But we never sing "Amazing grace"

I am a pastoral musician. At least that is what I tell the choristers in my charge when I am choosing and rehearsing anthems and what I tell myself when I am selecting hymns for the congregation to sing. Truth be told, I do try to choose “the old favorites” during the summer months when we do not have the choir in place for a few weeks. While attempting to remain faithful to our rich worship heritage of liturgy and lectionary readings, I do dive for the familiar hymns. The... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, July 3, 2018
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One to the Power of 3

Trinity Sunday. What does one say? The sermon on Trinity Sunday, you know, is always the one that the rector makes either the deacon or seminarian preach because you wind up talking in circles anyway. Wondering what I said in this blog about Trinity Sunday last year, I reached back into our electronic files only to discover and remember that Trinity Sunday was much later into June 2017. Hence, I did not write a Trinity Sunday blog last year. We all know the images. Father, Son and... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Monday, May 21, 2018
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And now, from a cubicle

Welcome to the Music Department. Yes, this is it. Our parish offices are now relocated in temporary space loaned to us by the lower school of St. Mary’s Episcopal School, diagonally across the street from our Walnut Grove Road church campus. The center of the lower school campus is Moss Hall, the majestic old brick mansion with white columns. The foyer is resplendent with a circular staircase, center chandelier and an Oriental carpet on the stairs. A former private... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Monday, May 14, 2018
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Grace, all sufficient

In March every year, the Holy Communion Ringers, our parish handbell choir, attends a local handbell festival. The festival, River City Ring , is sponsored by the West Tennessee Handbell Association, an affiliate of the Handbell Musicians of America. Church of the Holy Communion maintains memberships in both the local and national organizations. While our local handbell festival usually includes 10-15 choirs from around the region, some handbell festivals feature upwards of 75 choirs... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Friday, May 4, 2018
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Out with the old, in with the new

As most everyone knows, our parish is making immediate preparations for a $7 million building construction and renovations project. Storage pods (nicknamed Paul, Silas and Timothy) now stand on the east lawn waiting to be filled, and every picture and plaque has been removed from the walls of Blaisdell and Greenwood.  This is the assigned week for the music ministry to pack up and vacate. Last Sunday our choirs vested in the vesting rooms and retrieved their music folders... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Monday, April 23, 2018
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Traditional, accented with practicality

Christian worship in denominations that follow liturgical practices is rich with symbolism and tradition. Growing up as a Methodist, with moderate (not conservative) Baptist on the side, I was familiar with solid liturgical traditions, thanks to John Wesley, who “was an Anglican priest all of his life,” as my grandmother continually said. When I arrived in graduate school and auditioned for five part-time church positions (two Congregational, two Lutheran, one Episcopal), I took... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Monday, April 16, 2018
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Friendship, community, hospitality and grace

We have all heard the jokes, as inspired by Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be in the midst of them.” Likewise: Where two or more Baptists are gathered, a chicken must die and be fried. Where two or more Methodists are gathered, there will be a covered-dish supper. Where two or more Presbyterians are gathered, a vote will be taken.  Where two or more Episcopalians are gathered, there will always be a fifth. Have we noticed... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Wednesday, April 11, 2018
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April 4 now embedded in every fiber

In 1968, I was attending kindergarten at the Presbyterian church in my small hometown in South Carolina. The next school year, my first-grade class was the first integrated grade in our school district. I knew there were differences with black people and white people, but other than going to different churches at the time, I do not remember any other real differences. My preschool best friend and I used to walk together up Main Street to the county library branch for Tuesday morning... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Wednesday, April 4, 2018
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Behind the Easter anthem

By now the world should know that I like text-driven music for the liturgy. Of course, I have my favorites. We all do. I love the Mozart Ave verum corpus, which technically would work for Communion all the time. And since we celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday, we could “liturgically, legally” sing it every Sunday morning. It is also no secret that I would program the Victoria O magnum mysterium every Christmas Eve if given my druthers. For me, that marriage of text and... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Monday, March 26, 2018
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Dramatic week begins simply

We are about to enter the most dramatic part of the Christian year. The sequence of events marked by Holy Week and Easter are, I believe, the most dramatic. Many will immediately argue about or for the glorious drama of the Christmas sequence, including traveling to Bethlehem, being turned away at the inn, the birth in the stable, the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, the flight into Egypt. However, something about the birth of the Christ Child seems quieter and simpler than the Holy... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, March 20, 2018
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Tribute rings true

For the first time, this week’s NOTES: Music & Liturgy is in retrograde , to coin a musical term. The 20th Century contemporary composers, working with 12-tone or aleatory music, could state their 12-tones in order and then in retrograde, inversion  and retrograde inversion. Here I am only backing up a Sunday rather than inverting it or backing up and inverting it. However, this backing-up is intentional, as our Holy Communion Ringers played for the 10:30 service on... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Monday, March 5, 2018
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Solid and fluid, at once

Somewhere between Vacation Bible School and the Decalogue in the Book of Common Prayer, I know we have at some point in our lives memorized the Ten Commandments. Well, this Sunday (March 4), the Ten Commandments appear and will be read officially as the First Lesson. Young and old alike will hear the beloved, famous Old Testament words, and I imagine many of us will remember when we first heard them. To go along with the Ten Commandments early in the 10:30... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Friday, March 2, 2018
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The Summons

What are the correct words for a particular hymn tune? This question depends upon many things, including the faith tradition in which you were raised, the particular setting or liturgy in which a hymn text is used, or the hymn tune you remember singing when you went to church with your grandmother. Take the hymn tune Hyfrydol for example. The Methodists and Presbyterians sing “Come, thou long-expected Jesus” to this favorite tune, while the Baptists and some Presbyterians sing... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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The Great Litany

"Are we singing that thing in procession this Sunday?!” That thing would be The Great Litany, the oldest piece of extant original-English liturgy we have. Each week I receive numerous comments and questions about our liturgy and music, and I love this, as I know people in the pews are paying attention to what is going on. And truthfully, 99 percent of the comments I hear are wonderfully encouraging, positive and genuinely inquisitive. Knowing that the faithful... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, February 13, 2018
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Full circle, it is

When you are on Facebook and you see that two of your friends also know each other, and you have no clue how or from where, do you ever feel as though your life is flashing before your eyes? Oprah calls these “full-circle moments.” Not being able to resist, I usually have to write a two-person private message that asks, “Okay, how to you two know each other?” My mother has said, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” There is some truth in... Read More
Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at Tuesday, February 6, 2018
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