Glenn Memorial UMC
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Loving God, Loving Neighbor
My dad was the bass soloist in the choir in the church I attended as a child, so I grew up thinking that singing in the choir was just what you did. I enjoyed it so much, that I have continued to sing in choirs as an adult. Whenever I have moved someplace new, I have found a home in a choir – and Glenn was no different.
The thing that is different about the Glenn choir is the amazing soloists who are in the choir. Have you heard these people sing?! Sitting with them in the choir loft gives me the chance to hear them up close and personal every week, and the chance to learn from them. It’s amazing how much more confidence you can have in your own singing with one of these fabulous folks leading the way.
And actually, “fabulous folks” is the perfect way to describe all of the people in the choir. There is a great feeling of fellowship in the choir. We share in each other’s joys and concerns, and support each other.
But, most importantly, the Glenn choir is about worship. Singing and listening to sacred music is the most meaningful form of worship I can imagine. We spend time during rehearsals talking about the relationship between the music we sing and our faith and about how the pieces we are singing relate to the messages we hear in church. I feel very fortunate to be able to sing glorious music in worship of God with other members of the Glenn choir, and to know that we are helping to lead our congregation in worship.
I love the choir for three main reasons - the community of caring, talented singers, the chance to sing great choral music under the guidance of a talented and wise director who cares deeply about his “flock”, and the worshipful experience that continues to feed my soul and deepen my faith.
The Glenn Chancel Choir has opened new doors for me. I have always been inspired by great music. For a year or two I attended Glenn and enjoyed listening to Timothy Albrecht and the Glenn choir. I decided I wanted to participate and began to sing during the summer. When fall came, I just couldn't miss out on the fun. Every week brings new challenges; we've sung an amazing variety of music, old and new (some still being composed!); and the friendships and mutual support among the choir and our director are great treasures. The staff singers are professionals, but they work with a generous spirit with those of us who have been known to miss a note or an entrance. The Glenn Choir takes its music and its worship leadership very seriously and still maintains a spirit of joy. Who could ever forget the Riverside Church and the sleepover at LaGuardia, "The forms that swim and the shapes that creep," singing for two million Catholics, or the Spivey Hall experience? I wonder what the new year will bring!
I was waiting to pick my daughter up from one of her first choir practices early this fall (2010) and I just happened to run into Steve Darsey, the music director. He introduced himself and I asked him a few questions about the chancel choir. He seemed most elated in my inquiry and encouraged me to come join them for a Thursday evening practice. I have been a member at Glenn since the summer of 2008 and have always been enamored with the beauty and majesty with which the chancel choir sings. I was an avid participant in church choirs prior to heading off to college but distractions of college athletics and studies followed by professional training seemed to take the priority. I was concerned that I may not measure up to the quality he was looking for but he put my mind at ease indicating that in addition to great section leaders and choral scholars that there are members of all levels. He assured me that my voice would adapt and regain those lost skills. I was also concerned that my work schedule would occasionally interfere however he said not to worry as other members are also busy and will be absent at times.
I was whole-heartedly welcomed at my first practice and even today I still cannot believe that I continue to have the opportunity to sing with this amazing group of musicians. I feel blessed to have found this church and this choir and my only disappointment is that I did not join the choir two years ago. I have learned so much from the staff singers and I appreciate Steve’s leadership and musical discipline. In the midst of the busy rush each week, I look forward to singing to the glory of God each Thursday and Sunday. Sitting in the congregation as the choir sings is magnificent, however singing with the choir is heavenly. ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing (Psalms 100).’
I joined the Glenn Chancel Choir after seeing an ad to audition in Creative Loafing (little did I know that this was not a requirement forall singers!!) I had never attended a service at Glenn, but my mom had performed with the Emory Glee Club there many times, and I figured that the music must match the majestic setting of the church. Fortunately, I did love the music and also enjoyed Steve's leadership.
I sing at Glenn for several reasons: music is the way I communicate with God. I connect with composers and singers throughout time when I use this gift. Another reason I sing at Glenn is to commune with my friends in the Chancel Choir. I have made many close friends who are dear to me, including our director Steve Darsey. I was not raised as a Methodist, but have enjoyed learning about the denomination during my time at Glenn.
It is a dear joy to sing with the Chancel Choir for each rehearsal and every worship service, learning and singing the hymns and anthems of our Christian faith and sharing with others God's gift of music.
I have loved the deeply moving music in Glenn's worship services for many years. In fact, it was one of the strengths of Glenn that first brought me to this church. However, I was only a listener, not a participant, for a long time. When I finally joined the Chancel Choir, I quickly realized that I should have joined years earlier. Singing in the choir has become an extremely important part of my life and my religious experience. Although I had been in my college glee club, I had forgotten what an incredible experience it can be to sing in a really good choir. Singing hymns in the middle of a strong choir can move me in a way that singing in the congregation rarely did. Also, we get to sing an amazing variety of sacred music, ranging from Bach cantatas to boisterous spirituals and, of course, Steve Darsey's own challenging compositions.
