To sit and dreamPhotograph of Charlyn Bethell and Guy Urban
To sit and dream about the world.

Outside our world of here and now
Outside our world, our problem world.

To dream of vast horizons of the soul.
Of dreams made whole,
unfettered, free.

Help me, help me.  All you who are dreamers too.
Help me make our world anew.

I reach out my hand to you!

To sit and dream
To sit and read
To sit and learn about the world.

To sit and dream.
—Words from “To You” by Langston Hughes

Happy New Year, everyone!  I find myself imagining the world at church where we are all together and singing our hearts out.  While that is a look backwards to what we were pre-pandemic, I find my imagination going beyond to the great unknown.  “To sit and dream”—we actually have the time to imagine the world, not just as it was, but rather what we would like it to be.  I celebrate how we have managed our still-vital community throughout this pandemic and I celebrate how we embrace the great 2021.

Guy and I will be working with our First Parish choir to create an anthem for late January/early February called, To Sit and Dream.  I love the sound of this piece by Rosaphayne Powell, and I love its words that are written by Langston Hughes.  I feel affirmed as I hear recordings of this piece.  That being said,  this song is a specific challenge and one that we are excited about.  Let me walk you through what we do to bring it to life for you.

First, Guy and I imagine what we want it to be:  a piece with 4-part harmony, some of the voices are doubled, making it sometimes 8-part harmony!  How fast should it be?  Where does it get louder and softer?  Do we want it to slow down and then speed up again?  We plan all those details.  We will share our vision of this music with choir members at one of our choir meetings.  Then Guy will send over files over to singers.  This will be the piano part highlighting specific parts for the singers of each voice range.

We will need singers to know their parts and record their singing into their phones.  They then send them to Guy to mix together.  This will include a video of them singing.  Our choir has been doing this almost weekly for hymns and they have been steadfast in their efforts.  It isn’t always fun doing it.

Guy then takes all the voices and mixes them to sound great together.  He and I create the expression in the music—slowing down, changing the dynamics.  He adds a bit of “reverb” to give us a fuller sound.  Then he does his magic with the videos.  He has to have them synchronized and he has to balance them.  He can have a maximum of six singers at a time on the screen using the software that we have.  So, he makes a plan that singers go in and out on the screen, and he plans it phrase by phrase.  This takes much much time!  Guy is skilled musically and technologically.  He makes it all work.

I can’t wait to share this piece with you all!  I also know that we will be as enriched by the  process of creating it as we will be hearing the end product.  From imagining this piece, and having this music bring our choir together for yet another monumental project, to sharing with our church community, it brings us full circle.  Happy New Year to us all in 2021!

Our choir meets on Zoom every Thursday at 7 pm.  If you would like to join us for singing, please email me and I will send you the link.

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.