Pastoral Musings: Weaving Community Through Music 

November 26, 2012

Five of Plymouth Choir’s young adult members in their 20’s and 30’s all share that they’ve joined Plymouth Choir because of the community it provides them. They come to us from various backgrounds. Hanna Benn is a lead singer in a successful rock band, Pollens, whose new album released last month is available in Barnes & Noble. James Ribe moved to Seattle to work for Amazon, after graduating last year from college, where he sang tenor in the world-renowned St. Olaf choir. Jenny Palmason Kaiton, a second generation Plymouth choir member, majored in music, sang in Volcalpoint choral ensemble, and has a career with Music Royalties. Heidi Vanderford sings for Seattle Opera, and Megan Drake comes to us after graduating from Oberlin, where she double majored in music and French. 

Plymouth choir bridges not only ages, but also many career sectors – a mix of epidemiologists, engineers, lawyers, counselors, soft-ware programmers, coffee makers, writers, doctors and community volunteers – to name a few!

The community-making tradition of choral music goes back 1000 years, first beginning in hymn singing.  The pipe organ has its roots in leading hymn singing, hence its mix of orchestra sounds loud enough to be heard, and varied enough to adapt to many moods. Each summer for the last 8 years I’ve volunteered at teen ‘Organ Encounter’ camp, where piano-playing teenagers learn to ‘add their feet to their hands’ and play the organ, with hopes of accompanying hymns and choirs in their local churches.   

Pipe organs lead group singing outside the ‘congregational’ setting too, in universities and concert halls. This coming month, I’ll be playing the organ accompaniment for seven concerts given by the Seattle Men’s Chorus at Benaroya Hall. As the largest and oldest men’s choir in the country, the community making roots of this choir go back to 1980.

Many churches have had to phase out volunteer choir programs, because of shrinking numbers of people willing to dedicate the four hours per week it takes to learn new four-part music. At Plymouth we are fortunate and grateful that our community making choral program is strong and vibrant, and continues to attract youth, young adults, elders, and everyone in between! Through music, we are comforted and inspired, and we connect with our roots, various regions in our country, and other cultures around the world. When learning music in a choir, we set aside our typical routine, and through collaborating, listening, and plunging into the uncertainty of reading notes, we follow with faith until the picture becomes WHOLE. The godliness is in the process. And our choir dinner and devotionals before each rehearsal deepen our bonds, like a covenant group. I imagine the Plymouth Quilters have a similar experience, as they gather diligently, story tell, share, laugh, and sew in community, ultimately producing a quilt that wraps us in beauty, and reminds us of God’s love.  Plymouth Choir is made of volunteers, and we warmly welcome anyone interested in joining us.   – Douglas Cleveland 



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