“A Glorious Mess” by Jake Street

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Justine Stephens and the choir

It’s a strange time to be a choir director. Choral singing is not only one of the riskiest activities in person right now, but it’s also one of the toughest art forms to translate over the internet. Anyone who has tried to sing a round of “Happy Birthday” over Zoom knows it’s a glorious mess.

Yet the choir continues each week on Thursdays, getting together over Zoom to talk, stretch, hang out, and learn music together. We spend some great time in community, and learn (and re-learn) wonderful music. Some of the older choristers are writing an anthem to sing in church one day. And, in one of my favorite parts of the Zoom choir, we’ve had the opportunity to be joined by several amazing special guests from across the country. Mark Miller, one of our favorites, came by to play for us and lead us in song. Justine Stephens (pictured), a former chorister, took us through some flute tango and some of her own improvisations. Our own MaryBeth Yancey gave a fascinating mini-lecture on bluegrass music. It’s really been a lot of fun, and a safe haven amid the difficult news over the past few months.

As Christmas approaches, you’ll hear more from the choir as we put together some of the virtual choir offerings that we’ve been rehearsing. If you’re skeptical about the stitched-together multimedia miracle of the virtual choir, you’re not alone, because I was too–but I changed my mind after listening to our version for the first time. There’s nothing quite like singing together in person, but it’s still possible to make beautiful music as a choir, even when we’re apart.

The staff spends a lot of time talking about “adaptive change,” a concept I learned from Fr. Daniel. For me it means facing the moment with the tools we’ve got, seeing what works, and learning from what doesn’t. Virtual choir is not the same as it is in person, but it’s what we’ve got right now, and it’s always evolving and changing as we learn what we need. As we enter an all-new holiday season at St. Paul’s, my advice is: be like the shy Chorister who just this week sent me a recording of an anthem they barely knew. Dive into something new and see how it turns out. Perhaps it’ll be a glorious mess, but with the right spirit, it can be a glorious opportunity–and either way, it’ll be glorious.

Categories: Weekly Reflections