The church musician’s joy

Our music director scheduled the adults’ rehearsal at 3:45 this afternoon. We are advised to arrive quietly so as not to disturb the childrens’ and youth choirs’ rehearsals already in progress. On this Saturday afternoon eight days before Christmas, tenors and basses leave behind their beloved sports on television. Musicians in Christian churches everywhere approach these last few days before the Big Day with a mixture of joy and dread. This is the best music of the year, music we love to rehearse and sing, but those final rehearsals can leave one exhausted.

Tomorrow, Sunday, Dec. 17, fourth Sunday of Advent, one week before Christmas Eve, offers a great example. At 8 a.m., I will arrive at church for a warmup with our 12-voice Chamber Singers as we prepare to provide music for worship services at 8:45 and 11:00. As soon as the 11:00 service ends, I will hurry home for a bite of lunch and return by 2:00 to rehearse vocals with The Ambassadors, a 17-piece dance band that rehearses at our church. I’ll duck out of that rehearsal before it ends to join a 3:00 p.m. final rehearsal in the sanctuary for a service of Lessons and Carols, then sing in that service at 4:30. After that service ends, I plan to head home for dinner and a glass of wine. Whew.

While all this is happening, two of my favorite sports teams, the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and the University of North Carolina mens’ basketball team, will be competing in important games. Both will be televised. I’ll be recording both contests for future viewing. Maybe after dinner.

What’s not to love about this? Church musicians live for such days. We look forward to this season all year. Tiring yes, but filled with so much joy. Singing this beautiful music with people we love can’t be equaled. This is how we express our faith.

I’ve described the experience of just one singer. Imagine what such weeks and days are like for our directors, invariably overworked and underpaid, who lovingly plan, coordinate, teach, conduct their charges, and take responsibility for making sure that her or his efforts all culminate in a rich spiritual experience for every worshiper in the pew.

And for every church musician. I can’t wait for it all to start again next year.

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