A New Season Begins
Since it has been more than a month since I have posted anything here, I thought it might be a good time to post something of a reflection on the change of season. After all, this is what has been keeping me busy lately! For me, as for many people, the change from summer into fall can sometimes feel like a hard right turn. This is not a bad thing, but the shift does seem somewhat dramatic to me, because it occurs in several aspects of my work and home life.
Autumn brings with it many beginnings. First, of course, it is "back-to-school" season. For those of us who are parents, this means getting children where they need to be, making sure they are prepared, and adjusting to the school routine. Our oldest is now a freshman in high school, our son has begun his final year of elementary school, and our youngest, at three, is dipping her toe into preschool two mornings a week. In different ways, this is a big year for all of them, and, in turn, a big year for their parents!
And, of course, as students return to the classroom, so do teachers. I have now resumed my regular private piano instruction schedule, which is another welcome seasonal change. I really enjoy teaching and have some wonderful, engaged students, both new and returning. As someone who routinely geeks out over music theory and technique, it is a real joy and privilege to help shape a student's technical foundations and musical understanding as they build a relationship with their instrument, and even with music itself. I am genuinely excited for what will be in store for these young musicians as the year moves on, and this feeling only increases with each new season of learning.
In addition to beginning the new school term, September also marks the return of the church choral season at St. Peter's. As in many parishes, our choir takes a hiatus for the summer months. While the choral aspect of our music program is missed by parishioners, visitors, choristers, and Music Director alike during the summer, it provides a welcome respite and allows us to return refreshed and renewed in the fall.
I am one of those conductors who really enjoys the rehearsal process, not only in the weekly preparations for Sunday Mass, but in the careful rehearsal of more complex pieces that we rehearse over many weeks. This is not just a source of enjoyment for me, but it builds a more musically attuned and aware choir, too. For example, last year at this time, we began rehearsing a beautiful, if complex, arrangement of The Huron Carol for Christmas, one that I had conducted when I was with Festival Celebration Choir of Albany. There are layers of complexity to this arrangement that I had not put before our small, volunteer church choir before, but they rose to the challenge and did well with this piece. This season, we get to do this piece again, this time having already sung it, and we get to build on our musical understanding of the piece without necessarily having to spend as much time rehearsing the notes themselves. The ability to build a a worthy musical repertoire over time is one of the great blessings of working with a church choir. The greatest blessing, though, is having this wonderful group of volunteers that come together each week to make music together and grow into a kind of family, enhancing the beauty of our liturgy at St. Peter's on a regular basis. In that respect, if there is anyone reading this who has thought about joining a choir, but has not yet had the courage to take the plunge, now is the time!
Another seasonal change for me as a church musician is the wedding schedule. When it comes to weddings, it seems that autumn has become the new spring. When I began my career as a church musician almost eighteen years ago, the majority of weddings happened in the spring and early summer. Now, fall seems to have become "wedding season". This is not only in Saratoga, as musician friends of mine in other areas (of both the liturgical and chamber/soloist varieties) have found this to be the case. Providing music for wedding celebrations comes with its own set of particular challenges and can sometimes be stressful, especially when couples request music that does not necessarily work within the Tradition of the Church, requiring the musician to take on a catechetical role in explaining the tensions between secular and sacred traditions. But that is part of what those of us in this line of work are called to do. And while there are certainly the occasional "bridezillas", overbearing parents, wedding planners who see themselves as "hired guns", etc., and we could lament the influence that social media influencers and YouTube videos can have on the public consciousness involving wedding celebrations, I would say that the vast majority of weddings that I have played for have been truly joyful occasions and another great privilege of the work that I am called to do as a pastoral musician. It is really something to have the opportunity, regularly, to see a new family off as they begin their journey, and to add something meaningful to that celebration.
As those of you who check in with my website with some frequency will know, the past six months or so was a busy time for me as a composer. I presented and premiered my grant-funded Adirondack Sketches in February. I composed the new hymn The Body of the Lord for Lent at St. Peter's. St. Peter's Choir, along with two wonderful Cantors, premiered Good Friday Adoration Suite in its entirety at our parish's Good Friday celebration in April. My Cumulus Reverie for flute and cello was premiered in June, my Epiclesis for trumpet, trombone, and harp was performed at the International Trumpet Guild conference in Miami in July. (I hope to share the recording of this fantastic performance with you once it is made available to me.) Fünf premiered my second woodwind quintet at St. Peter's, also in July. Fünf and I were then given the opportunity to present my first and second quintets with a pre-performance talk as part of the Sacandaga Valley Arts Network's "Arts Festival" in August. And, if this were not enough, I performed a retrospective solo concert of some of my liturgical pieces at St. Peter's in late August. And so, this fall also marks something of a turn for me from a heightened period of presenting new work to a time of ideation, composition, and scaffolding of new projects. I hope to keep you all in the loop as these projects come about, so stay tuned, and thanks, as always, for reading!
Happy fall, everyone!