I am delighted to share that from Friday June 23 through Friday July 15, I am turning this blog spot over to our Director of Music and the Arts, Chelsie Cree to share a little bit about the growing “soundtrack” and music ministry at Trinity. As we head into these summer months and afford the choir and section leaders a well-deserved time of sabbath, I thought this might be a good time to invite Chelsie into this space to share a little bit about this vibrant ministry. Please welcome our much beloved Chelsie Cree…
May you never forget that you are loved,
June 11- 18 in 2022, I found myself at The Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. To find this place, you must first drive through a small town named Deerfield, about 45 minutes outside of Milwaukee. Staring out the passenger window, you see many picturesque small-town-Midwest sights. Cornfields? Check. Small center of town with cute shops? Check. A cute neighborhood with lots of picket fences? Check. Eventually, as you wind your way through that small town, you take a left, and drive down a long road accompanied by cornfields on either side. Soon, you find yourself at the mouth of a driveway leading into a forested area. And within this beautiful, small forest, the Nashotah House campus is nuzzled into the bases of beautiful trees, joined with a small lake to the west. There are a couple houses for student residency, a long building which houses a “Harry Potter-esque” library with many old artifacts and resources, multiple classrooms with cloister hallways, a small chapel with a black ceiling over the alter and deeply colored wooden choir stalls.
I was here for a church musician conference and being someone not raised in any church consistently, this was an opportunity to learn the “thing behind the thing,” or the whys behind the what’s. Many things in our services were still a mystery to me, and I knew what we were doing was important, but I did not understand why. And for those of you who know me, that “why” is incredibly important, as it serves as the basis for my creative energy. (And, if the “why” is not compelling, then the “what” begs to be examined.)
Our schedule started every morning at 7:45 in our chapel. Every part of the morning prayer that could be sung was sung, and the rest being left to spoken word. We ate breakfast together, had classes and a full choir rehearsal. The afternoon began with lunch together, more classes, another full choir rehearsal, and a fully sung afternoon Mass. We would share our last meal of the day and retire to our housing to get ready for the next day. For a singing musician, this was a dream. We sang constantly.
There was another piece of the day that stood out to me at Nashotah House; the rituals they had on prayers. Twice a day, at 12:30 pm and 4:30 pm, a bell on campus was rung in a particular pattern of three sets of three and one set of nine. When the bell started, everyone stopped what they were doing and began to pray. There was an incredible air that fell over campus, filled with inner focus and peace found in whatever room you were in. That peaceful air of silent prayer pierced any concern I had in my mind trivial to the past or future. It allowed me to stop and be still in the present, which is where I have always found God. That is where she greets me – in the present. This experience helped to solidify my understanding in the importance of prayer in our tradition.
As we continued to learn about the Mass itself, I learned more about the practice of prayer and its relationship to music, and the vital role of the choir in worship. I learned St. Augustine said that “singing is praying twice.” I learned that the role of the choir is to amplify the prayers of the people. That every time the choir sang, we were gathering and sending the prayers of the congregation through to the priest and up to God. This “why” was the best one I had learned in a long time.
Good, beautiful, powerful, well-meaning singing requires one to be present. It takes a willingness to be inwardly focused, and a conscious choice to allow the problems of yesterday and tomorrow to vanish; to make way for the focus and inward stillness that allows a transparent expression of a fantastically personal gift to flow. This is something singing pupils work on in the beginning of lessons always- there is a lot of breathwork in singing, and not just for the singing itself, but for the soothing of the soul and body that is preparing to do the singing.
So, as we continue to move forward as a community, I look forward to supplying us with opportunities to sing whenever possible. Because that sense of focus and inner stillness is the best tool to connect with the Eternal Source of Love. And if we sing, she’ll hear us twice.
You are loved.