SWACDA

Dear KUMC Friends,

If you were at rehearsal Wednesday evening, you’ve certainly ascertained that I wasn’t there. I’m in Little Rock, Arkansas at the Southwest Division of the American Choral Director’s Regional Convention. I saw a post online that one high school student called, “ChoralCon,” which I thought was great. For those who don’t know, it’s a play on ComicCon, a huge comic convention where folks often come dressed as their favorite comic book hero. This student told their director that they should “go as Eric Whitacre,” the famous composer/conductor. That’s most-certainly a choir-nerd joke if I’ve ever heard one!

Why attend such a convention? It’s somewhat about friendships. I’ll be able to connect up with some friends that I haven’t seen for a while as well as meet new ones. In fact, on my drive up to Little Rock, it happened that there was a choral concert at my undergraduate alma mater, Henderson State University. I was able to visit with the new director and then spend some time yesterday hearing about the wonderful music at HSU. Even more interesting was that I met the son of a former classmate. He was singing in the concert and she wasn’t able to attend due to work. I stood in for her.

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Next, it’s about immersion. A convention such as this is a time for listening to wonderful ensembles, visiting classes to learn new techniques for choirs, and to find out about music others are programming with their ensembles. I also get to be a singer — in this case with Director Emeritus for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Dr. Craig Jessop. I think it’s important for us director folks to step back on occasion and become singer folks — to remember what it’s like to be on the other side of the podium to improve the things that we do with you.

Maybe most importantly, it’s about rest and some self-care. We’ve done a lot of hard work at KUMC in a months since I arrived. And, we have more to do. In the short time at SWACDA, I’ve taken a bit of extra sleep and spent some time in personal reflection. Hard to believe that I have to drive 7+ hours to do that but it’s good to put a bit of space between me and Houston proper. Part of the reason that I’m able to do this is that I serve a church, work with a staff, and know an SPR team that sees the importance of health and recovery for those staff that serve in the church.

Finally, as I sit in my hotel room, I reflect on Exodus 18:17-27. Jethro comes to Moses and tells him that he should invest in capable people to assist him so that he doesn’t continue to exhaust himself. I feel that we’ve done that. Our church has invested in a capable and wonderful team team of musicians, enabling me to be here.  Thank you Barbara, Meredith, Stuart, Gary and Sheila for making ministry happen in my absence. Blessings to my wife as she continues on her school and work path.

I will return to the office on Monday, hopefully more rested and ready for more exciting things happening at KUMC.

Matt

Bitner’s Four Best Practices

Music conductor hands

Walter Bitner is a lifelong music educator who works as Director of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. He write a blogpost called Off The Podium. I’ve been doing some personal study and review as I prepare for the upcoming worship season at KUMC. I ran across an blogpost he wrote about four practices that would help his students be intrinsically motivated as opposed to extrinsically motived. I thought that his writing was an excellent mirror in which to reflect the teachings of Jesus. And, considering how we tend to treat one another these days anyway, they have a lot of application in our daily lives.

It is important to say that I haven’t experienced any issues or problems here . . . but it is always good to keep such matters as how we treat others before everyone . . . love God, love neighbor.

Take a minute and read. NOTE: Where there are brackets, I’ve inserted words that apply to choir ensembles.

Four Practices

These are behavioral guidelines that help all of us in our interactions with others. This includes [directors] and [choristers] alike. [Choir members] are expected to strive to practice these in their interactions with the [director] and with each other.

Mutual Respect

I will treat others with respect at all times and can expect to be treated with respect by others, at all times. ‘Mutual Respect’ is sometimes described as the ‘Ethic of Reciprocity’ or ‘Golden Rule’.

Attentive Listening

When another is speaking, I listen. Listening means: not talking, not interrupting, not ignoring, and looking at as well as listening to the other. We listen with our whole selves, not just our ears.

Kindness

Kindness is how we treat ourselves, others, and our environment, every day, and goes even beyond Mutual Respect. The practical rule of application for this practice is “Appreciations and No Put-downs”. Appreciations are what we do; put-downs are what we do not do. Appreciations are things we say to or do for others that make them feel good; put-downs are things that, if said to or done to others, would not. Actions or words that are unkind are unacceptable. An interesting observation about the concept of kindness is that the idea relates etymologically to that recognition that others and I are alike or “of the same kind”.

Best Effort

In all activities and at each moment I will do my best. This applies to my work in [choir,] my preparation for [choir] outside of [rehearsal,] and my interactions with others. By doing my best at all times I can live without regret and feel that my contribution to the [ensemble] is brought forth from the parts of myself that strive for the highest ideals.

To read all of Bitner’s blogpost, click HERE.

A Time to Study and Renew

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Kingwood United Methodist Church Choir Room

Starting a new position May 1, 2019 as Director of Music at Kingwood United Methodist Church has been fun and exciting. The staff, congregation and the ensembles have been warm and friendly to me. And, it’s been an easier time starting at the end of a year, too, with a few less ensembles to meet. It’s allowed me a moment to study and understand the next steps our music ministry needs to take.

However, there has been a daily challenge . . . walking past an amazing rehearsal space and seeing it empty. I will freely admit, I’m ready for Chancel Choir rehearsals to resume on August 14!

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Prepping for the Goodall REQUIEM.

It’s been a productive time. In addition to meeting and prepping the various music ministry choirs and teams for the Fall, I’ve been working on studying and learning the score for our major work in the Fall, Requiem: Eternal Light by Howard Goodall. And, I’ve been attempting to get the weekly anthems planned out, too. There’s much work yet to be done.

