As I sit to write this, I admit to being at a loss for words.  The world has changed.  But what hasn’t changed is that music has never been more important.   We are dealing with being more separated from our community than we have ever been.  While we need diverse ways to express the layers of emotions that are being brought up during this crisis, music is one of the ways we stay connected to each other.  As church services everywhere, not just here, became virtual, we find ourselves in a new age, an age of discovery for me!  In order to bring music to our congregation, I have become childlike in enjoying new technologies.  I would not have predicted this even a month ago!  I especially appreciate the collaboration of the First Parish staff, and the generosity of our musicians.

I wonder what music you would choose for a church service in Coronavirus times?  There are so many feelings to express.  From our teal hymnal, we chose Lean on Me because it fits as we are reaching out to each other.  It was on our list for a church service before its composer, Bill Withers, died of heart complications last week.  Additionally, we were reading in the Globe about a song written by Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock called They are Falling All Around Me.  She wrote it in 1975 to immortalize fallen civil rights workers and the song was revived during the AIDS crisis.  Besides being sung by Bernice Johnson Reagon from an album released on CD in 1997 called: Give Your Hands to the Struggle (Smithsonian Folkways), it has been sung by Holly Near (who wrote We are a Gentle Angry People), Cris Williamson and others.  This song is about loss.

Don’t we also want to keep our optimism, too?! There’s Honey in the Rock is rousing and fun to sing; it is hard to sit or stand still while singing!  We will be singing this song as our Hymn of the month.  You can find a wonderful YouTube performance of this done by UU music directors from one of their national conferences led by the great Nick Page, who wrote the lyrics to the song.  With a little time on your hands, you can find other gems on YouTube of songs you know and love. 

We have been reaching out to our community of musicians, mostly choir members, to sing in our virtual choir performance that you will hear on Easter of Spirit of Life done in four-part harmony.  People have stepped up to make music for our online services truly a collaborative effort.  Hearing them literally brings tears to my eyes.  Guy and I could not bring such high-quality music to our worship services without the selfless efforts of First Parish musicians.  Thank you so much!  And thank you to Guy for working so hard to blend the voices and to Izzy for helping with the video that goes with the music.

We are heartened by the appreciation you have expressed during and after the services.  That means everything to us!

Be sure to tune into the Virtual Talent Show, which I believe will be happening on April 24th.  Directions will be forthcoming for that. 

From behind the scenes, “see” you in church!

Charlyn Bethell
Music Director | + posts

Charlyn’s professional training has followed two paths: as a professional oboist and as a music teacher and conductor. As Music Director at First Parish, she joins these two paths of her musical life, conducting the choir, coordinating guest musicians, and performing on oboe.