Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seated one day at the organ ...

This is one of those Sundays when, the organist having unaccountably decided to spend a week in England, I am doomed to limp through a service at the keyboard, prelude to postlude, inflicting as little damage as possible.

I play the organ well --- with one finger. Two hands are problematic. Pedals are beyond me, as they are for most people unable under ordinary circumstances to walk and spit at the same time. Although by looking down, I sometimes can plant a foot on the right pedal to end a piece with a satisfying bass rumble. I prefer flats and deplore sharps, although if there are enough sharps I sometimes am able to transcribe into flats and proceed. All a guy can do in these circumstances is soldier on and hope for the best.

I've whined about this before --- a musical career aborted by the shift from piano to cornet in junior high, abandoned not long after dropping the cornet's mouthpiece and watching it roll away while marching in a Drake Relays parade, and punctuated by failure to practice for 40-odd years.

This prediciment developed years ago with the admission, in church, of ability to read music. This is akin to admitting among Nazarenes that one is guilty of adultery. There, after the latter confession, you'll be expected to confess publicly. In a tiny Episcopal congregation,  having admitted the former, you'll be expected to play the organ.

People who neither read nor play fail to understand many times that the latter does not flow automatically from the former.


The situation is complicated today by the fact it's one of those Sundays when our vicar emeritus, now in his 80s and still a delight, comes down from Des Moines to give our regular vicar a full Sunday with her other congregation, in Albia.

He will disapprove of my hymn selections, old familiars taken from the alternate Episcopal hymnal, entitled "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and selected because I can play them. Fr. Lintner believes, with all his heart, that if God had intended Christians to sing "Shall We Gather at the River" He would have had it published in "The Hymnal 1982," used by most Episcopalians on most occasions.

Once again, I'll have to look into Fr. Lintner's eyes and remind him that if he wishes to both play and preside, he's more than welcome to do so.

"The Hymnal 1982" is one reason why there aren't more Episcopalians. Non-Episcopalians occasionally open it, then run screaming from the building. It contains two sections, the first numbered S1 through S228 containing various liturgical settings and the second, 1-720, containing hymns. Hymns are not named, only page-numbered, so to the uninitiated it looks unless one reads carefully as if the latter section contains one 720-page hymn, proceeding endlessly from page to page.

It is this way because it's always been this way. Episcopalians have accommodated female priests, gay bishops and same-sex marriage while stoutly resisting any change to "The Hymnal 1982."

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" is another kettle of fish, optimistically subtitled "An African American Hymnal." Actually, it's no more African American than my Aunt Fanny. It was put together by Episcopalians in New York who had never encountered Baptists in a church setting. It actually is an old-fashioned Baptist hymnal in Episcopal robes containing lovely hymns sung by generations of non-Episcopalians, African American and otherwise. That's why I like it.


To twist the knife a little further, we're going to sing this morning (courtesy of a bulletin insert) a Lenten hymn from The Lutheran Hymnal, a product of the Missouri Synod, where all change is resisted stoutly. Lutherans do gloom much better than Episcopalians and "The Hymnal 1982" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" offer only limited Lenten selections.

And the recessional hymn? "Shall We Gather at the River." There has to be some recompense for personal suffering.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Good luck, Frank! I'm sure you'll be great -- or at least adequate.