I’m two weeks into my new job and absolutely love it! I am the Director of Music at the congregational church in town – about a 3-minute walk from home. The people have been incredibly supportive and welcoming and made us feel right at home from the very first week. What does a music director do? Here’s a sneak peek into my first week on the job.
Week 1: First Sunday
July 4th! I wanted to program something a little patriotic without being too blatant so I settled on the vocal arrangement of “Simple Gifts” by Aaron Copland with Steve on the saxophone. It was the perfect Americana prelude. The rest of the music for the service included three hymns (selected by the pastor), an anthem, the Lord’s Prayer, an offertory, two congregational responses, two pieces for communion, and a postlude. All in all, a lot of music! I was a little surprised when I received the first draft of the bulletin but I was also reassured that music plays a significant role in the life of this church. I did a little bit of searching for arrangements that I could substitute for the last verse of each hymn. It was a bold move not knowing how the congregation would respond. For the closing hymn, “O Beautiful,” I segued quickly from verse 3 into a 4-bar interlude and I heard the congregation inhale and then pause when they realized my plan. They came in right on time for the last verse, singing proudly and many came up afterward to tell me how much they loved being caught off-guard! Note to self: need more hymn arrangements.
Also, a note on the Lord’s Prayer – when the previous director, Ann, wrote in the music, “Follow them here,” she really meant it. In addition to altering the rhythm throughout, the whole last section transitioned into a duple meter in the score (the congregation stayed in triple). That will keep you on your toes! Note to self: before next Communion Sunday, transpose this piece down a whole step.
Week 1: The Choir Room
I have a desk! And a chair! I was excited to set up an informal work-space (and have internet) and get started on my work in the choir room. The room is a good size – two rows of oak spindle-back chairs stretch out in a subtle arc in front of the clavinova. There are two windows, a closet for storage and at least three sets of choir robes (children to adult), a bookshelf with files and stacks of hymnals, and a bulletin board. There is a small hallway connecting the choir room to the Sanctuary where the choir folders are kept on a white built-in bookcase and where decades of music is filed. Where to begin? I started in the closet – I found stacks of old choir folders, empty choir robe boxes, handbell gloves, a drum, and the tablecloths for the altar. Nothing too out of the ordinary. I straightened the bookshelves and found stacks of reference copies collected by previous directors. Publishers love sending packets of free music for your perusal hoping that you’ll like something they send enough to buy it. The goal is to sort through everything that’s sent so that the things you don’t like or won’t buy get recycled… good thing I have a recycling bin! Next task was to begin exploring the filing cabinets. I set up my laptop on a music stand and began the long process of inventory. Everything seems to be alphabetized and in order but many of the anthems are out-dated and most likely out of print. Should I keep them filed and pull everything else out? Or should it all stay combined in one filing system?
This week has been more of the same – inventory, updating the church website, preparing for Sunday, and a few planning meetings for the fall. Stay tuned for more updates!