Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

A marvelous Hymn Festival that we attended -- the good news and the bad...

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    A marvelous Hymn Festival that we attended -- the good news and the bad...

    An experience we had just this week gave me cause for both a bit of hope and some despair too. A local Methodist church sponsored an extensive three-day workshop for choral directors and organists/pianists, and it apparently drew a few dozen participants from around the state. I was not able to attend the workshop sessions or classes, but my wife and I did attend the Friday night "hymn festival" which was free and open to the public. The workshop attendees themselves constituted a fairly large choir that performed some of the music of the evening, supplementing the rest of the service, which was hymn-based and sung by everyone present.

    It was concerning when we walked into the church and saw that over half the pews had been "roped off," forcing attendees to all sit in the remaining portion of the nave. That turned out to be a good idea though, because the 40 or 50 people who showed up to be the "congregation" would have seemed mighty scattered had we been seated all across this rather large nave. But it's sad that they didn't even expect very many to attend...

    It was also quite notable that the average age of both the choir members (the ones who had paid and were there for the classes) and the festival guests out in the pews had to be 60+. In fact, I'd almost guess that we were the youngest in the congregation, and we're 65 and 67. If there hadn't been one young man about 35 in the choir and a handful of others in their 50's, the average age up there might have been 70. It just seemed sad to me that a hymn festival apparently has no appeal to "young" people, though to be fair, there hadn't been much in the way of advertising of this event locally. You'd still think that the large church which sponsored the workshop and festival must surely have young adults and families with children, and that at least SOME of them might have been interested enough to turn up for this really fine service.

    But the good news is that the service was WONDERFUL! The workshop facilitator/director was absolutely astounding in his range of musical abilities, having put together a service that interleaved magnificent readings of scripture, "reflections" on the texts from the pens of such notables as Fred Rogers, some of our finest hymns, some marvelous hymns that were new to me, some modern anthems with astonishingly moving texts set to traditional but innovative tunes, and even a lovely solo by one of the choristers. One of the anthems was accompanied by a gentleman playing a set of tuned drums of some sort, and it was amazingly effective, not at all "pop-ish" or commercial-sounding. One of the hymns was partly accompanied by a handbell group, and for most of the hymns he played the excellent pipe organ, using bold and creative registrations and some interesting improvised (I suspect) accompaniments. A time or two he sat at the grand piano and played lovely and lusciously gorgeous accompaniments as we sang the well known hymns with a Gospel flavor.

    All in all it was a marvelous service with "something for everyone" and with so much creativity that I felt put to shame over the rather predictable and mundane ways in which I present hymns in our own services.

    It's just SO SAD that so very few people were there to enjoy this and to be blessed by it, as I certainly was. At many points in the service I was moved to tears, both through the reading of scripture and through the powerful texts and tunes of the music. It made me want to commit myself to doing a much better job of presenting and using hymns in my own church, and I hope I'll be able to follow through with that.
    John
    ----------
    Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
    Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
    Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
    Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

    #2
    After reflecting on that festival for a few days, and trying to be mindful of the hymns in church yesterday, I certainly feel motivated to do some "different" stuff in coming weeks to (hopefully) bring a little more interest to our hymn-singing. We only sing three hymns each week in the service, so every hymn counts and I need to be VERY selective about the hymns we sing. Time is too short for weak hymns, poorly-written, theologically bad ones, quirky stuff that might please only a narrow constituency. I've got to be diligent about using the best ones, week after week. And I need to present each hymn in a way that will make it most effective and appealing.

    I was impressed with the way we sang one of the hymns at the festival -- several choir members had bells, all of them F, A, or C bells, and rang the bells on the downbeats for the first couple of lines of the hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" which we sang to "Hyfrydol." The organ didn't even play an intro, the bells were the only accompaniment on those lines. After the first two lines, the organ took over and led us through the rest of the hymn. On the final note of the last stanza the bells were rung jubilantly on the word "praise." It was quite interesting and fun.

    Of course, we also did some of the old-fashioned stuff with some hymns, such as ladies only on a certain stanza, men only on another, harmony on a stanza, unison on another. But those ideas don't work as well in a small congregation such as ours where not everyone is actually going to sing, and few have strong voices, fewer still able to sing harmony. I'm going to have to look for other ways to "spice up" the hymns that compare to the bell-ringing thing that seemed so cool.

    When I watch youtube videos of organists who really know how to get creative with their hymn-playing, I'm impressed with the variety that colorful organ registration can bring to hymn-singing. I need to work on that as well, though of course it's harder to do that when the organ you play is not really all that big or amazing.
    John
    ----------
    Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
    Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
    Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
    Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks for sharing this experience and your thoughts with us!

      Comment


        #4
        John, can you share a copy of the program?

        Comment


        • jbird604
          jbird604 commented
          Editing a comment
          I would if I could, but my scanner is not working properly, and there were twelve full-size pages in the handout. Even the handout didn't contain everything, mostly just the hymns and other music, not the scriptures and the very moving "reflections."

          You might Google "Tom Trenney Hymn Festival" and follow some of the links that come up. Apparently he has put on similar festivals around the country, and is much in demand as a clinician and guest artist. You might find a complete text of one of his festivals, and I assume he has done more or less the same thing in other venues.
      Working...
      X