Musical Musings: October 24 – 30, 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 24th, 2021

This Sunday’s musicians are UUCC Music Director Mike Carney and members of the UUCC Chancel Choir.

Opening Hymn: #188 Come, Come, Whoever You Are – Ungar/Rumi

#188 in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal, “Come, Come, Whoever You Are” has been a favorite gathering song for many years in thousands of UU worship services and events. The words, welcoming all without condition or exclusion, are from the renowned 13th century poet and mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273). The overlapping round melody was written by poet, musician and UU minister Rev. Dr. Lynn Ungar (b. 1963), who currently serves as minister for lifespan learning and editor of Quest for the Church of the Larger Fellowship.

Centering Music: Horizon Variations – Richter

German-British composer and pianist Max Richter (b. 1966) is one of the most influential composers of the last 50 years. Classically trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Richter has steadily gained popularity both as a performer and composer. His music has been described as post-minimalist, blending elements of contemporary classical and alternative popular music. “Horizon Variations” is from Richter’s critically acclaimed 2004 album The Blue Notebooks.

Sung Meditation: #1031 Filled with Loving Kindness – Riddell

Based on a traditional Buddhist meditation, “Filled with Loving Kindness” was written in 2001 by UU Minister and Musician Ian Riddell for the installation of Rev. Mark W. Hayes at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County in State College, Pennsylvania. The song is #1031 in our Singing the Journey hymnbook.

Offertory music: Organ Prelude in G Minor – J. S. Bach

The Organ Prelude in G Minor (BWV 558) is part of a collection of Eight Short Preludes and Fugues that were first published in 1852. The composition is generally attributed to Baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), although some musicologists believe it may have been written by one of Bach’s students, possibly Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (ca. 1656-1746) or Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780). 

Minuit – Traditional Guinean Song, arr. Scott

“Minuit” (pronounced “min-ee-wee”) is based on a traditional West African song. The song is typically sung in the Gwaza style common to many types of African folk music, meaning it has several repeated melodies that can be sung or played independently but can also be combined with one another. The arrangement you’ll hear on Sunday is by UU songwriter and activist Jim Scott (b. 1946).

Closing Hymn: #1059 May Your Life Be as a Song – Russian folk melody, arr. Scott

#1059 in our Singing the Journey hymnal, “May Your Life Be As a Song” is an adaptation of a Russian folk melody, created by UU composer, performer, activist, and friend of UUCC Jim Scott (b. 1946). Jim is also responsible for several other songs found in our hymnbooks, including “Gather the Spirit” and “Nothing but Peace Is Enough”.

Postlude: Peace, Salaam, Shalom – Humphries & Opatow           

“Peace, Salaam, Shalom” is a song by Emma’s Revolution, an American folk music/social activist duo comprised of Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow (aka Sandy O), who were each successful folk musicians in their own right before joining forces to create Emma’s Revolution. The group is named in honor of Emma Goldman, a Russian-American feminist, anarchist, and activist from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” was written in 2001 for a peace march in New York City following the 9/11 attacks. 

                                                                                    -Mike Carney, UUCC Music Director