congregations are different than audiences, but both gatherings are essential to the project of singing the truth of community and the truth of peace.
Sing the gospel, whether as education or as inspiration or as motivation, even as entertainment. Help the people hear an echo and catch a glimpse of the peaceable community that faith offers. Let them see that an alternative worldview and way is at hand and within reach. Community and peace are not to be thought of as visions of the naïve.
Help congregations and audiences imagine and believe that authentic community and enriching peace can be restored despite all the evidence to the contrary. Create five-minute worlds of truth and worship that will forever be emblazoned on their hearts; worlds that they carry with them to be revisited when peace is needed and opportunities to create community arise. Sing well. Encourage the soul. Much is at stake.