Dog Days of Summer…

by vernsanders on August 11, 2009

There is an expression in baseball (see title of this post) that, in a way, makes no sense, and yet it makes perfect sense. (one of the interesting things about language is that a native speaker will “get” things that, on the surface, make no sense at all) It has to do with the month of August, the hot weather in most baseball towns (San Francisco and Seattle are notable exceptions), a season that is, in August, 4 months old and counting…but mostly it has to do with just being tired of doing what needs to be done, day in and day out. A baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint.

For church musicians who oversee a “year round” program (meaning one that doesn’t resort to “special music” during the summer), August can be a tough month. It seems that families with young children are scrambling to get that one last vacation in before school starts (my daughter teaches in a “modified year around” district, and they’ve been back to school for over two weeks now…what happened to school not starting until after Labor Day?), young adults are moving into college dorms or an apartment, or going to orientation sessions, and people who are moving have left, but the people who are coming haven’t arrived yet.

I’ve always tried to deal with these Sundays by scheduling music that is easily accessible and/or easily scalable. By the latter I mean that even if it is written as a four part anthem, it is something that I can just have all the women sing the melody and the men the bass part, or just put everyone on the melody, for instance. But that brings its own set of problems, because, sure enough, the week that you think is going to be low in attendance turns out to be the full complement of musicians. Never a dull moment.

This year I’ve taken the “easily” part one step further, and turned the month’s anthems into teaching vehicles…we’ve worked hard at placing final consonants, at listening and balancing depending upon the particular configuration of people at a rehearsal, and at trying to communicate the intent of the text, not just the notes. This means that a simple piece can still provide things to work on, even if the notes are “done.” It has worked well for us, and I recommend it to you.

Now all I have to worry about is the fall season, when my seniors start to travel “because the kids are back at school”…sigh…

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