The first and foremost little job for me today was to play for St. Paul Lutheran Church’s Service. Before I arrived there a little after 8:00 am, I ran thru the pieces they selected for me play just one more time on the piano at my office. When I arrived, I was glad the church was heating up because me fingers were exceptionally cold, and as most keyboardist know, when your fingers are cold, it’s all the harder to play, especially when there are pieces that move quickly.
I managed to get myself limbered up while running thru the service music and hymns again. There was one particular piece that I’d never heard played before, and even after looking online and still not finding it, I was at a loss whether I was playing it up to speed or not since the pages were not marked for tempo. Fortunately there was an early arrival, so I went down and asked her if it sounded Ok. Thank goodness she said I was playing it correctly.
Since I was downstairs, we spoke about the need for more youth in aging congregations, along with how standard and easily sung liturgical music is important for churches because it’s brings everyone all the more together. By that time, another had arrived and joined in our conversation. I went on to say how it’s terribly important for musicians and vocalists to remember when selecting pieces to be played, that most people–especially the older ones, don’t have very broad vocal ranges along with weak sight reading skills.
I most soulfully mentioned how over the years when accompanying different singers, there’d be times when I’d remind them that they’re not there to give performances, but rather as leaders of the congregation in song. If I would start thinking back, I could name many instrumentalist along with vocalists who reveled in their so-called performances. If I found the vocalists I played for disregarding my advice numerous times, I would simply refuse to accompany them any longer.
Not long ago I mentioned something to a well known regarding some sacred music I happened to listen to at an area church which was being played by a newbie to our area. I think she was a bit shocked when I mentioned how the keyboardist was adding too many “extras” to the music that was being played. I not only noticed those little add-ons, but also a very noticeable and overly sweeping style. I’m now wondering if that person would finally get the message if everyone in that church would turn around, look up, and start clapping after finishing one of those little “look at me” liturgical performances.
After the Service finished, I went walking thru the nave with one of St. Paul’s members and when I grew near their beautiful wooden cross hanging in its sanctuary I said, “Every time I see your beautiful carving of Christ, a great feeling of reverence comes over me.” She smiled while saying, “It was added back in the 1960’s when there was some re-modeling done, and just so you know, it was carved in Italy.” I quickly replied while looking up at it, “Whomever created it was a gifted woodcarver and likely filled with the Spirit while carving it.” The above photo is one I took of it. Isn’t it beautiful?