Music that makes community
This summer, St Peter’s Lutheran Church and the Anglican Diocese of Niagara are co-sponsoring a session of Music that Makes Community which will be held at St. Peter’s in Kitchener from August 20-22. For more details, click Music that makes community .
Here is what Dr. Peter Nikiforuk, director of music at St Peter’s writes,
All Saints Company is a non-profit foundation begun in 1976 and based in San Francisco which partnered with the Diocese of California to create a unique Episcopal (Anglican) parish, St. Gregory of Nyssa, in the same city in 1978. This parish was the brainchild of founding co-rectors Donald Schell and Rick Fabian. Building their dream from scratch allowed them to start without the usual baggage and conflict that comes with moving to an existing parish. What this allowed was a model of ministry and worship that began with a blank slate and invited newcomers to join the journey or not, but the direction of the journey was already decided. The outcome is a place of worship that bears little resemblance to your usual Anglican parish. Among the unusual features of the physical building are separate spaces for the proclamation of the Word and the sharing of the Meal. At the transitional point in the liturgy the congregation literally sings and dances to communion. To say that St. Gregory’s is unusual as a place of Anglican, let alone Western Christian, worship is an understatement. However, many of the principles they have developed over many years of experimentation are applicable to just about any worship situation in any space. This is where the current major mission of All Saints Company, Music that Makes Community comes in.
Last August, more out of curiosity than direct knowledge I attended a two-and-a-half day session of Music that Makes Community in Ottawa that blew me away! I’ve been doing church music for 32 years now and am privileged to have gone to some of the best schools and studied with some of the finest teachers in three different countries. I like to flatter myself that I have a pretty good idea about what is going on out there. This workshop turned a lot of those ideas on their head. What was particularly exciting and intriguing to me was the fact that, unlike a lot of my music education and training which focussed on the ‘professional’ aspects of making music in worship, I had a very real Emmaus experience in terms of what congregational song and what the role of a choir in worship could be. The really exciting part of this experience is that this is not some pie-in-the-sky aspirational model for making music but very practical in the sense that the most modest of resources are more than sufficient and simple things can be very powerful. Ultimately, all any of us needs is the voice we carry with us all of our lives. Everything else is just gravy.
So what exactly happened at Music that Makes Community? Firstly, more than just about any other workshop I’ve been to, the focus was on learning very practical and immediately applicable music leadership skills. The music side of the workshop was about ‘paperless’ music. In short, “Get out of the books”! With no books to hide in, we were ‘forced’ to look up, listen, concentrate and participate in a way that reading out of a book or even from a projection screen simply does not allow. In the book, you look down, with the screen you look up, when you are singing paperlessly you look at a human being and through that interaction comes community building that cannot easily be achieved in another manner. There is literal dialogue between the leader and the congregation. Community happens because you are all in the action together.
Unlike many well-known styles of paperless or almost paperless music (e.g. Taize, Global Song, Iona) the focus here is not about style but delivery and, in this sense, is completely style-neutral. This means whether your congregation or group is singing a very sophisticated round, four parts built up in layers, a collage of sound or a very simple call and response, the technique for achieving it is the same and the skills required are more about presence and leadership than they are about exceptional ability or even vocal skills.
The course is a balance between singing together, lecture-demonstrations, small group hands-on practice leading paperless music and composition time that all participants, musicians and non-musicians alike, were expected to take part in. Non-musicians with no notational skills were partnered with mentors to help them find their voice and create their own song. There were also breakout sessions aimed at groups with different skill levels.
This is a workshop for musicians, choir members, clergy and lay people regardless of musical background. The session in Southern Ontario, Music that Makes Community XIX, will be held from August 20-22 at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Kitchener. Registration and all necessary information is done through the All Saints Company website at http://www.allsaintscompany.org/event/music-makes-community-xix-ontario-canada. This session is co-sponsored by St. Peter’s and the Anglican Diocese of Niagara. Individuals who have further questions are invited to contact All Saints Company or myself directly. I would also strongly encourage readers to explore the All Saints and St Gregory’s websites.
Date: May 14, 2012