Last Saturday, a road test happened in church. You know, the kind where you go from zero to sixty?
This one happened inside the building.
Start your engines and read on. Vroom vroom!
I was asked to play 3 hymns for an event on Saturday. Several area congregations were invited. Various workshops and a worship service were planned.
When I arrived 10 or 15 minutes before the 8:30 event, someone near the door said, “Oh! The service is at 12:30! Didn’t anybody tell you?”
Then came the group welcome segment. Each workshop leader said a few words. Someone handed me a sheet indicating the order of worship.
At the end of the segment, the leader told us that the guitar player had called earlier. He had been up all night and was ill, so he would not be there.
What had happened that no one called me? There were ministers from many locations participating in the day’s organization. My guess is that one person told someone else who told a third party, and the organization had no one person providing oversight.
None of that mattered, but I wasn’t expecting the day to be completely different, either.
The order of worship and what I had been asked to play no longer matched. Not even close.
Someone asked me if I could “play something” during communion.
Reality check: I was prepared to play 3 hymns! I had no other music with me. And, as you know, I am not someone who is comfortable playing by ear.
And it went on from there. With no guitar player, there was no one to play a prelude. So, “Could you play something while people are gathering?”
There was also an offertory and a postlude. We omitted the “Music Ministry” that would have been played by the guitarist.
The mid-morning scramble
Fortunately, a generous member of our congregation had given me a “music library,” 5 volumes of selections from many genres. Included are keyboard, vocal, opera, oratorio, operetta, and “light” selections.
I looked through this collection unobtrusively while a workshop was being held in the same space.
I settled on 2 pieces I had played many times, since there was no opportunity to practice before the service. (Both the organ and the piano are in the sanctuary, which hosted workshops throughout the day.) Technically, I suppose that would not be characterized as sight-reading….
The prelude was the Prelude in C Major from Bach’s Well-tempered Klavier.
For communion, I chose “Ombra mai fu” by Händel (from Xerxes), omitting the elaborately harmonized verse that may have been added by the publisher. That turned out to be too little music (there were still several people in line for communion). So I leafed through a hymnal until I came to something that I knew and that would be appropriate.
The offertory had morphed into a hymn sung by the congregation. Someone had asked, “Oh, do you know…?”
This, my friends…
… is why sight-reading is crucial to a job like this.