“Story” is our theme for May.  Music Sunday is this coming Sunday, May 16th.  We can have music tell a story, we could tell our story ABOUT music, we could tell about our lives WITH music, and we could let music BE our story.  Our Music Sunday service is titled  “Our Musical Stories”.

Let’s start with a story from the movie, Lilies of the Field.   An itinerant worker, Homer Smith,  played by Sydney Poitier, happens by a group of Eastern European nuns, who are convinced that he was sent by God to build them a chapel.  It is in the middle of nowhere!  The main character eventually builds the chapel, but only with the help of he whole community.  Homer discovers that he can be a leader.  In the middle of all that, he belts out the song, AmenAmen was written by Jester Hairston, an African American musician, choir director, and arranger of spirituals.  Actually, Hairston dubs over Sydney Poitier’s voice, while Poitier lip-synchs.   Their voices sound quite different, but the effect is fulfilling and if I could sing Amen for you right now, you might say that it sounds familiar.  I think it was a hit song in the ’60’s.

Jester Hairston is one of the African American musicians we studied last winter.  Members of our choir have met weekly at our usual choir time on Zoom.  In those sessions, we have studied about the music of African Americans in America, from the early days of slavery to present day.  We now know about African American musicians, composers, and styles of music that have enriched us all.  We listen to beautiful Youtube performances. This includes spirituals, Gospel, blues, jazz, rock n roll, soul, pop, rhythm and blues, music and musicians from New Orleans, and classically-trained black musicians /composers who used spirituals in their compositions.  African Americans and their music have helped to build a uniquely American musical genre. 

Jester Hairston arranged a spiritual called Hold On, and the First Parish choir will be singing it as our last virtual choir anthem of the year at Music Sunday.  Hold On is symbolic of what we have all endured during the last year in the pandemic. The lyrics quote from the book of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible, and it harkens to days of slavery in our country. 

The Music Sunday service will have a special spoken mediation, a musical meditation, and a Story for All Ages. Three choir members will tell their personal musical stories.  Choir members have chosen music for the Prelude and the Post-Postlude.  The service is a collaboration by the First Parish Choir.  As you participate with us in the service, I wonder what your musical story would be?

Now, as I change the subject away from Music Sunday, here are a couple of general questions you have asked about worship services this pandemic year:

  1. Are we aware of copyright in our church services?    Copyright is ownership that artists have for their art:  music, stories, visual images.  It often involves paying them a fee for using their work.  Without this, they could not support themselves.   We purchased a special license that gives us permission for much of the music you hear or sing at our services.  Sometimes, I reach out to composers/arrangers/lyricists asking for their permissions.  Sometimes, I (we) pay them a fee for that permission.  Also, the UUA has granted us permission to use selected hymns.
  2. Who creates the slides for services that most recently have included beautiful visual images?

That would be Guy!  He spends much time finding just the right picture to go with the music.  In addition, he does not randomly change them.  Rather, he shifts them with the musical phrase.  As he has gotten more comfortable with the technology for the songs, he has taken on adding pictures.  He gets a lot of satisfaction in the total effect of the music he prepares.

See you in church!

Our usual choir meeting on Thursday, May 20th will be cancelled so all can attend the Sue Kuder Event created by the Social Action committee that will feature Beverly and Barbara Smith. 

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.