Now, it’s time for me. In the midst of this study and preparation, I’ll be leaving today to attend the Texas Choral Director’s Association Convention in San Antonio. I haven’t been in years and it will be a time to check out new music, attend some helpful workshops and see some old friends. And, I hope to be able to do some extra prep work on some of the many items on my to do list that require my attention.

It’s good to study and renew. I’m really looking forward to it.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Matt

 

KUMC Chancel Choir: Announcing Fall Major Work

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As we are on a break for the summer, I wanted to let you know that your music staff isn’t resting. We are busy preparing for what will be an extraordinary Fall season of choral music at Kingwood United Methodist Church. I have many things in mind for the coming year. I can’t wait to begin our first true season of rehearsals in August! It’s going to be so exciting to dig in on some great music!

What’s the upcoming work?

If you remember way back in May, I spoke of plans for us to observe All-Saints Sunday (November 3, 2019 . . . time TBD) with a major work. I also said that it would be something that we learned together — something that neither of us had done prior. That was quite a challenge to locate a selection that met this criteria. It’s taken a bit to search for just the right selection.

I believe I have found such a piece.

For the Fall, we will be learning a work by British composer Howard Goodall titled Eternal Light: A Requiem. It is a work of immense beauty that offers lyrical simplicity as well as a level of difficulty befitting our excellent ensemble.


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What does it sound like? Below are three movements from the work. Click on them to listen:

Lacrymosa: Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

Revelation: Factum est silentium

Kyrie: Close Now Thine Eyes

(You can search the title of the work on YouTube to hear other movements of the work.)

To read program notes from a recent concert programming of the work, click HERE.


How’s this gonna work exactly?

Some things to keep in mind . . .

1) There is Latin to be learned.

For some persons, singing in another language is difficult. Yes, there are portions of the work that are in Latin but there are equal amounts of English, too. Why do Latin? Well, not only is it a beautiful language in which to sing, it helps a choir improve on vowel purity. While I can’t say that you will ever be as comfortable with Latin as you are with English, I will give you adequate drill on the text to get you as comfortable as we can. Only choose pieces in the English language and you will miss some of the most extraordinary and memorable choral music created for the glory of God. Trust me — we got this!

2) It will be outside of the regular worship service.

We will not be offering the work in the midst of a worship service on Sunday morning. At 50 minutes, it’s simply too long to do that. Therefore, we will do it on a Sunday afternoon. I’m not exactly sure of the time just yet.

3) Can others join us to sing?

Absolutely. I would be very happy if you have friends who would come and sing with us. However, they must make weekly Wednesday rehearsals. They can’t simply come to three or four and pick it up. Must they make all? No. However, they must attend regularly.

4) Is this all we’ll be doing in the Fall?

No. In addition to our regular anthem presentations and All-Saints, I plan on us having a “Christmas Pops Concert” on December 15 in the afternoon. It will be lighter fare to compliment the seriousness of the Goodall piece. What musical selections will we be performing? What groups will be sharing the Chancel with us? Well, stay tuned for more information on this fabulous event.

What else?

I just want to add how wonderful it is to be in ministry with each of you. In the short time we have worked together, I’m thrilled with the music that we’ve made together. This choir is amazing and I feel honored to be in front of you. On a more personal note, Rhonda and I feel included and welcome. I am very excited that we can learn this music and share it with those in the greater Houston area.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Matt

July: Let the Preparation Begin

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KUMC Chancel Choir singing on June 30, 2019.

On June 30, our Chancel Choir sang a final time until we reconvene in August. In July, it is customary for the choir to take leave from singing as a group on Sunday mornings. They normally sing at two of our three traditional worship services.

During this hiatus, we utilize an array of soloists and ensembles to lead music in the worship services. As the director, it’s a special opportunity — I get to hear (and sing) with some of our talented singers. It makes it easier to get to know some of musical gifts of our bunch on an individual and/or small group basis.

Many choirs do this sort of thing. It gives everyone one a break from their weekly routine. At this time, neither do we have weekly rehearsals. We have some events where we gather at a local restaurant for a time of fellowship. But, really, it’s prep time for the Fall — setting up schedules, choosing major works, individual anthems, budget planning . . . things like that.

July 1, 2019 marks two months of ministry in my new position as Director of Music and Arts at Kingwood United Methodist Church.  Many things are still new to me. A break such as this also allows time to meet and familiarize myself with the various ensembles that are significant parts of our music and worship ministry. I’ve set up times to meet with assistant directors, ensemble singers, worship staff, children’s music team and others. These folks have many wonderful things to offer this church and the Kingwood community.

Our church staff works diligently to communicate various aspects of church life with one another to give vision and leadership to the congregation. Recently, I was part of a retreat with clergy and various staff musicians to plan what’s coming in the preaching schedule. Now is the time to dream those plans with our staff. It’s been wonderful to listen to listen and dream of what worship and the music ministry can become for KUMC in connection with my staff colleagues. As I’ve heard it said (and it is a correct analogy,) “It’s important that we all row in the same direction.”

So, now, in this time . . . let us reflect together . . . let us shape new ministry together . . . let us prayerfully set some goals together . . . You may find me in the office or you may find me a the local Starbucks . . . I”ll definitely be thinking on things during my daily drive  . . . all the while taking time to ponder what will be the next big thing.

And, it all begins with a break.

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