Dean’s Message March 2024

Three funerals and two baptism services in four weeks’ time gave me pause for reflection. The stories of the dear departed were poignant, full of love, sorrow, humor, and wisdom. And for the baptized, there was the joy of wonder and promise. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling…It is Well with My Soul…Be Thou My Vision. At least two out of three of these hymns were included in each of the five services, and all were gloriously sung. Coincidental, or is there more to this?

As church musicians, we are blessed with the call to carry the congregational song, which not only carries the moment, but also the life-long journey. And we have a journey of our own – that is, to make the hymn compelling. For me, when things are going right, I can hear, even feel, the reciprocal energy of the congregation moved to sing with conviction. Sometimes I’ve soloed out a verse, thickened or changed the harmonies, or even backed way off for an a cappella experience. The techniques are myriad, but intention is what really counts.

The hymn is ubiquitous in our work, but it is all too easy to lose sight of the familiar – kind of like losing the forest for the trees. Preparing hymns takes time – a lot of it. Dr. Mel Butler, at a memorable TAGO hymn-leading workshop a few years ago, said that he spends more time practicing the hymns than preludes, offerings, and postludes combined. He demonstrated how to construct hymn interpretations, including the use of accessible approaches. One need not be a virtuoso improvisor. Much of the time, just a well-placed tweak here or there will do, and it is always okay to write it down. So be encouraged! May we be inspired to bring the hymn alive, such that a community of faith can fully exclaim, “How can I keep from Singing?”

Looking ahead, we are excited about our next chapter meeting, exploring The Oxford Book of Organ Music by Women Composers, Saturday, April 27, at St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church, Tacoma. We will begin at 9:30am with coffee and refreshments, followed by the presentation at 10:00am, and open console at 11:30am. We hope you can join us for this fine opportunity of discovery!

Also, we are planning events for May and June to round out a wonderful year of programming. Stay tuned for details. My heartfelt thanks, as always, to the board, presenters, and members who make our chapter a place of warm support, vibrant ideas, educational opportunities, and friendship!


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