Easter at Powell Church, or “The Right Tool for the Job”

Yesterday was my first Easter since coming on board at Powell Church to lead the music for their traditional service.  Great crowd, enthusiastic singing, and several lessons learned:

  1. The folks who attend the traditional service will embrace new things if presented well.  We led out with my up-tempo, power-chord-driven arrangement of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” and though there were some raised eyebrows at the first chords, by the modulation on the last verse everyone was into it.  No clapping, but real singing.  They also sang out on the Getty hymn “See What a Morning,” but we had prepared them well by presenting it as an anthem a month ago, a call to worship 3 weeks ago, and finally a congregational song 2 weeks ago.  It’ll stay in the rotation now!
  2. The 16-voice choir I have can sound like 32 or more voices if given the right song to sing.  We did a choral arrangement of the Southern Gospel classic “Hallelujah!  We Will Rise” (click here for a YouTube video of the Chuck Wagon gang’s version) and wow, did they sing out.  I don’t know yet if they just liked it more than what I’ve been programming or if there’s something in the arrangement that just made it easier to open up and sing.  I suspect it’s the former reason rather than the latter.
  3. The congregation’s value of reserve and reverence in worship doesn’t extend to Southern Gospel singing.  Heart-felt, enthusiastic, extended applause after the anthem rather than the polite kind just poured from them!
  4. I can program Southern Gospel music in a church service and it won’t kill  me.  At least I’m still alive right now.
  5. Peer review is a wonderful thing.  A retired music teacher/music minister in his late sixties visited us for the first time yesterday and made it a point to compliment us on the service.  I love compliments from the congregation, but compliments from fellow musicians/ministers who understand what it takes to pull things off are golden indeed.

I hate it, but it looks like I’m going to have to put Thomas Tallis and Lloyd Pfautsch back on the shelf and go shopping for choral arrangements of the classics from Southern Gospel’s heyday.  It’s not that Tallis and Pfautsch aren’t good, valuable, and worthy, but they just don’t grab this congregation emotionally.

And here’s the good news–this congregation wants to be grabbed by the emotions and stirred up!  As my dad always taught me–“you have to get the right tool for the job.”

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