Interlude: Back at the Console

I spent 35 years as a church organist, starting as a teenager when I discovered that I could make more money playing Sunday services than I could by babysitting all week. As soon as my feet could reach the pedals, I was off and running.

A couple of years ago I hit the wall. Trying to hold down my “real” job, continue to function as a church musician, and raise a family was proving to be an increasingly lethal mix. So I “retired”, and (just a bit to my surprise) I haven’t missed it at all.

But yesterday morning I jumped back in to help out a colleague with the flu. Guess what? I still don’t miss it…

Being part of the liturgy, though, always reminds me that good theater and good church are really not as unrelated as people think they are. I’m not being blasphemous, or at least I’m not trying to. It’s just that dramaturgy and liturgy share etymology for a reason. There’s a sense of pacing and arc in an effective workship experience, and being a cog in the wheel that drives the liturgy is just like working in the theater. My preoccupation with this arc is probably what keeps me from ever being able to feel like I have had any sort of a religious experience myself when I’m at the console. Satisfying in a way, but not exactly worship.

Monday Links

Back in operaland this morning, submitting these links for your edification:

ACB talks about being over the line – one of my favorite topics. I don’t believe that enough singers venture close enough to the line, but you certainly do know when you cross it.

A few weeks ago I received notification that video footage from the “Future of American Popular Song with Steven Blier” is now available on (“bringing the best political, social and cultural content from the world’s leading forums”).

One of my favorite non-music blogs is Lifehack, and I’ve been meaning to share this link about improvising. Wisdom from Charles Mingus that applies to opera… and to life in general :)

  • Go with the flow… don’t second-guess yourself… don’t worry about what comes next.
  • You don’t play alone… improvisation is as much about the relationships between people as it is about our own self-expression.
  • Learn the rules so you can break them… know the rules well enough to know why they had to be broken.
  • Embrace limits… limits are the cause and reason of creativity.
  • When you make a mistake, keep playing. [Duh, you say. But do you really live this way?]

And one of my favorite tools at this time of the year: the Meeting Miser. Exactly how much did that last meeting cost?


Postscript February 6 – I’ve been notified of a Freudian misspelling that I shall allow to stand rather than whitewash due to the truth it speaks. Above, in paragraph #4: workship.


RPM (Tenor and Pianist)

Kim, I know exactly what you mean about not feeling like you’ve had much of a religious experience when you’re constantly worrying about what do I play next or what do I sing next or, “Whoa, the priest just said something different than what he was supposed to say–what do I do?” I’m glad you had the courage to say what I’ve frequently thought. :)


Lifehacker rules! More to the point, they have a number of infinitely useful tips that smaller budget performing arts organizations can use to help improve productivity etc.

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