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Songs of Thankfulness and Praise

6/13/19 | Music

Songs of Thankfulness and Praise


This coming Trinity Sunday, June 16, the St. Peter’s Choir will conclude their 2018/19 choral year. I wish to extend my gratitude to each singer in the choir for their dedication to the music of this church.

The St. Peter’s Choir gathered this past August for a party and a brief rehearsal. Since then, they have held a two-hour rehearsal every Thursday night. Each Sunday, the choir gathers 45 minutes ahead of the 10:30 a.m. service for a final rehearsal of that day’s music.

By any measure, the commitment of the singers in the St. Peter’s Choir is extraordinary. For every 10:30 a.m. service, the choir prepares four hymns, an Introit, service music, choral music for the Offertory, and choral music for Communion. Many in the Parish may not be aware that preparing this music requires a minimum commitment of four hours weekly: two hours in rehearsal on Thursday night and roughly two hours on Sunday morning (including the time the choir meets before each service). Beyond this, many singers take time to study and prepare their music outside of rehearsals.

My five-year-old son is in a counting phase, and so following his example, I thought it might be fun to run some numbers from the past year:

  • There have been 190 hours of rehearsals and services for the choir. This number does not include other commitments singers take on to sing for 8:00 a.m. services, weddings, or funerals.
  • The choir has led the singing of more than 200 hymns. Some hymns have only one stanza; some have as many as eight. So assuming an average of about four stanzas per hymn, this puts the total number sung somewhere around 800.

Special services have their own unique musical requirements, and the choir prepared appropriate music for our 150th-anniversary Hymn Festival in November, and for our annual joint evensong with the Church of St. Michael and St. George. At our recent choral concert, the choral work “In the Beginning” by Aaron Copland made significant demands on the choir and our soprano soloist, Arianna Aerie.

But beyond the sheer quantity of music that we sing, there is a distinct pleasure to making music in this church where we have built up such an extensive library of music for worship in our unique Anglican choral tradition. A church that upholds this tradition, it must be said, is a rarity in this day and age. Furthermore, this parish’s commissioning new music is a tremendous gift to the choir, all who worship here, and to the Church at large.

One such commission, “If thou wilt be perfect” by Melissa Dunphy was premiered at our 150th Anniversary celebration on October 14 and was sung again at the choir’s choral concert on June 2.

The choir has been as busy as ever this season. Throughout the year it has been my responsibility and joy to lead the choir in complex choral repertoire that they already know very well and to introduce many new pieces along the way.

The joy of choral music is that we are more than the sum of our parts. I am a better musician because of the St. Peter’s Choir. And at the end of this year, the 150th year that members of St. Peter’s have sung together in the praise of God, I have every reason to believe the choir sounds as good as it ever has. Finally, it must be said that what forms in this process is not only a well-honed musical ensemble but a community of faith.

I am profoundly grateful for another great year of music making and the choir’s patience, good humor, encouragement, and perseverance.

After singing this coming Sunday morning, I know that the St. Peter’s Choir, Assistant Organist Jennifer Spohr, and I are all looking forward from a well-deserved hiatus from Thursday night rehearsals. Summer services will be sung by semi-choruses drawn from the choir. The full choir will return on Sunday, September 8, 2019.

Choral conductors are taught that choirs hear two things in rehearsal: complements, and the last thing you say. With that in mind, I want to address our choir directly:

Well done. And thank you!