Tag Archives: singing

The Focus Of The Service

Our little church group has been exploring Orthodox Christianity for more than a couple of years, and we’ve done our own priestless services for a while, with occasional visits to other communities, or by a priest when he was in the area. It’s only really been since the end of July (maybe even the beginning of August) where we’ve been able to go to the full priest-y service, a couple of times a month.

So between kid-wrangling, and trying to sing the right notes, there’s things I’m really starting to notice, in the experience.

Something that’s particularly struck me the last couple of times, has to do with the interplay between who’s doing what. And there’s a lot of what being done. There’s responsive prayers, there’s songs the choir sings, there’s a couple of declarations the people make. And the movements in and out of the altar area: with the gospel book, with the covered bread and wine.

There’s prayers said aloud, so that the congregation can give the Amen. And there’s some that are said quietly, that the congregation generally don’t hear, and perhaps the end of it might be said loudly. And some that the choir sings over.

The impression this has been reinforcing on me, is that, while the service is ultimately for our benefit (bringing us Jesus, particularly in the Gospel and the chalice), we’re not the focus. And while, in other Christian traditions I’ve been part of, or just visited, I wouldn’t have really considered the service or the songs to be “about me” (though, towards the end, some of the songs ended up feeling that way), the Orthodox service is radically and emphatically not about me.

And yet, “for us men and for our salvation”. Not about me, or to me, but still for me. A balance, an emphasis in one direction but not to the exclusion of another.  And, like I said, interplay

Interesting. And something I’m liking.

Best Song On The Album: The Simpsons Sing The Blues

How often do you listen to an album, and the best song on the album isn’t one of the singles released from that album?

I find this more common than all the good songs being the singles, though I can think of examples of that, as well. Still rarer is when the best song on the album is released as a single, but a single you never see in the shops, and you only find out it was released as one when you browse books that list each week’s Top 100 from decades ago til relatively recently, or you look online for discographies and you notice it, “hey, I never knew that was a single”, or you notice the music video on a music video DVD (or the old standby, YouTube).

Actually, one time, I knew a song was going to be released as a single, and never saw it in stores.

Anyway, abandoning this massive tangent to return to the point, as the end of Thursday approaches, it seemed that Throwback Thursday (it’s a thing I’ve noticed on Facebook the last few months) might be a good time to introduce what could become a good series (finding tracks could occasionally be a problem).

What could be more ’90s than the album The Simpsons Sing The Blues? (Well, OK, that Friends Introduce Windows 95 VHS, but apart from that…)

Some of the album approaches actually being the Blues, the rest of the instrumentation being … well, ’90s (you’ll see what I mean in a minute).

Do The Bartman was the big single from the album, incidentally also the least thematic song on the album.

Homer singing Born Under A Bad Sign, and the Moanin’ Lisa Blues, are the most bluesy songs on the album.

Bart’s Deep Deep Trouble is very catchy.

But the Best Song On The Album title really needs to go to Mr Burns and Smithers. Sometimes people are hard work. “I shouldn’t let it plague me, I shouldn’t blow a fuse, but…”

Service Book Editing

Father Dan visited on Thursday. We ended up not doing the Vespers service, but we got a lot of pointers on the parts we hadn’t been doing. Some wasn’t in the materials we had.

I wonder if we’ll settle into a time of “Well, we’ll learn this chunk next, and when we’ve got the hang of that, we’ll add another chunk”.

For example, there’s 8 Tones (a Tone could loosely be described as a Tune), but it seems that there are parts of the Vespers service where one might veer off into using a Tone other than the one that, in general, one ought to be using for that week.

So I wonder if we’ll spend some weeks sticking with One Tone Per Service until we’ve got the hang of some parts we’ve been skipping (it might not take all 8 weeks to figure it out).

After two songs in our sets of music, there was another song, that wasn’t mentioned in the white service book (I think they were mentioned in the red book, but I think one was truncated there). We found out another (related) song is supposed to slip in after another song, but it wasn’t in the sets of music, or mentioned in either service book. As the songs are related, we were told we could just repeat the first one.

Went hunting for that song today (I say “that song”, really there’s 8 of them, one for each Tone), found at least four sets of words, and at least three sets of music. One of the musics matched the Tones we’re already doing. I added the text of these into the with-Priesty version of the text-only service books I’ve been working on, and added some things based on notes I made on Thursday.

