Happy Spring, everyone! 

I am thinking about entertainers who sing to us.  They could be live or virtual.  They are energetic, they move their hands and their legs, they dance, they smile, and they look right at us.  Their enthusiasm is infectious.  You can tell that they are reaching out to us and creating a common bond with you.  The music is part of them because they know it by heart.

Now imagine that they are holding a copy of the music they are singing while they are singing.  Their glance goes down and up, sometimes they need to move the music so they can see it better and the book is in front of their face.  The music itself can become a barrier between you and the singer.  “Why are you saying all this?”, you might ask. 

Most of you know that the Building and Grounds Committee is showing us how we can have technology in our sanctuary that would enhance our worship experience, both for in-person worship and for those who worship remotely.  Such technology would give us choices that we do not now have.  We could continue to have members who live in Maine and California or Oregon with us at services.  We would be able to see Guy’s hands as he plays for us. 

Since few of us will be singing hymns during worship by heart, the best of these choices is perhaps having the hymns we share on a screen at the front of the sanctuary.  Then we do not need hymnals in our hands.  We can look at the screen and also look away from it to see each other.  We can feel connected to the whole congregation as we sing together.  We can move with the song.  We can dance as the spirit moves us.  We do not have to do any of that, but we are less likely to be one with the music if we are not seeing the song in front of us on a screen. 

Singing from hymnals has its advantages.  I can sing the alto part that I see in the music, which probably would not be put on the screen.  BUT, when we use hymnals, someone has to put them out, as greeters do on chairs prior to a service.  Similarly, they need to be put away.  If we run short of hymnals, we need to purchase more.  Imagine if none of that had to happen.

We do not know exactly HOW nor WHEN we will be using enhanced technology in our sanctuary.  We do know that if we do not have it, we will go back to “normal” as it was pre-pandemic.  The CHOICE option will not be there for the times that we would opt to use it or not to use it.  Renters would find our church much more hospitable to their needs, too.  Again, it would be their choice to use it or not. 

Guy and I attended a conference in Tulsa, OK, that used screens for hymn singing, orders of service, and needed content.  We used almost no paper.  If we wanted copies of anything, they were available virtually.  We UU’s became uninhibited!  We danced around the room and celebrated each other in ways that will always be memorable to us.  Worship was a transformative event.  It was nothing short of awesome. 

Maybe we will start to rock out with our hymns.  Maybe we won’t, but it could happen.  My imagination is in full gear, and I like what I see.

See you in church!

Our choir is, weather permitting, meeting at Ross and Kristin’s house in Arlington on choir days, Thursdays from 4 to 5:30, all masked and socially distanced.  We will be singing a new anthem and hymns for services.  You are welcome to join us!

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.