How Does Each Gathering Select their Music?
The music leaders at each gathering were asked the following question: Given the seemingly endless music from which you could choose, how do you decide what music to include in your services? This month Dr. Carl DuPont at the University Gathering shares his answer with us. We thank Teresa Rowell at the Salisbury Gathering and Theresa Woody at the UU Fellowship of Lake Norman for their contributions the past two months.
University Gathering Music Selections
Dr. Carl DuPont, Music Director
Choosing music for the worship service at the University of Gathering is the most fun part of my job and entails several layers of decision-making. The first thing I do is plan out choir music for the whole season, since we begin rehearsing many weeks in advance. Whenever I am invited to be a guest clinician at high school choirs, and whenever I’m a soloist with a professional group, I always listen to their selections, wondering if anything they do would be a good fit for us. The anthem we sang on Sunday, April 2nd is actually a number I performed as a chorus member with a local group, Sine Nomine called “I’ll Make The Difference.” As soon as I heard it I thought, “That fits our message.” I like to challenge the choir to sing new and interesting repertoire, but I also want them always to sound their best and be within their comfort level, so it can be a delicate balance. A large part of the music budget goes to purchasing new music. Though small, our current music library does have some gems, so I then comb through it and intersperse great music that already belongs to us into the choir schedule.
The next task is to choose the service music for each Sunday on the Tuesday before. I find out what the sermon is about and start brainstorming on possible music ideas. I try to avoid mirroring the sermon with the music, rather, I prefer for the music to be in dialogue with the themes of the service, lending clarity through parallels and contrasts. Since I am not a trained pianist, I had some serious reservations, at first, about learning 3-4 piano solos a week to play for each service. Now, I look forward to it, because I’ve learned so many new pieces and styles that I never would have experienced otherwise. I often start by looking for a composer or a specific genre of piano music, and seeing what type of contrasting pieces I can find within it. Here, I have to be practical and choose with the time limits of the service and the attention spans of the congregation in mind.
Sometimes members of the pastoral staff will have a specific request that I can accommodate with the music. Those times are always very exciting because of the synergy that can be created with the proper fusion.