Sunday, March 16, 2014

I'm Not Really a Soprano; I Just Play One at Church

Dear John,
We had a musically adventurous morning. The Lenten music is Slavic, so we need four parts, but we've been short on women lately. Last night we decided that we'd have to do the Byzantine music this morning.
Brian and I had done Great Vespers alone last night. We started Orthros alone, then Chris and Steven joined us, which still left Brian and me as the only chanters. But it gave us three out of four parts for the Liturgy, so we did the Slavic music after all. The original plan was for Brian to take the melody and I'd sing either tenor or alto, but we ended up with me singing soprano and Brian taking tenor. Besides not being a soprano, I've sung this music twice, two years ago, and then only the alto. So I was sight-reading everything except the Apolytikia. A few things  came along that I looked at and knew I had no hope of sight-reading, so I lateraled the melody to Brian and took the alto.
It was a wild ride, and a fun one. The Slavic setting is beautiful, and we all really want to be able to use it for Lent. I brought the music home to work on. On any given Sunday I might be needed to sing soprano, alto, or tenor, depending on who is there, so I need to learn all three parts. It's not like being Protestant, where you sing three hymns and maybe an anthem and doxology, and you're done. The majority of the Liturgy is sung - the choir and chanters lead, and everybody sings. That's why it's called "liturgy"  - literally, the work of the people.
Oh, and this is March, which is women's month in the Archdiocese, when we always have women do the Epistle. Today was my turn. So everybody got more than enough of my voice.
I'm beat and hoarse. It was wonderful and exhausting. It's been three years since I chanted on a regular basis, and I'm having to brush up on some of the tones. My training was more Arab, and Brian and Adrian have trained more Greek, so we'll always do some things a bit differently, but nobody minds that. A few of the new people have told me that they're glad to see somebody new learning how to chant. I thank them, then tell them that if anything I'm Chanter Emeritus - it was me that introduced Brian to chanting.
And that's probably my best gift to the universe and the justification of my existence. He has taken the music places I never could have, and he has a beautiful voice. I've let him know that I'm happy to be plugged in if he needs me, but my feelings won't be hurt at all if he doesn't. This weekend he needed me - if I hadn't been there he'd have had to do Great Vespers and Orthros alone, and then carried the melody for the Liturgy. Nobody deserves to have to do all of that.
Well, enough about church music! I know you're interested, and you may well have been there this morning and seen all of it, anyway. After all, the Liturgy is just our joining in the ongoing worship in Heaven. I'm sure that you don't have any trouble finding enough people to carry all four parts! Here, we do the best we can with what we have. And, considering that it used to be Melanie and Paul and me, we have a lot. God honors and blesses what we have and what we do. And the parish appreciates all of it. It was a good morning.
I'm thankful to finally be able to enjoy church again, without being overwhelmed by the fact that you're not there. Everybody is being so kind to me. I was going to say that they understand, but what they really do is know that they can't understand, and give me love and space to grieve as I need to. People keep telling me that they can't imagine what I'm going through. And I tell them what I told Jim: It's hell, but it gets better. Being able to be back at church is my newest bit of getting better. And it is good, and I'm thankful. This is not to say that I'm at all glad to be here, just that I'm trying to make the best of being without you.
Can't wait to sing the liturgy in Heaven,

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