Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Going Paperless, Chapter 1

This calendar year (because that's how the Chapel of the Good Shepherd Operates) I have been asked to co-coordinated the Sunday evening community eucharist (about which I blogged a few months ago) with Colin Chapman. One of the things we're trying to do is get attendance up. We're seeking to make it an authentic, intentional worship experience. One of the ways we're trying to do that is with paperless music. In January I went to Music that Makes Community and learned some good pieces, got a confidence boost, got some resources, and made some good networking connections. So from that I've planned music from last Sunday through Easter. Lots of continuity with pieces so that people can get really comfortable with them.

The exception to that, of course, is that very, very soon we're in Lent, so all the music will change for that season. However, we'll get two weeks of these songs (or so I thought) before we moved on to more dreary songs. Not dreary. Just more contemplative and slower, at least off the top of my head I think they'll be slower. I chose the songs for now the same way I usually choose music: what do the words say and how is that related to what we're doing? If I had to use one word to describe how Sunday night went, it would definitely be #fail.

It wasn't really a failure, it was just new. It will get better at it as we go, and even as the service progressed it got better. As Taylor Burton-Edwards (whose wife is a priest) pointed out, I am trying to get a very scripted people to go off-script. Paperless music is new to them, and the musical selections weren't the best they could've been, and I'm making changes as a result. And most of the music was completely new to the people, too. This week I'm thinking about moving my position to somewhere else and hoping to have some ringers in the congregation who've practiced the music and can bolster confidence of the assembly as they sing.

The opening last week was "Arise, Shine," which is in Music by Heart. One of the perks of having evening worship is that songs with light are always applicable, regardless of season. I'm trying to avoid the Phos Hilaron since it's the invitatory at the evening office. That song will continue. One of the things that we're doing is restoring a song of praise separate and distinct from an opening song. This week, since it's the season after Epiphany we attempted a Gloria. This was Rick Fabian's paperless Gloria with congregational refrain and cantored verses. I practiced it all week with the keyboard because I kept getting some intervals off. We didn't make it to the verses because we didn't get comfortable enough with the refrain. Now I know it at least. Next time we're doing the "Peruvian Gloria " that Patrick Evans lead at MMC and can be found in The Faith We Sing and probably other collections. It's much simpler.

For the gospel acclamation we sang the Caribbean Hallelujah that we've used all school year and the people are familiar with. I'll sing it twice through next time versus just the one. That needs to be worked out and communicated with the presider so that they know when they'll be on, and I'll know when I need to stop. That'll clearly change with Lent. For the offertory song, which is also a transition from the choir to the altar we sang "Gather Children, Gather 'Round" which I somewhat altered at the end as that I couldn't entirely remember how I learned it, but I made it work. Then we did the best two of the night: Sanctus and song during communion.

For the Sanctus we did Mark Miller's, also found in The Faith We Sing. I don't have a copy of that, but I remember when we'd do "Singy Communion" at the Wesley. Mark's setting works well to break into phrases to do an echo. During communion we sang "Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks to the Risen Lord," which went well. The people, in large part, knew it. We repeated it a good number of times, and I think we were starting to get some harmony. We sent the altar party out with "God Bless Every Step," and it went well, despite being a newish piece. I think one of the things that helped as we were around the altar was that we were close together, so we could hear each other even if we weren't singing lustily and with good courage.

And that was Chapter 1 in this adventure of turning a service into a service of paperless music. Keep checking in for updates, because I think I'm going to keep blogging them, both for my reflections and in the hope that people can offer suggestions and the hope that people can learn from my mistakes!

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