Welcome to this summer series on questions and possibilities for a new era in our personal lives, professional lives, the choral landscape, and in society! I’m so glad you’re here for the journey.
By now, many of us have started rehearsals again for the year, whether in a school, worship, collegiate, or community setting. In terms of rosters and logistics, most likely we know our starting point for this year. Perhaps it’s what we expected. Or not. Perhaps some of us have voicings in one of our choirs we’ve never encountered before. Or we found out that we took a hit in numbers and have a lot of rebuilding ahead of us.
Re-visiting the first post I wrote in the summer, life doesn’t feel quite as dissonant.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty and discomfort. However, I don’t quite feel as dissonant. While still not how it was pre-pandemic, I’m starting to get some questions and ideas for this year. With regards to my adult Chancel Choir, I know who is comfortable coming to rehearsals and who is more comfortable staying home due to concerns over the Delta variant. For the singers in the second category, I tell them that they’re missed and hope they’re able to return soon. On the other, I feel a pang of guilt since I’m not sure where we’d have space for them in the Chancel, due to social distancing, when they decide to return.
Recently I was reminded of the anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birthday on August 25, 1918. I looked for a video of him conducting Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Unfortunately, I could not find a video, but I did find an audio recording on YouTube. That piece, so masterfully conducted by Bernstein, reminded me of the tension and grief of our world. Even in the midst of the pain, there is still release of that tension, even if it comes after waiting for a very long time.
During particularly stressful times during the pandemic, going deep and connecting with my priorities and purpose have helped me emerge from tough emotional times. Within the past year, I came across the book The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. Here is a TED talk she gave that illustrates her wisdom:
In her book on page 3, I found a passage to be particularly insightful. “When we don’t examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping too quickly to replicating old, staid formats of gathering. And we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.” While the book doesn’t mention choral conducting or rehearsals, there are so many concepts in the book that can transform rehearsals and each piece my choirs sing. My hope is the concepts can also aid in transforming worship services, especially with some people attending in person and many attending online.
In my own context, the next Senior Pastor starts on September 1. I’m looking forward to getting to know him and working with him. I’m hopeful that he’ll chart a long-term vision for the congregation. Especially since he’ll have a fresh perspective on the congregation, I’m looking forward to bringing concepts from The Art of Gathering to see what positive changes can be made to worship.
As this summer series comes to an end, I’m excited to mention that I will continue to blog on a regular basis for ChoralNet! Starting September 14, I’ll post every other week. The focus will have a worship in music lens. I plan on including multi-media elements: either recordings of performances or talks that I find inspiring.
I’ll examine a few topics, including but not limited to:
- How do we keep choir members connected to each other? How do we connect those who are attending in person with those who have elected to stay home?
- As Director of Music at a church, how are we priest and prophet? Thanks to Dr. Anton Armstrong for that insightful question.
- How do we create memorable and meaningful rehearsals, performances, and worship services? I’ll share some nuggets of wisdom I applied from The Art of Gathering to choir and worship.
I intend on sharing practical ideas that worked, in hopes that they’ll help some of you. I also hope that you’ll share what is working for you throughout the year. Even though this era feels very isolating, let’s remind each other that we are not alone! I look forward to connecting with you in future. Stay tuned for additional blog posts, starting September 14!