These virtual times

Everything has changed. And I mean everything.

Directing a socially distanced parish music program from home is not the easiest thing I have ever done.

While many do not, I still have a salary, food, and paper products on hand, I truly have nothing about which to complain. However, directing church music from home, with two laptop computers, a mobile phone, and an out-of-tune Yamaha piano, is something that I never envisioned.

In assigned shifts, the Holy Communion parish staff is beginning to return to the office little-by-little. Presently, my office time is Tuesday afternoons. Yesterday, with the three computer monitors and local printer on my desk, I finished a project in 45 minutes that at home has been requiring two hours. And I felt as if I had successfully landed a 747 jumbo jet.

When working at home, I talk on the phone, send individual and group texts, make lists and plans, send myself email reminders, participate in and host Zoom meetings, and learning new computer software, all the while creatively attempting to reinvent the wheel.

Now that the organ is back up and the nave is technically open, I am also returning to practice the organ. Going to the church looks as though I am going to camp: tote bags with music, organ shoes, a tripod, a ring light, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, a mask with filter, and sometimes a sandwich.

Who would have ever thought that the tripod would become a tool of ministry?

In addition to this blog, which I treat as a gift and as sacred space, I have been given a video page on our parish Facebook page. “Saturday Music with Dr. Ouzts” is the place where we will upload music videos each Saturday morning, as we attempt to share the organ and our new acoustics as well as solo and ensemble choral music virtually.

As the space there for sharing background explanations about the music videos is somewhat limited, I thought I would link this week’s blog to the videos page for some additional information.

The first video that you will find there is a recording of the Jacques Lemmens “Fanfare” for organ. I chose this piece basically to exhibit our new acoustics, which you will hear with the last two big chords of the piece. Listen carefully, and you will hear that I must stretch these chords out of tempo as I wait for the sound of the room to decay after each chord.

What a marvelous problem for the organist to now have! (he said, humbly…)

The second video that you will see and hear is our Parish Choir staff singers’ first virtual choir project, a recording of the Easter hymn, “Now the green blade riseth,” set in The Hymnal 1982 to the French carol tune Nöel nouvelet.

Indeed, we had a learning curve to overcome, but now that the first project is complete, the next ones will be easier. Virtual choir recordings are limited according to the software that is being used, but we hope to branch out and include as many of our Parish Choir’s members as possible on future videos.

This week I will post an organ piece that features the Festival Trumpet (AKA “Hosanna Horn”) stop. For decades, the David N. Johnson “Trumpet Tune in D Major” has been used as the opening theme music for National Public Radio’s weekly episodes of “With Heart and Voice.”

At Church of the Holy Communion, many brides and many graduates of St. Mary’s Episcopal School have been brought down the aisle with this piece.

The choir is beginning a new virtual choir project that will be posted in a couple of weeks.

When recording big organ pieces, for acoustical success, the tripod and camera must be located downstairs about half-way down the nave. However, I do plan to record some smaller, quieter pieces with the tripod located with me at the organ console in the balcony, where I can speak directly into the camera while seated on the organ bench.

In addition to the new tripod, we now have a camera monitor, sound system tablet controls, and a new music desk reading light on the organ console.

So, as we say in showbiz, “stay tuned.”

Photo Credits: Photos by David Perry Ouzts.

Saturday Music with Dr. Ouzts is found on the Church of the Holy Communion Facebook main page (click Videos link at left, then scroll down) or by clicking here

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 17:11