By Katherine Will
Coordinator of Music and Worship
I want to thank the Grace Vestry for making it possible for me to attend the Sewanee Church Music Conference held this past July at Dubose Conference Center near the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. This was my first visit to the annual conference, held specifically for Episcopal musicians. This weeklong event was an opportunity to sing, worship, and connect with approximately 150 musicians from across the United States.
Our typical day began with celebrating the Eucharist (at 7:30 AM!). We experienced both Rite I and Rite II during the week, with lots of chanting. After breakfast we would rehearse as a choir for an hour and a half, then hear a “lecture” on liturgy by our chaplain, the Right Rev. Neil Alexander, former bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, and current Dean of the Sewanee School of Theology. Our afternoons and evenings were filled with more rehearsals, reading sessions, master classes in choral conducting and organ performance, and classes on liturgical planning, technology, improvisation, and some simple chanting.
Much of the week revolved around working with the nationally known organists and choirmasters Todd Wilson and Peter Conti. They took turns leading our choir rehearsals, master classes and reading sessions. One of the personal highlights of the week for me was the opportunity to conduct the workshop choir (over one hundred voices) in a master class and then receive comments and suggestions from Todd. I was terrified, but received many compliments from both Todd and the choir members.
And these rehearsals I keep mentioning? There were in preparation to lead two services at All Saints Chapel on the campus at Sewanee. We sang the Friday Evensong service and the Sunday Eucharist. And these two services were the other highlight of the week. All Saints is a beautiful old building with stone, dark wood and stained-glass everywhere. I felt like I was singing in one of the cathedrals in England, especially during Evensong, as we sat in the choir stalls facing each other, with candles lit on the desks, and beautiful music floating on the air.
So what did I come away from the week with? A bag full of sample music to share with Chancel Choir (and ultimately the rest of Grace); experiences with chant, both of portions of the liturgy, and in singing Psalms in a variety of forms; a new network of musician friends with shared work experiences, that I can contact and pick their brains; my head full of conversations about music, worship and liturgy, as well as a notebook with ideas; new resources for music and liturgies; and,as a musician, the experience of learning and being fed by preparing challenging music and hearing others perform. It was glorious to be able to sing all week!