UUMN conference. The mass choir rehearsed first thing today. Once we arrived, we had about 30 minutes before rehearsal started. I used that time to review a Spanish piece that we've been rehearsing. The notes and rhythms aren't that difficult, and the pronunciation isn't tricky, but when you put all those elements together, it becomes a challenge. I wandered around outside, speaking and then singing my part, and I wasn't the only one. Everywhere I looked, I saw other singers with their heads buried in the music. It paid off, because the choir sounded noticeably better this morning.
Yesterday, a friend of mine texted me and asked what my favorite moment of the conference was. I told her it was the first day, when a room full of terrific singers all sang a hymn together. This morning I texted her a correction. My favorite moment of the conference was this morning, when a children's choir joined the adult choir. Talk about angel voices! That was a spectacular moment, and I can't wait to sing that piece of music with them tomorrow morning.
There was another time slot for workshops after the choir rehearsal, but I wasn't interested in any of them, so I practiced guitar instead. The first few days of the conference, I tried to go to everything, but you can't keep that up all week. It was relaxing to spend a little time alone under the trees and play guitar. Your typical guitarist would sit under a tree and strum folk songs, but I was practicing scales and licks. It works for me.
After lunch, we enjoyed an intergenerational service that included the children's choir. One thing I noticed about all of the services was that the order of service often included instructions for the hymns. For example, we might all sing verse 1 together, then low voices sing verse 2, high voices sing verse 3, and everyone sing again in verse 4. I liked this. It was nice to stand silently through a verse and enjoy listening to other people sing. I could see it in other faces, too. I think it helped us appreciate each other more.
Lunch followed the service. I took my lunch and my instrument to a jam session. Dana, a bass player who had played in a lot of the services and special events, caught up with me. "Are you the jazz guitar player?" "Yes." He invited me to a jam session, and I told him that I was already planning on going. I met him upstairs. It was just the two of us for a while. Before we jammed on anything, he put a piece of music in front of me and asked if I could play it. I kind of showed off by not just playing it, but creating a guitar arrangement on the spot. Okay, I more than "kind of" showed off. Then we played it together. Then he put another piece of music in front of me, and we read through that. Then Dana said, "I might have a gig for you." He was leading a workshop on contemporary music in church services and asked if I wanted to play with the band. "Sure!"
The funny thing is that I had been watching the musicians that most frequently played for the special events. I had been planning on asking someone how I can be one of those musicians next year. Next thing you know, I'm playing a couple numbers with them. Be careful what you wish for! I had a great time playing with the group, I got to take a couple solos, and it was a terrific workshop. I will definitely be in touch with Dana and these other folks to make sure I can do some more playing next year.
The good news is that I got to play in that workshop. The bad news was that it shared the same time slot with a workshop on children's choir technique and repertoire, but here's the great thing about this bunch of people: One woman knew I was interested in the children's choir workshop and expected to see me there. When she saw me setting up for the contemporary music workshop, she realized that I was going to miss the children's choir workshop, so she took extra copies of the music and handouts and gave them to me. That was incredibly thoughtful of her.
Later in the afternoon, we had our final choral repertoire reading session. This session focused on Unitarian Universalist composers, most of whom were at the conference. There were some terrific pieces in that pile of music. When I get back to Atlanta, I'm going to have to make some difficult decisions. I've been exposed to a lot of new choral music, and I've found several pieces that would work well with my choir. Unfortunately, my music budget has limits, and so I'll need to sit down and decide which pieces to order. I guess I'll just have to earmark the rest for later.
The final event of the day was a children's choir concert. I was (and am) exhausted. I was afraid that I would fall asleep during the concert, but those kids sang so well that I couldn't have slept if I had tried. (Well, maybe if I had tried.)
I'm back at the hotel now. As soon as I finish this blog, I'll pack my things so that I can check out quickly tomorrow morning. Our final event is a service tomorrow morning, and then we'll all say our goodbyes. Following that will be a long drive back to Atlanta.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.