I have a modest proposal.
I was disappointed that no new music was commissioned for the installation of Michael Curry as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church yesterday, on All Saints Day, November 1.
Here's what I shared on Facebook:
Katharine Jefferts Schori had "And I saw a new heaven" at her installation as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, which is lovely, and topical (she, too, was installed on All Saints Day), but hardly new. Vineyard Haven was written by Richard Dirksen for John Maury Allin's service in 1974. But is that it? Where is the new music that could, nay, should be written for a service like this? Where is our creative musical imagination as a Church for one of our biggest national liturgies?
One commenter pointed out that there was some new music composed for Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold's installation in 1998, but the service leaflet I've seen doesn't make that connection explicit.
So, yes, of course you can pick and choose from existing pieces for a major service, and this can work very well. But for an occasion such as this, one that comes along every nine years or so, you would think that we could tap our best and brightest church musicians to compose something specifically for the service.
Music is so dear to the Anglican tradition because it is wildly incarnational. The work of making music is the work of creation. The work of setting music down on paper has always fascinated the Anglican tradition because in that act we recognize an echo of God taking flesh among us.
And, pardon me if you already know this, the work of Episcopal Church musicians is some of the best stuff the Episcopal Church has going for it. Not only do they know how make music within the liturgy (because they do it every Sunday, week in and week out), many of them truly, madly, deeply love the Episcopal Church, what Bishop Curry calls the "Episcopal brand of the Jesus Movement."
Church musicians too, like the Episcopal Church at large, are energized and excited by the election and installation of Michael Curry as Presiding Bishop.
I don't think it's too late. I think we can still write some music and dedicate it to the new Presiding Bishop.
I'm going to anyway, and if at least one other Episcopal church musician wants to put something down on paper -- a hymn, words, music, an anthem, whatever -- I think we will have a Choirbook. I think we should then publish it ourselves and offer it as a gift to the church.
Who's with me? #ChoirbookPB27.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28: 19-20
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