This article was written for the September issue of our parish magazine. Here it is for you again:
As regular readers will know, during May and June 2021 Rev Deborah and I ran the Royal School of Church Music’s course, “Inspiring Music in Worship”, during which we decided to hold a special service on our patronal festival to celebrate music and its place in worship in our church. That was on 18 July, and you will have read about it in previous month’s magazine articles and blog posts.
Do you also recall that up until Monday 19 July 2021, in accordance with England’s covid-19 restrictions at the time, congregational singing was prohibited, as was choral singing in groups larger than 6? This posed some challenges for planning a service with music as its focus!
During one of the planning meetings, it was suggested that Tom (who wasn’t there!) could play a medley of some of our favourite hymns. This is a lovely idea, posed by someone with no musical training. I spluttered a bit. I had never arranged a medley before, but knew it was likely to be a mammoth task and require some actual musical composition to link the hymn extracts together. That’s quite daunting for someone who has never composed a note of music in her life. I took advice from Jennifer about how to arrange and link phrases of music, ran the idea past Tom, and we decided to give it a go. After all, what was the worst that could happen?
The first step was to whittle down the list of favourite hymns to a manageable number and photocopy them from the orange hymn book. Tom and I then spent a full Sunday afternoon in the kitchen together grouping the hymns sympathetically into ‘chunks’, and literally cutting them up and sticking the strips of music onto clean sheets of paper. Tom then played the chunks. If it worked, great! If not, unstick, rearrange, and try again. It was a long afternoon. Once the chunks were complete, we sliced up another hymn to link all the chunks together, and used the introduction and coda to “Shine, Jesus, Shine” to top and tail the medley.
A major additional challenge was to keep all the hymn phrases so short that the music never ‘settled’, and thus the congregation would not be able to sing along. This was to ensure that we stayed within the current covid restrictions a the time.
Eventually we were finished and had eight composite sheets of paper that Tom could play from … sort of.
Later that evening (after a glass or two of wine) I decided that rickety strips of paper taped together wasn’t a good look, so downloaded MuseScore, a free suite of music notation software, and started learning how to use it. Monday was a long day of laboriously typing in the music, note by note. I got quicker with practice and figured out how to use various tools within the software. I sent the pdf to Tom to play through and check (that being the best way to spot typos in music).
On Tuesday it struck me that after investing so much time in making this medley, I had better add the words so that Maggie’s Music Makers could sing it as soon as restrictions were eased, which they did.
There isn’t a recording of the sung version yet, but here is Tom playing our medley on the organ at the beginning of the patronal festival service. There are 15 hymns – can you spot them all? https://fb.watch/6PO0X7gusX/