Parish organists and pianists

A moment of personal privilege here, please.

Next Sunday (June 7) is the day I return to the world as the parish organist. This Sunday (May 31) is my last Sunday as the parish pianist.

In June 2019, we vacated the nave for construction and refurbishment. The balcony was sealed off with huge sheets of thick plastic. Later a wooden frame with plastic was constructed directly in front of the organ façade, and the organ console was encased in thick plastic.

All Sunday worship moved to Cheney Parish Hall, on a wonderfully reverberant unfinished cement floor, where we had the use of a baby grand piano, portative organ, Kawai digital piano with weighted keys, and occasional instrumentalists.

From July 2019 to March 2020, this was the plan. We had big Christmas Eve services there, two of them even with a brass quintet. The weather outside for the 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service was so hot that we had the parish hall windows open.

We had the Parish Choir, cantors, and soloists, pretty much as usual. The choir fell into a nice routine in our assigned chairs behind the parish hall altar. Spread from one side of the room to the other, I thought they resembled the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

And the choir had some real choral “moments,” as we experimented with numerous a cappella anthems, different choral configurations (some of those necessary for sightlines), and various choral ensembles.

But then, at the beginning of Lent, the season of COVIDtide arrived. Everything changed.

Socially distanced liturgies quickly morphed into a priest, a pianist, and a videographer, all captured in the newly completed Children’s Chapel by an iPhone and a tripod.

And the rest is history, as they say.

Since then, we have carefully added cantors or instrumentalists, increasing our worship leadership to four per service.

However, in the midst of COVIDtide, we find the blessings if we look for them.

All along, the nave renovation plan included the installation of a state-of-the-art, permanently installed livestreaming system, which we will use for the first time on June 7.

When the construction workers left and we received the occupancy certificate, our organ technicians spent a week cleaning, reconnecting, and tuning the organ, which, with our new tile and marble floor, has never sounded better.

Even the organ console rear view mirror that was carefully focused on the altar (you could also see the pulpit and lectern if you leaned from side to side) has been replaced with a video monitor and a dedicated iPad for the new sound system.

For a couple of weeks now, I have been allowed after hours to sneak into the nave to practice and make a few organ videos, which are posted on the church Facebook page each Saturday morning. On the Church of the Holy Communion main Facebook page, click "Videos" in the left column, and scroll down to “Saturday Music.”

On Sunday, the Day of Pentecost, I will play our final Sunday morning services on the Children’s Chapel baby grand piano.

The prelude will be an ingenious combination of the plainsong chant Veni sancte spiritus and the Welsh hymn tune Aberystwyth, penned by our friend, parishioner, and widely-published composer Sondra K. Tucker.

The postlude will be my favorite Scarlatti sonata, which I learned in high school. Another point of personal privilege, I suppose. 

And then I return to the organ console as your humble parish organist. (Yay!)

Photo by David Ouzts.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 12:14 PM
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