A Week on the Holy Mountain
The Intersection of Spirituality and Artistry
Last week I once again had the immense joy of attending the Sewanee Church Music Conference. It is one of the oldest gatherings of church musicians in the country, and one designed especially for Episcopal church musicians. I describe this conference as a week-long intersection of spirituality and artistry.
As church musicians, we are often unable to fully participate in the worship experience, as we usually wear many hats at once during a worship service: organist, choir director, cantor, liturgist, sound engineer, etc. This conference is a balm to those of us longing for a chance to “just sing in the choir.” Working with world-class guest faculty (this year was Malcolm Archer and Fred Teardo), we are enlightened to advanced choral directing and organ playing concepts. Singing with other world-class musicians along-side us encourages us to strive for greater beauty in the liturgy. Hearing inspired and relevant sermons from our chaplain the Rev. Barbara Crafton quenches the thirst in our souls. The conversations around the dining table and late night after rehearsals and classes provide an opportunity to share ideas, discuss challenges, and to be ruthlessly supportive of one another in what is largely a career in which the bulk of our work is done in solitude.
Instead of practicing alone late night in a darkened church, we rehearse as a large group (over 100 of us from all over the country) all during the day. Instead of long hours planning liturgies, we only need show up and pick up our music during check-in. Instead of worrying about the length of the procession or the timing of the distribution of communion, we need only be present and sing together. This immersion (some call it drinking from a fire hose) is at once inspiring and healing.
The conference is a balm to church musicians of all sorts: choir directors, organists, cantors, lay choristers, priests, deacons, administrators, and even a few parishioners who merely want to be surrounded by world-class church music for a week.
Back when I first attended this conference in 2019, I found myself daily at a loss for words. Frequently ceasing to sing just long enough to take in the beauty of the experience, I found myself more than once sobbing openly in the choir loft. The experience was humbling, inspiring, challenging, and thoroughly healing. This year I was lucky enough to attend with my spouse Hecate who is one of our cantors and lead choristers. Together we embarked on a 9-day spiritual pilgrimage to the holy mountain that was just as healing for the work of our ministry as it was for our marriage.
Armed with vigor, I am delighted to return to the parish I call home and continue the ministry of music which has only grown over the past few years despite the pandemic’s best attempts at tearing it down. I carry with me a box of new sheet music to inspire the church’s song. I have in my mind many ideas for refreshing our liturgy through music. Fun Fact: The decision to move the tower bell ringing to before the prelude came from my experience on the holy mountain. This year I once again return refreshed, renewed, inspired, and challenged.
Here’s to many more years of dynamic music making, consistent ministry growth, inspiring liturgical beauty, and ever-present spiritual renewal.
For those wishing to hear or watch recordings of the past week’s services, please feel free to visit this link: https://www.sewaneeconf.com/2022-media.html. There you can also navigate to previous years (the most recent year before the pandemic was 2019 and is equally stunning).
Go On A Musical Pilgrimage: Sing with the Summer Choir
June 19, 2022
Come As You Are
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sing with the choir? Perhaps you've given thought to experimenting with joining, but never knew if it would be right for you?
This summer, you are invited to come as you are and sing with the choir. In order to give you a better picture of how singing with the Summer Choir varies from singing with the Chancel Choir, our Director of Music has prepared an outlook for what participation from June through August might look like.
- There are no rehearsals. Simply arrive by 9:15 a.m. and find a seat in the chancel. No need to come earlier or stay later.
- There are no vestments. This is where "come as you are" can be seen most clearly. Wear whatever you are most comfortable wearing.
- There are no sung psalms or anthems. Musical leadership of the church's song is limited to hymns and liturgical music. Special music is provided by our Director of Music, lay musicians, and other special guests.
- There are no long-term commitments. Unlike joining the choir in the Fall, there is no expectation to show up every week or to commit for a certain length of time. Come as often or as little as you like. This is a great time to test the waters and see what it is like singing from the other end of the church!
- There are no special seating arrangements. This is an excellent opportunity for the whole family to sit together. Spouses, partners, parents, children, etc. are all welcome to come and sit together!
Will you join us? See you this Sunday at 9:15 a.m. in the chancel!
Chancel Choir Only: Learning Your Music
June 19, 2022
In effort to keep more resources all in one place. We are discontinuing the music blog hosted on another platform. Everything you need will now be available on the church website. While the Learning Your Music page won't be visible from the menu. You can access it anytime by clicking here.