Being a church musician…or How to get things things wrong without even trying!

I have been a church musician for twenty years, and I’m still hoping that I’ll be able to get through a whole service without making a single mistake! One of our wardens told me that I don’t make mistakes – it’s just that I play the right notes in the wrong places from time to time. That’s one way of putting it!

I think of my mistakes in two main categories:
Category A – things that are mistakes by any standard, with no debate about it
Category B – things which are perceived as mistakes, but which are probably a matter of opinion or preference [well, according to me!]

Here are some of my ‘category A’ mistakes:
– stopping playing after verse 5 when there are actually six verses
– starting to play a seventh verse when there are only six verses
– playing the chorus after each verse when I was only supposed to play it after verse 4
– accidentally touching a button on the clavinova and setting off a racy drumbeat in one of the most sacred moments of the service
– trying to keep the pages of a brand new hymnbook in place with clothes pegs [they flew off in mid-song, landing on the people in the front pew]
– forgetting about some accidentals and hitting some wrong notes [that sound makes me wince more than the sound of a dentist’s drill]

I will end my musical confession here, though I could add to it… a bit 🙂

So now I come to some of my ‘category B’ mistakes, where I thought I was doing OK, but some people thought otherwise:
– playing too fast
– playing too slowly
– playing too loudly
– playing too softly
– setting the pitch too high
– setting the pitch too low
– playing the wrong tune [my copy of ‘Mission Praise’ now contains some pencilled-in reminders to play the Anglican Hymn Book tune for some hymns!]

One of my biggest ‘pitch’ headaches is ‘How Great Thou Art’, which spans 18 semitones, the highest note being top F. No matter which way I transpose the pitch on the clavi, we end up with a pitch which is too high for some people and too low for others – sometimes I feel tempted to toss a coin!
But whatever comes or goes, we make a joyful noise unto the Lord. We come to church to worship God, not to worship ‘worship’. Sometimes, the singing is so beautiful that I feel tempted to fade out and leave the worshippers to sing acapella.

And finally…for me personally, playing Christian hymns and songs on my own piano at home is part of my own worship, and an activity where I easily lose track of time.

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