Friday, January 16, 2015

Sunday Morning (part one)

Today is "Take your blog reader to work" day.

Since one of my jobs is that of church musician, I thought I'd give you some idea of what goes on in the environs of Faith UMC on a Sunday morning, since I'm there for much of it. Come along....

It's about 7:05. I've just arrived. I'm a little cross at myself for being late--I wanted to get here at seven. But I'm also looking forward to the challenge of the day, expectant but ready for a long and energy using session. I may also be groggy. It depends on the morning. When I enter the sanctuary it is empty and quiet. With luck, the stained glass catches the sunlight and there are reflections on the church pews creating a little Aurora Borealis. This is my only chance to practice on my own, so if I've got something I need to go over, or just warm up for, I'd better do it now. That's why I'm here early.

7:20 The ushers wander in; we exchange pleasantries. Now the anthem singer for the first service is here, too. At one time the pastor came for his short rehearsal at this time (we had a brief experiment with the Psalter but that's stopped happening.) The rest of the morning will not be my own, hence the practice earlier. Now it is time to rehearse with the 8 o'clock version of the choir, who is usually one very dedicated soloist who has gotten up early. Sometimes it is a student from the university, often it is someone from the church choir, and often it is the same wonderful soul!

Singing at 8 can't be easy. Sometimes a singer has a touch of a frog--that can be interesting. A while back one of the students liked to sing everything a key or two lower at the 8 o'clock service so I transposed everything. My mind isn't very agile this early, either, but it works. Usually. Once I had a piece of music that I knew in one key written in a different key and the soloist asked me to put it in yet another key. That was a little confusing!

We go over the anthem once, and then I have to hurry across the hall. The band is waiting for me. They are rehearsing for the 9 o'clock service. They start at 7:30, more or less.  Doug asks me which of the six or seven pieces are piano heavy so we can do those while I am with them. I won't make the entire rehearsal, which takes place in our Worship and Life Center, one of three worship spaces in this church. It is the most recent (2006). While we rehearse, I'll keep an eye on my phone and at 7:59, whether we are in the middle of a song or not, I'll run back over to the North Sanctuary for the start of the 8 o'clock service. The band keeps going without me. We have two guitars, a bass, drums, keyboards (that's me) and usually about three or four singers. Sometimes the song begins with just the piano, though, so we need to get to that one now, and if it is the first thing in the service I'd better not miss the downbeat. So I am constantly watching the clock.

We go over about four songs, usually only once, but occasionally twice if we get lost at some point. Then we stop and talk about it ("I thought we were supposed to repeat the second chorus." "Is this the one with six beats to the bridge?" "I'm not getting my harmony part, sorry." etc.) But we have to be quick. We also rehearsed Thursday, probably, and only for the week to come. Still, putting six or seven songs together on that little rehearsal means we either have to know what we are doing or figure it out fast. Our leader calls us a "musical MASH unit"--stitch a song up, and hope it makes it through the service! Our members are talented. Two of them had gigs with the early REO Speedwagon, a nationally (internationally?) known group in the US which originated in Champaign. Then there's me, the classically trained pianist. But I can fake it pretty well. One member of the 9 o'clock service thinks I sound like Bruce Horsnby. It's not by design; I've barely heard any of his stuff!

7:59. I literally run across the stage, out the door, across the Gathering Area, and to my post at the organ to start the 8 o'clock service. Out pastor is still talking about the Illini. But in mere moments it will be handshake time and the first service will begin.

Next week: part two

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