So here’s the run down from the day… Melissa and I left this morning to drive to Ridgecrest and stopped at a fantastic Greek restaurant for lunch in Asheville named the Apollo Flame Bistro. This was one of the best Greek places I have been to in a very long time, and easily in my top 3 favorites for Greek restaurants we’ve been to… If you’re ever in the Asheville area you need to visit this place – fast and friendly service, decent prices, and fabulous food!
Now that that’s out of the way….
Melissa dropped me off at the conference center about 1:45, which gave me some time to go through the conference schedule and make a rough plan for my time here. They have many sessions to attend, all figured into about five different tracks for learning. My focus for the sessions will mainly be in three areas:
1) Choral music – attending reading sessions for various publishers in the hopes of finding some new, great choral literature for this year; I have purposefully maintained a healthy amount of choir budget for the year so that I can purchase music based on what I find here;
2) Worship leading – I’ll be focusing specifically on styles and culture in worship (for both congregational musical style and worship leading style)
3) Worship planning – with a focus on team building, team growth and development, and the use of long-term planning tools.
Because today was only a partial day I only attended two sessions – one reading session with music by multiple publishers and one choral rehearsal. Every day we will have worship services, and the volunteer choir will be assisting in leading. I wanted to attend the first rehearsal to see if it is something I wanted to participate in. I have not completely decided yet whether I will go back or not. I enjoyed the rehearsal, and really enjoyed the director, but part of my reason for coming here is for renewal and I’m not sure participating in the choir will re-energize me as much as being a congregational member in the services (it’s nice to not be on stage every now and then, considering I am up there every week, not to mention it rehearses in addition to the regular conference sessions).
Two things I did particularly enjoy about the rehearsal, though. One was just seeing how another director conducts rehearsals, which is always a great experience. If for no other reason I may sit in on a rehearsal or two so that I can just pick up some pointers and techniques. The other was being reminded of what it’s like to sit in the choir instead of stand in front of it. I’m not sure of the musical training of everyone in the room, but I got the feeling many were trained musicians like myself. We learned music very quickly, yet there were still spots we had to focus on and rehearse multiple times. Once or twice I even found myself struggling as we sight-read through sections; I reflected on the fact that my choir members must feel the same way on certain weeks! It was a good reminder to me that I can’t assume everyone gets things on the first go-around and we will sometimes need to stop and go over sections multiple times for mastery – and I can’t get frustrated when that happens!
For dinner I sat with three people from Tennessee – two music directors, and one of them was with his wife. As we talked I learned that one of the music directors was also a part-time director and had been at his current church about 9 months less than I have been at my church. I also had a fantastic conversation with the other gentleman’s wife, who was an elementary music teacher. I shared my history of teaching music in the public schools (a total of 7.5 years), and we discovered we had many of the same views and philosophies on how music should be taught to kids and of its importance in childrens’ development. We shared stories of various programs and initiatives we have done (and she is currently doing), and I even found out she has a school administration degree as well! It was a nice time of getting to know some people with similar interests and responsibilities as me.
Since I didn’t get to go for my morning walk when I woke up today I decided to venture out after dinner and a Skype with Melissa and the girls (isn’t it amazing that not only can I talk to Melissa and the girls but I can also see them when I’m away!?!?!). I began by walking to the prayer chapel and prayer gardens, which was a fairly easy stroll down the paved road. Let me just say that the prayer gardens are absolutely gorgeous – I may spend some time there with a hymnal, my Bible, and my iPad doing some planning! Perhaps the most beautiful prayer gardens I’ve ever seen (sorry, I don’t have a camera with me, so I can’t take pictures, otherwise I would). After that I decided to walk the wooded trail up to the lake and back, and then I just walked a little around the campus to get somewhat familiar with it. All in all, it was a little less than 2.75 miles, which was a good workout for the evening. One thing that probably isn’t a good thing, though, is that I discovered the ice cream shop is actually just outside my the door – perhaps only about 100 feet away! I resisted the urge to stop by tonight, but I’m sure I’ll have to make a visit later in the week (perhaps even tomorrow! :))
I ended by slipping into the back of the PM concert to hear the end of the Tennessee Ladies Chorus and Tennessee Mens Chorale. They sang two songs that got to me. One was Come Thou Fount, which reminded me of the depth of God’s grace (I’ll blog more on this tomorrow or the next day). The second was a song entitled Let it Be Said Of Us by Steve Fry. I was not familiar with song, but I have already purchased a congregational copy and orchestrations so I can teach it to my congregation! I hope they find it’s text and tune as meaningful as I do.
I’ll close this rather lengthy post with the words to this beautiful song (which are Copyright 1994 Maranatha! Music (ASCAP) / Word Music, LLC.):
Let it be said of us that the Lord was our passion
That with gladness we bore ev’ry cross we were given
That we fought the good fight that we finished the course
Knowing within us the pow’r of the risen Lord
Let it be said of us we were marked by forgiveness
We were known by our love and delighted in meekness
We were ruled by His peace heeding unity’s call
Joined as one body that Christ would be seen by all
Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song
By mercy made holy by the Spirit made strong
Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song
’Til the likeness of Jesus be through us made known