portrait of woman in black holding oboe

Charlyn Bethell, Music Director


“……….For me, it’s singing.  Because when I’m singing, I’m breathing.  When I’m terrified that the meeting is going to fall apart, when someone I trust and look up to is giving me feedback that’s hard to hear, or when I’m about to knock on someone’s door or engage in direct action or sit down with the elected official or write the grant, that’s when I try to remember that I can sing.
 
Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not a good singer.  But it’s not about being a good singer.  It’s about remembering that singing brings me back to courage, possibility, and enough space for spirit.”
—From the UU World Summer 2019
Moving mountains one stone at a time,  Our work for social justice (page 21),  by Elizabeth Nguyen
 
Much of my musical life has been practicing and studying the oboe.  After college, I traveled to Denmark to learn how to play significantly better, which meant I gave up much that was comfortable to me.  (At the time, I would say that those two years were the best years of my life so far, but it was daunting getting into.)  Yet, long before I even thought of the oboe, I loved to sing.  I tend to forget that.
 
I don’t remember not being able to sing and match a pitch.  My sister and I would sing together most nights before going to sleep.  I vividly remember doing that!   After school, I would ride my bike and sing the same song over and over, a little differently each time.  I sang when the opportunity presented itself, and in middle school years, I sang in a select group that represented the school at important functions.  This gave me a feeling of importance that I needed, as I joined the group right after we had transferred (I am an Air Force brat.)  and I was the new girl trying to find her way.  Singing gave me a path.  
 
I have given children the opportunity to sing for many years, and I have been honored to be the music director at First Parish as well.  Most recently, this year in retirement from my public school teaching, I am singing in a hospice singing group, started by Jean Gauthier.  Jean is a fine singer herself and she was inspired to attend a summer retreat on this subject, which is how we got started.  This group, called Wayfare Singers, has five members and rehearses once per week.   Now we also do a “sing” once per week or more.  We stand around the bed of a person in hospice and sing to them for about twenty minutes.  After we hum ourselves out, the person seems calm and we are transformed with gratitude and serenity.  Who benefits more from this?  I think we share equally.  An added bonus to me is that I am now singing regularly.  
 
Getting back to my opening quote, there are great things that happen to us when we sing.  Included are: keeping us centered, reminding us of our own courage, and helping us be our best selves as we meld with our unique life spirit.  Those are the personal things, but the community we all share when we sing together is paramount.  Singing is a force toward social justice.  For most people at church, the only time they sing during the week is during a church service.  The benefits of our collective music go far beyond the moments we are actually singing.  Singing is a virtual hug for all of us.  Those moments are grounding, connecting us to ourselves and to each other.  The sounds of Sunday’s worship can infuse into the work week, too—just as Wendy’s words give us a new way to look at the world and our lives.
 
See you in church!
 
Music happenings in October:
October 13th:  Guy and I are visiting family in the Pacific Northwest.  Carole Berney is Guy’s substitute pianist.  I do not know what she is playing, but I know you will all enjoy it!
October 20th:  Jean Gauthier, singer-songwriter and guitarist, will sing her song, “Letting Go, Holdin’ On”
October 27th:  Sue-Ellen Hershman Tcherepnin is our guest flutist.
 
November 3rd:  The First Parish choir sings songs to support our theme of Memory.
 
 
NEWSFLASH!!!!  COMING IN NOVEMBER!!!!
Please save November 17th as the date for a Sunday 90-minute Drumming and Spirituality workshop (after social hour) led by Matt Meyer, who will be leading our worship service that day.  The exact time will be TBA.  Here is his description of the workshop:
 
Drumming and Spirituality
A chance for people of all skill levels to participate in hands on rhythm-making. We’ll tour instruments from around the world and experience the connection of community music-making through different activities, stories,  and discussions. We’ll also look at how rhythm and music intersect with Unitarian Universalist values.  Bring your own drum if you have one- for those who don’t, enough will provided.   (90 mins)
 
To defray the cost of this, I will ask that people contribute $20.  If that is a hardship, that fee can be waived.  I will be asking that people let me know that they will be in attendance, as we will need at least 10 people to make it viable.  I know that I will be in attendance as a participant.