It’s always my favorite week of the summer, the second week of July on the “Holy Mountain.” This time, after missing two years, it was a homecoming, a giant party, a family reunion with dear friends, some of whom I have known since the early 1990s. And a wonderful new edition this year was Wendy Cook (who I’ve been trying to get to come forever!) and she had a great time too.
So what do you get when 120 church musicians of all persuasions gather for a week of just about every kind of Episcopal/Anglican musical and liturgical beauty there is? 120 organists, choir directors, and choristers that, like so many others, have been trying to minister in a bizarre pandemic landscape that has at times seemed post-Apocalyptic and now just feels like The Handmaid’s Tale?
Well, you get a lot of tears – pretty much all kinds and pretty much all week. Tears from the music, tears of healing, of joy, of shared memories. Laughter! Riotous and loud, or stifled giggles in rehearsals. (We choir directors should know how to behave in rehearsals, but sometimes we’re the worst offenders.)
And singing, so much singing. We rehearsed 2-3 hours every day with fabulous conductor/composer Malcolm Archer leading us in gorgeous anthems, Anglican chant psalms, hymns, and sung prayers. After such a long time of not being able to sing with others, this was a pure taste of heaven. Friday night incense-bathed Choral Evensong and Sunday Eucharist with brass quintet and timpani – glorious!
There were beautiful daily liturgies, trail hikes, a belltower climb and carillon tour, a fancy banquet at the Sewanee Inn, a hilarious “no-talent” talent show, and here and there small informal groups shop-talking about tenor shortages or music budget challenges, or wondering if it would be appropriate to institute happy hour before choir rehearsals…
I couldn’t say what my favorite thing about the week was. Or what Wendy’s was. When there’s something you love very much, sometimes you can’t say what you love most about it. I just know that my soul was deeply fed and I can’t wait to go back.