After a spirit-filled weekend of art, writing, and music in the “Alleluia Be Our Measure” sacred arts festival, we regrouped on Sunday morning for what I like to call “regular church,” which turned out to be anything but regular. Following a Sunday morning adult forum in which our guest clinicians again defined the sacred in a discussion of art, writing and music, we celebrated Choir Appreciation Sunday, the one Sunday each year when our parish says thank you to our choirs for their hard work and dedication this past season.
Upon viewing the photograph above, one of my friends said, “These people appear to be applauding; are you sure they’re REAL Episcopalians?” I jokingly maintain that Choir Sunday is the one Sunday each year when the congregation is allowed to turn around and wave at us in the choir gallery at the rear of the nave. This year there was much more: thunderous applause, an impromptu standing ovation, and yes, waving. One father and his toddler son in his arms even pointed and waved at us.
Our parish choirs (Parish Choir, Motet Choir, Children’s Choir, Taizé Schola, Holy Communion Ringers) reported for duty this choir season for 42 Sundays (morning and evening liturgies), 3 Christmas Eve services, 7 Holy Week and Easter liturgies, 8 Choral Evensongs, a Thanksgiving Day morning service, a Thanksgiving Interfaith evening service, an ordination to the priesthood, a day-long handbell festival, a three-day sacred arts festival, and a collective of 108 Wednesday evening and 60 Sunday evening rehearsals. The dedicated proof is, indeed, in the pudding. Though our choristers and ringers would not report for such duties if they did not love music-making, we are greatly appreciative for the all the pointing and waving and applauding.
However, the truth in the story is that only half of the job is done by those in the choir gallery. The pointing-and-waving-and-applauding people downstairs are the other half of music-making in divine liturgy. Many years ago a beloved professor said to me, “The purest form of liturgical music is congregational song,” something I have always tried to remember, enable and uphold. Our choirs work hard to effectively lead the congregational song, which is a blessed privilege, but the end result must be a combination of choir and congregation.
We love what we do and we are blessed by this sacred task. But we know that we are upstairs in the gallery to enable you to do what you in the nave downstairs. Perhaps one of these Sundays the choirs should point and wave and applaud all of you.