Excepting intentionally brief or quiet "said" services, Episcopal liturgy regularly includes a lot of music, for which I am thankful. Obviously, planning music for liturgy is what I do for a living, is what I was trained to do, and is what I love to do.
According to American theologian Frederick Buechner (b. 1926), this is the true definition of vocation: "the intersection of your greatest joy and the world's greatest need." I am fortunate, indeed, and I seek to remember this each day.
In my Methodist days, Sunday included three hymns, an anthem, a couple of organ pieces and the Doxology. Our Episcopal weekly worship regularly includes five hymns, at least one anthem, a sung Psalm, three service music pieces (Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) and three organ voluntaries. And that's every Sunday morning.
Figuring out how to wedge five parish music ensembles into one Sunday liturgy each year on Choir Appreciation Sunday (May 1) is a wonderful task to tackle. In the 10:30 service this Sunday, choirs will sing separately and together, bells will ring, the congregation will sing a hymn written especially for our parish and the organ will speak with quiet and exuberant sounds.
I am grateful for the Parish Choir, which sings some 50-plus services and weekly rehearsals each year, including big music on Christmas Eve and twice on Easter morning. I am grateful for the Motet Choir, which rehearses late into the night each week after Parish Choir and sings Evensongs and special feast days throughout the season.
I am grateful for a rebuilding Children's Choir with expert sacred musician, music educator extraordinaire, my assistant and colleague Mrs. Ellen Koziel; these children follow her like the Pied Piper, sing like in-tune angels, and hang onto her every word. I am also grateful for a new younger children's choir on the horizon that Ellen will begin this fall.
I am grateful for a dedicated group of musicians known as the Holy Communion Ringers, who rehearse every Sunday evening and do not regularly miss rehearsals. ("When you're not here, your bells don't play.") If they miss, they dutifully secure a substitute from our church or a sister parish.
I am grateful for a small band of pick-up singers known as the Taize Schola who love our contemplative Sunday evening liturgies and, with the cantor, vocally lead the assembly in song.
I am grateful, finally, for my assistant organist and sacred music colleague Dr. Jane Gamble, a Herbert Howells scholar and my first Episcopal music friend in Memphis who took me to lunch upon arrival here fourteen years ago. Who would have ever thought that we would have the opportunity to work together? We share the organ duties each Sunday, and it really does not matter who is playing what at any given time. (Actually, I often forget, and Jane reminds me, thank God.)
Sunday's morning service will be full of music, full of choristers and ringers, and full of joyful singing by choirs and congregation. If you happen to see a singer or ringer, give them a hug and thank them for serving God and our parish so faithfully.
And if you see me, remind me how completely fortunate I am.