Musical Musings: October 17 – 23, 2021

Music Notes – Sunday, October 17th:  

Be sharp! A few notes about singing…

You probably know by now that UUCC is returning to in-person, indoor services beginning this Sunday, October 17th. This is definitely reason to celebrate, but there are still precautions that are necessary in this time of pandemic, and with an airborne virus, singing can be a risky activity. I recently met with a special task force from UUCC’s Board of Trustees to discuss the best options surrounding singing during our upcoming indoor services. That task force and I agreed that singing is an important part of the worship experience, and we want to still include hymns and choir anthems within indoor services. The big question is what can we do to make singing as safe as possible? The research on this question is somewhat limited as of now, but one significant and wide-ranging study has provided some useful guidance on best practices when it comes to music-making. Here are a few things to keep in mind before opening your hymnbook this Sunday:

  1. Mask up. Singing with a mask on might feel a bit strange at first, but all of the available research agrees that proper mask wearing is a simple step that greatly reduces the potential for airborne transmission, especially in an indoor environment where people are singing less than 20 feet from one another. 
  2. Keep your distance. Another major factor in making singing a safer activity is to remain 6 or more feet distant from others who are not part of your own household. 
  3. Keep it moving (the air). Dress in layers on Sunday morning, because regardless of the outside temperature, our sanctuary windows will be open during indoor services until the Covid situation improves. You’ll also notice fans and air purifiers in the sanctuary the next time you’re in church. These measures are to increase the rate of air exchange within the room, which is yet another factor proven to reduce the risk of viral spread. 
  4. Skip the repeats. In many of our upcoming services (including this Sunday), we’ll sing selected verses of certain hymns. The research has shown that reducing the amount of time we spend singing together will also reduce our chance of spreading infection.
  5. Sing gently. Even if we’re singing your #1 favorite hymn the next time you’re in church, please save your ‘diva voice’ for the post-pandemic world. The volume and pitch of your voice are both factors in the risk of spreading unwanted particles to others. 

Music Notes for October 17th, 2021

This Sunday’s musician is UUCC Pianist Karin Tooley. 

Opening Hymn: # 1021 Lean on Me

First released in 1972, “Lean on Me” was the first and only number one hit for R&B legend Bill Withers (1938-2020).  In 1987, a remake by the reggae band Club Nouveau won Withers a Grammy Award for Best Song and made “Lean on Me” one of only a handful of songs to have reached #1 both in its original form and then later as a cover version. The song was notably performed by Mary J. Blige at the concert celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009, and is included in our Singing the Journey hymnbook as #1021. 

Centering Music: Beautiful – Perry

“Beautiful” was written in 2001 by singer and songwriter Linda Perry (b. 1965), who is best-known as the lead singer and creative force behind the 1990s alt-rock band 4 Non Blondes. Perry originally wrote “Beautiful” with the idea that she would sing the vocal part herself, expecting to record and release it as part of an upcoming solo project. However, while preparing for a recording session with pop diva Christina Aguilera (b. 1980), Perry invited Aguilera to sing through “Beautiful” as a warm-up and icebreaker. Perry was so moved by Aguilera’s raw, emotionally charged take on the song that she changed her mind and offered the song to Aguilera. Aguilera accepted, but wanted to re-record the ‘demo’ version she had originally recorded, but Perry would not allow it, insisting that her unvarnished, imperfect recording was the ideal expression of the song’s message. That original recording of “Beautiful” was ultimately released on Aguilera’s 2002 album Stripped, and the song became hugely successful, both commercially (reaching #2 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada, Australia, and the U.K.) and critically (achieving near-universal acclaim and winning the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance as well as a GLAAD Media Award for the music video’s positive portrayal of gay and transgender people). 

Sung Meditation: #391 Voice Still and Small

#391 in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal,” Voice Still and Small” is a gentle, meditative piece by UU musician, composer and music educator John Corrado (b. 1940). 

Offertory music: Born This Way – Germanotta, Laursen, Blair and Garibay 

“Born This Way” was the title track and lead single released from the 2011 album of the same name by Lady Gaga (b. 1986 as Stefani Germanotta). The song was co-written by Gaga along with Danish producer/songwriter Jeppe Laursen. Gaga has referred to “Born This Way” as her ‘freedom song’ and has stated in interviews that the song and its message were inspired by 1980s and 1990s anthems which empowered women and the LGBTQ+ community. “Born This Way” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and also reached #1 in over 25 other countries. Worldwide, the song has sold over 10 million copies to date, making it one of the best-selling singles in history, and it also holds a Guinness World Record for the “Fastest-selling Single” on iTunes, with over a million copies sold in the first five days after its release. “Born This Way” was also a critical success, winning two MTV Music Awards among several other accolades. 

Closing Hymn: The Fire of Commitment – Shelton 

Jason Shelton is an award-winning composer, arranger, conductor, song and worship leader, workshop presenter, and coach. He served as the Associate Minister for Music at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, Tennessee from 1998-2017, and is now engaged in a music ministry at-large, focused on serving the musical resource needs of UU (and other liberal) congregations around the country (from The Fire of Commitment (#1028) is one of many contributions Rev. Shelton has made to our Singing the Journey hymnbook. The unrest of its irregular meter and the insistent rhythmic pulse drive home the call to action that is at the core of the song’s message.  

Postlude: All About That Bass – Trainor and Kadish 

“All About That Bass” was the debut single of American singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor (b. 1993). The song was co-written by Trainor with producer Kevin Kadish (b. 1971) and was released as a single and on Trainor’s 2014 EP and 2015 studio album, both named Title. In an interview with Billboard, Trainor stated her lyrics were inspired by her teenage problems with self-acceptance and body image, and she wanted to write a song that would help young people embrace their natural selves.. “All About That Bass” met with mixed critical response, but ultimately was honored with two Billboard Music Awards and two Grammy Award nominations. The song was a ‘sleeper hit’ on the U.S. Billboard chart, gradually climbing and reaching #1 in its eighth week on the charts. 

                                                                                    -Mike Carney, UUCC Music Director