August 28, 2012
My Current Issue
I have been frustrated for the past year about our church service where after a solemn and beautiful musical offering, some people think it is quite fine to have a rousing hand of applause. Since this completely destroys the beautiful ambiance that the soloist or instrumentalist has created, I feel like screaming or walking out. I have decided to write something for our church newsletter but I haven't sent it yet. I'm in the middle of fashioning something that might make sense to those who have no sensibility about the nature of worship. In any case, I thought I would post my latest effort. I'll let you know if I get brave enough to send it to the church secretary.
The last few times this summer I've been to worship, I've felt as I were at a Hollywood Bowl concert. Have you every wondered why people don't clap after a soloist sings during a wedding or after Ave Maria is sung for a memorial service? What makes those occasions different from church?
I'm not a complete grinch - I think it is fun to clap during a casual, alternative service where clapping is an integral part and participation in the singing. I, too, clap when we sing "This Little Light of Mine" or at the end of service when Judy plays a rousing postlude. I, too, occasionally enjoy a display of energy when we occasionally celebrate alternative worship traditions.
When I trained as a church musician, I was taught to believe that music is an integral part of the service. It is meant to create a mood. It is designed to move people through the worship service, not to wallow in it. A definition of worship in our tradition is showing reverence for God. People who sing or play instruments during worship are giving an offering. They are not performing. The music is a gift and is meant to create a feeling of awe or inspiration. The amazing music that I heard this summer did just that - that is, until it was over when the worshipful mood was immediately shattered by applause. This happens over and over during our church worship services after a beautiful piece of music has set the tone for a most sanctified atmosphere. Since it is meant for worship, there is no need for the worshippers to show appreciation by stopping the momentum of worship.
There are several inherent problems in this. First, as I have said, it completely destroys what the music has accomplished. Second, it is never equitable since people appear to clap for some people and not others. For instance, I've been in services where people do not clap for the chancel choir, but do clap for the children's choir and the men's choir (making the men feel like children). I've heard it say that the children would feel bad if people didn't clap -as if we couldn't teach our bright children that they are doing something very special for God and don't always need applause for their actions. Finally, there are a great many worshippers in our congregation that feel annoyed when their worshipping experience is disrupted.
Applause is all about us the need to show our individual gratitude. In a corporate worship setting, we act for the benefit of all. It is not important to the artists who share their gifts. In fact, silence and awe is quite satisfying. Worship is our special offering to God. I would like to restore the reverence to our worship service by not stopping the momentum to applaud.
August 14, 2012
Summertime, and the living is easy!
Now this is Northwest summer that I love -- days hovering around 80, light breezes blowing, more light than dark, blue, blue skies and the freshest of fruits and vegetables from the garden! Dani and I partnered on a Nicoise salad this evening and we have a peach cobbler waiting for dessert. I'm sitting in the wicker rocker on the front porch with my computer while moving the sprinkler every so often. I came back from Ashland to a quiet week. Former Woodland Hills parishioners, Maria and Bruce Barbee, joined me for lunch at Anthony's while driving through Bellingham to British Columbia on Monday. Dani and Charles are regaining their house from the renters tomorrow although they might do a bit of painting before moving back in. We're having dinner on Thursday night with the Tetricks because Joe is in town from Korea with his bride. All in all, a lovely and relaxing August week with nothing of great importance to do. I guess I could work on a variety of projects since I have a half painted living room and a bathroom torn apart waiting for electrician, plumber, etc. to make their debut. But, I don't feel rushed or even very concerned. It will all get done in its own time.
We had a lovely memorial service on Sunday for Lad Anderson, a retired Presbyterian pastor who joined our church many years ago. He preached at Donel's memorial service. The service was well done -- some of his family read the scriptures and the choir sang a simple song. His wife, Lois, requested brownies and ice cream for the reception. I am the chair of our Hospitality Committee and four of us dished out the ice cream on Saturday in preparation by putting a scoop in a paper cup and keeping it all night in the freezer. Turns out that it was a great idea -- people loved it. Our Hospitality Committee is comprised of 6 senior citizens who put on receptions after memorial services. The oldest is Robey who is 90. She can literally work rings around the rest of us. On Sunday, we began prep and service around 1:30 and no one left to go home until after 4:30. The ladies don't feel like they can take a break as long as Robey is working so hard. She keeps us on our toes. I don't know what she eats for breakfast -- but she is an energizer bunny! She claims that she will stay on the committee until she can't do the work any more. But, I think she will outlast the rest of us. It's such a joy to work with these diligent ladies to make a day special for others.
That is one of the joys of being connected to a busy, active church -- serving with others, singing with others, working besides others, pondering big life questions with others, praying with others -- so many activities done with hard working and caring people who share values and know we are welcome no matter who we are or where we are on life's journey. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of such a lovely extended family.
August 7, 2012
Ashland 2012 - Part 2
"Founded in 1935, the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is among the oldest and largest professional non-profit theatres in the nation. Each year OSF presents an eight-and-a-half-month season of eleven plays in three theatres plus numerous ancillary activities, and undertakes an extensive theatre education program. Operating on a budget exceeding $26 million, OSF presents more than 780 performances annually with attendance of approximately 400,000."
This quote is from their online web page. Barb Storms and I just returned from our second visit for the season and from seeing the rest of the plays. I have said this before, and I'll say it again, it is an amazing experience. I don't know where you can see such high quality art over and over again in such a short amount of time. I suppose you can go from play to play in NY for a small fortune. But, even if you are not thrilled with a particular presentation, the acting is top notch! Here are some more facts:
OSF has the oldest existing full-scale Elizabethan stage in the Western Hemisphere, built on the site of the old Chautauqua theatre established in 1893.
OSF presents an eight-month season of 11 plays--four by Shakespeare and seven by classic and contemporary playwrights--in rotating repertory in three theatres: the outdoor Elizabethan Stage (seats 1,190), the Angus Bowmer Theatre (seats 601), and the intimate New Theatre (seats 270-360).
In 2011 OSF reached a total attendance of 390,347 and 83% of capacity in all three theatres. Patrons see an average of 3 shows, making the total number of visitors to the Festival each year approximately 125,000. Eighty-eight percent of its audience travels more than 125 miles to attend the Festival.
Four years ago, OSF launched a new series of plays called "American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle." This season we saw "All The Way," an amazing performance about Johnson's presidency from his taking over after Kennedy's assassination up until his reelection and a second play, "Party People" about former Black Panthers and Young Lords looking back upon their activism and part in black history. Both interesting, but LBJ play was amazing.
Barb and I have such a tradition. We begin by traveling down to Portland and spending the afternoon in Powell's book store. Then, we enjoy a glass of wine while waiting for Nicole Marshall and my niece, Connie, to meet us for dinner at Cafe Mingo. We then stay all night with Nicole and leave early for Ashland the next morning. On our way to Ashland we have to stop in Eugene where we head to Broadway and some of our favorite stores. Then, over to Glenwood restaurant for lunch and on to Ashland. In Ashland we stay with old friends, Bob and Carol Olmstead, who come from California.
This is not a relaxing vacation. Plays every afternoon and evening. A typical day begins at 1:30 with the 3 hour play, an informal presentation about the play with one of the actors, a preface about the evening play, dinner, and a second play. We get home about midnight only to want to talk about what we have experienced. Food is central since we both revisit our favorite restaurants for dinner and this year found a few new places that were excellent.
Forgive me for continually writing about Ashland - but what more can you ask than great art and wonderful food?
Here are some places we visit in Eugene - they are three in a row on Broadway!