Posts Tagged 'holy week music'

Why cantors and choir directors are cranky right now

With a tip of the hat to Steve Robinson, I give you…

King Kliros!!!!!

And yes, it’s true, we’re a bit stressed right now. Let me just pass on a few reasons why, in hopes that it gives you some perspective.

1) We’ve got a week coming up full of services for which we’re responsible, we don’t have a clue who is going to be at any single one of them to help, and we probably won’t know entirely until about 15-20 minutes into each service.

2) There is no Paschal rehearsal schedule that can adequately cover the reality that no more than half of the choir is likely to be at any rehearsal. This means there is no amount of rehearsal that can prevent some number of trainwrecks, because inevitably the potential trainwreck spot you covered at rehearsal A was the rehearsal that persons B and C, most prone to trainwrecking at that particular spot, did not attend. This also means that all of the musical things you hoped to do something with, no matter how much you rehearsed them, are going to be useless because not everybody was there to rehearse those bits, and the people who weren’t there will just sing what they’re used to singing, regardless of how you try to conduct it.

3) There is also no Paschal rehearsal schedule that can adequately prepare for the reality that no matter how much you try to find out in advance who is singing with you, there will always be two or three people who show up five minutes before Rush and say, “Hey, mind if I sing?”

4) There is no Paschal rehearsal schedule that covers the fact that the music that you do lives way too high for your tenors and sopranos, but if you repitch it will be too low for your basses. The alternative, different music that would be appropriate for the singers you have, would get you your head handed to you by the people who have an emotional connection to this music that is incomprehensible to you.

5) It’s Lent, so just like everybody else, we’re fasting and struggling too, in addition to the above points.

If you would like to not contribute to our stress level, what would be helpful is this:

1) Come to every rehearsal and every service, tell us if you’re coming or not coming so that we know in advance, come on time, and encourage everybody you know to do the same. I know you’re busy. So is everybody else. So am I. If you’re sick or have to be out of town, that’s one thing. If you’re of the opinion that you have better things to do than rehearse, then why are you in the choir in the first place?

2) Do not think, “It doesn’t matter if I’m missing.” Yes, it does. I have had to cancel rehearsals this Lent because enough people have just not bothered to come for the time to be productive.

3) If you’re part of another ministry that meets during what is the choir’s normal rehearsal time and has a significant overlap of membership with the choir, please bring up the possibility of rescheduling those meetings during Lent so that we aren’t having to hold rehearsals with an even more severely compromised membership than usual. See point of crankiness #2.

4) Ask your friendly neighborhood choir director, “What can I do to help?” We don’t hear that nearly often enough.

5) Last but certainly not least, please pray for us! These next ten days or so of all days.

Just some food for thought.

Evangelism the old-fashioned way

As long as we’re talking about Western saints, here’s this item from Aaron D. Wolf (what a great name) by way of Ben at the Wittenberg Trail (to whom I’d love to link, but I can’t, because the Wittenberg Trail is evidently a private forum) by way of Alden Swan:

Here’s what I can’t figure out: How in the world did Saint Patrick evangelize all of those Druid priests and clan chieftains without a mission statement? After all, history and tradition tell us that he walked around preaching and performed an occasional miracle. But how did he know what his mission was? Aaron D. Wolf, The Mission of Souls: When Experts Attack

[…] Mr. Wolf raises some interesting questions and challenges to modern Evangelical concepts of evangelization and mission, contrasting the wisdom of being “pupose driven” to the pre-marketing (pre-modern) habit of simply proclaiming the Gospel.

Wow. What a concept.

This gets me thinking about something which has occurred to me before — I have to believe that liturgy is one of our better and more underappreciated evangelism tools. I guarantee you that St. Patrick wasn’t just walking around preaching and “performing occasional miracles” — he would also have been celebrating the Mass, with the Eucharist as his “mission statement.”

small country churchThe model of evangelism that would be wonderful, if cost-prohibitive, would be to go places where there aren’t churches and start by building simple, but identifiable, churches (such as Trinity Church in Antarctica of all places, pictured at right) where they would be visible and accessible, start publicly holding services so that people can tell that’s what you’re doing, and equip them so that they can host a soup kitchen or something similar. The problem with so many missions is that they can ill-afford being in a place where they would actually be visible and it would be clear what they are doing, so they wind up evangelizing only the people who are already there. Right now, at least in the Antiochian Archdiocese, you have to have some number of pledging families (25?) before you can have a priest assigned to you; that’s good business and fiscally responsible, no question about it, but who’s doing the evangelism in that case but people who aren’t necessarily equipped to do it? I’m not saying that any Orthodox jurisdiction in this country has the money to spend, say, a half million to a million dollars planting missions so that they have buildings, priests, and services for the poor at the outset, but I sometimes wonder if that wouldn’t be a better witness all around.

I’m still waiting. Actually, I’m waiting on a couple of things — one fairly big thing, and one thing that is big-ish, but not on the same level as the other thing. (Confused yet?) In the meantime, however, I can reveal that I’m presenting a paper at Indiana University’s Medieval Graduate Symposium on 29 March. I can also give a heads-up that my church choir will be publicly presenting music from Holy Week as part of  IU’s Middle Eastern Arts Festival on 29 March. (Yes, the same 29 March. It’s gonna be a busy day.) Details for the whole ongoing program are here, but here’s the blurb for this particular event (I’m not going to use the word “concert,” for several reasons):

Concert: Choral Music of the Middle East
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: chants from Holy Week in the Lebanese and Syrian tradition

March 29, 2008, 8 pm
St. Paul’s Catholic Center

The All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Christian Choir under the direction of Richard Barrett will present an evening concert of liturgical music from the Middle East. The program will highlight music from the Syrian and Lebanese traditions. Meditative and celebratory selections drawn from Holy Week and Easter services exemplify how this music became an integral and functionally practical part of Orthodox ritual. While the traditional liturgical languages for the Orthodox in the Middle East are Greek and Arabic, selections will also be performed English.

I didn’t write that, by the way. I will be writing a set of program notes, however, which I will post here. I can say that this is exactly the kind of thing I hoped we’d eventually be able to do, and I’m really encouraged by how the rehearsals have gone — it’s stretching them beyond what their comfort level has been, but in a very doable fashion, and it will be a good thing for us to participate in this kind of outreach. Hopefully I can post a snippet or two from the evening itself afterwards.


Richard’s Twitter

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