When I went to my first rehearsal, I was afraid that I wasn't a good enough singer to be in the choir. Fortunately, I found that not everyone in the choir has to be a great singer, since we have professional staff singers who lead each section. It is a treat to be able to sing in a choir where a few great singers can provide a foundation that helps the rest of us sound better.
For a person who loves great sacred music, singing in the choir can be a glorious way to reach out to God. For me, it has also led to strong friendships with many choir members. The choir has become my closest community of friends within Glenn. Joining the choir has enriched my life and my worship at Glenn, and I only wish I had joined sooner.
I came to Glenn in 1996 with my mother, who had just moved to this area. I wasn’t very interested in joining a church but Mother was and she liked Glenn. I was comfortable at Glenn almost immediately and Glenn’s music was a major reason for that. By the winter of 1996 I had joined the Chancel Choir and I’ve sung with the Choir ever since. Music is my path to divinity. I’m moved by music in a way that words and thoughts don’t touch. I’ve learned a lot about the use of music in Christian worship over the last few years, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that music can enhance worship if performed in a prayerful and heart-felt manner.
The funny thing is, I’m not a very good singer. In fact, I had not sung with a choir since high school, but some things you never quite forget how to do. The choir members were supportive as I re-learned my music-reading skills and we always have a section leader to keep us in tune and on track. We have tackled and mastered some amazing music in the years I’ve sung with the choir. I’m particularly proud of the music we sang right after 9/11 and of the Bach cantata we performed for our Spring Concert a few years ago. My favorite services of the year, though, are always Easter and Lessons and Carols, just before Christmas. These two services are the high-light of my year, always.
We began taking trips as a Choir about five years ago, singing at Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago a few years ago and at the Riverside Church in New York City just last year. We also had the great pleasure of singing in Spivey Hall, at Clayton State University this summer. Who knows what our future might hold, but I hope to continue to sing for many years.
When Steve asked me to write a testimonial, I reviewed those already posted and found they confirmed many of my thoughts. The review that impressed me the most was that of Jim Sustman. His humbling commentary was one of the main reasons I rejoined the Glenn Chancel Choir!
It has been an emotional experience to sing pieces that I have not performed since my grammar school choir days in England. There is nothing quite like the uplifting experience of performing with a great choir.
Steve tunes and focuses us towards the Spirit of God by way of blending the amazing solo talents and generous support of our professional members/section leaders with the rest of the choir into one choral mass.
He creates a spirit of camaraderie, yet guides us with the direction and discipline necessary to perform remarkable works.
So consider coming on in for a lively couple of hours on Thursdays (late summer through late spring) and be welcomed by a great group of creative folks. Even the addition of one new member can add so much to the fullness of the choir in proving that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts!
It was strange how I fell into the Glenn choir. I was looking to join a choir and a church when I came to Atlanta for grad school, and thought I didn’t care if the church and the choir were the same thing or not. I signed up for an audition with the Emory University Chorus, but accidentally slept through it. I didn’t mind much, since I had lined up an audition time here at Glenn, and I ended up staying. It’s been really fun. Underneath the practical purposes of scheduling and pace, I think I actually wanted to be in a choir that was made of members of the community beyond Emory. It has given me a lot of perspective on music, friendships, my future, and just plain old “existing” in general!
This message is not for you formally trained expert singers in the congregation. You know who you are, and you have your own reasons for not singing in the Chancel Choir, even though you are missing an opportunity to make beautiful music for the glory of God, with a magnificent bunch of people. No, this message is for you untrained but ardent amateur singers who are intimidated by the idea of singing with the great professionals who form the backbone of our choir. I was like you for over thirty years. I had sung in my grade school choir from first through ninth grades. But later in life, especially sitting in the congregation at Glenn, one of my biggest regrets had been that I had taken a pass on the opportunities to make choral music in high school and college. For someone like me, who loves to sing - in the car, in the shower, in the kitchen - the idea of joining the Chancel Choir was an intimidating prospect. But after years of holding back, I finally made the plunge about eight years ago. Following a Men's Choir rehearsal, I stayed on to join the full choir for their regular Thursday evening rehearsal. Though fully self-aware of my inadequacies, I was struck by the encouragement and welcome extended to me by the whole choir. Singing in the Chancel Choir is not easy for me - it is stressful and challenging. If there is a choral mistake that I have not yet made, it must be a rare one indeed. But with the support of the expert singers backing me up, singing in the Chancel Choir has become one of the prime joys in my life. So if my story strikes a resonant chord in your heart, put on a thick skin, bite the bullet, and drop in for a Thursday evening rehearsal. It will be a life-building experience!