Musical Notes – The URC Musicians’ Guild 2012 Gatherin

“When I hear music – I fear no danger, I am vulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times and to the latest” [Henry David Thoreau]

“Next to the word of God, music deserves the highest praise.” [Luther]

The United Reformed Church Musicians’ Guild 2012 gathering, following the theme, “Assist our Song”, was held at The Church at Carrs Lane Centre (October 6th) with about thirty five in attendance. A welcoming organ recital by the organist of Carr’s Lane, Tim Batty started the day. It included ” Litanies” by J. Alain, “March on a theme of Handel, Op.15 by A. Guilmant, and “Processional” by W. Mathias.

 In the gathering worship, hosting minister the Revd Neil Riches introduced some new “world music” with the help of voices from their choir and gave a timely introduction to all on “The Church at Carrs Lane Centre” and especially its witness of music in the daily life of the Centre. While a small “church” community, Carrs Lane is an open, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community and a space where many find home. Music here is a story of variety: from the traditional and classical, to a version of “A choir without name” for people who are transient travellers and seekers literally “hanging on by their fingernails to make some sense of normalcy” in their lives. In introducing the music for the worship during the day, Revd Riches urged the URC Musicians’ Guild to give urgent attention to the need to embrace a spirituality for music making that honours diversity, the narrative of our changing landscape.

 The keynote address, with a difference or in a “different key”, was given by Nick Perrier RCSM Area Chairman and Diocesan Music Advisor. This was a brilliant presentation (“Music/ Singing with limited Resources”) by a very gifted musician drawing on a variety of ecumenical hymnals, including some that I was not familiar with (for instance, the Celtic Hymn Book). He used these ecumenical resources to show very practical ways that, whatever the size of a congregation and resources available, there are simple ways to learn new music and to get congregations involved in singing.

 The Business meeting of the Guild was chaired by Revd Margaret Taylor. After receiving various reports, there was a substantial discussion around the low attendance at these meetings, ways to encourage others to share in the work and activities of the Musicians’ Guild and the future of the Guild. It was a lively and honest conversation with suggestions to urgently revisit intention and remit in an changing context and to explore the possibility of working alongside other big events in the life of the URC where music plays an important part (eg. our multicultural celebration and others gatherings). Clearly, conversation points in the coming years will be around the future of the Guild, ways to re-invent itself and how to encourage new and more active voices in its life! For those who may not have known, the URC Musicians’ Guild is making £2000 available for small music projects in the life of a congregation!

 The afternoon session included four workshops: Liturgical Dance, Christian Songs for the Suspicious, Drumming, and Building Confidence, Removing Barriers which was well received by all. The closing worship focused on “Rainbow Praise: Multi-cultural Church – Intercultural Habit. In my brief reflection I noted ways that our music, songs and singing offer creative and sound opportunities to help us transcend the many barriers and polarised positions we can get locked into as we struggle to live with our differences in our life together. In making a plea for music towards the building up, encouragement and flourishing of community, I also noted the need for cross-cultural disciples and intercultural musicians.

Are we able to imagine a musical score where styles and traditions, like a complex chord, allow for many voices to be heard but none dominating and each getting lost into the other? I think we can!

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