Got a bunch of changes to make on the other books (some the same as the ones I’ve made today, which should be straightforward).

Busy week ahead, getting ready for family coming, then family being here for a couple of weeks. Might be able to fit in some of that editing in the next couple of days anyway.


Today, Deacon Dan became Father Dan.

This has been a milestone in several roads. Now-Father Dan’s, of course. Father Russell’s, now handing off this area to Father Dan, after looking after us from a distance that wasn’t very practical. And K-Town’s,  the Orthodox community building up from being very small, to crowding out someone’s living room, to crowding out an entire basement used for services, to getting a church building, and getting it ready over the last few weeks.

It’s been interesting – my role has mainly been with the choir, and I feel like a bit of an imposter there – I can generally tell when I haven’t got the right note, but not necessarily when I’m in the wrong octave, and I don’t think I’m very quick at correcting myself. Still, I’m told I’m improving, and things seemed to go well for both services. Even with the few things that changed on the fly.

It was cool that our community at Transfiguration could help with K-town’s preparations and participate in this event. Two in particular helped with the building work, one made the iconostasis and was doing other work. Last week the iconostasis was mostly done (but without the icons), and there was a bit of a setback when he had to go for an emergency appendectomy. It was good to see him well this week, and the place certainly looked finished.

Transfiguration certainly feels networked, somewhat connected to quite a few of the other Orthodox churches in the state. Bishop Maxim brought some things for K-town which connected them more with Serbia, who administratively we’re under. Old and new, connected.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from His Grace, but I think I was surprised at how much I liked him. I lucked onto his table last night after Vespers. I was going to sit on another table nearby, somehow we got talking before I sat down, and he liked Youngest (who I was holding at the time). After a couple of minutes, I asked if I could join him at the table, on one of the empty seats opposite, he seemed to like that. Soon I was surrounded by other clergy who were present, and I really felt like an imposter – not even a catechumen yet, and lucked onto the clergy table. Not that I’m entirely unused to being around clergy (more used to those of a different tradition, though) There was a spare water on the table, which he gave to Youngest, and a little later there was a spare beer on the table, which he gave to me. And clinked, with a “Cheers!”

I grew up in a tradition that has bishops, but without the same sort of liturgical role, and without the same sort of ceremony and stuff that goes on. When he arrived on the Saturday night, all the kids were given flowers to give to him. I let Middlest run up to him to give hers early, a few kids got there quickly (I’m pretty sure they got waved over), the rest waited in line. By the time he got to where I was holding Youngest, he was starting to express concern about being able to hold them all. He managed, but I liked what he said to Youngest (who is 2). I was just telling him to hand the flower over, and His Grace said “it’s all right, you can keep that one.” Youngest seemed to appreciate it, too.

This morning, at the beginning of the service was the blessing of the new church building, which was very interesting. Then the rest of the service, with the ordination as part of it.

I actually missed most of the ordination part, having to take Middlest to the bathroom, but got back in time for the last “He is worthy!”.

I’ve been to an ordination ceremony in my former tradition, though I don’t think I was really old enough to fully appreciate it. There was a long speech, which I was surprised and pleased to learn was boring all the adults, too. Lots of people got ordained at the same time, there, and not in the same place that they would be serving.

Though that system does have its advantages, there’s something special about an ordination happening within the context of the community that the new priest will be serving. Geographically rooted, and the enthusiasm of the congregation for their new priest can be an indication of whether the guy’s right for the job.

It’s been a good couple of days*, and seeing how some of these things work, has been very encouraging. Encouraging and moving, and those more than I expected.

what's the collective noun for clergy?
Photo credit and copyright my wife.

*corrected, originally accidentally left out an “o” – “It’s been a god couple of days” – guess it’s been that, too.

Sunday Adventures

So we went up to K-Town last Sunday and today (it’s still today for another hour and two minutes in the next time zone), preparing for Deacon Dan’s ordination to the Priesthood next week.

The new songs we have to learn, are really coming along. Or rather, the songs were already there, our learning of them is coming along.

I’m a bit… nervous isn’t the right word. I’m rather used to the Priest-less versions of Vespers and our Sunday service (Typika), and particularly with Vespers, it seem like we get a bit thrown for a loop when the Priest-y parts get thrown in, when one visits us. Spending time with K-Town, the stuff we are familiar with already, there’s some getting used to a different tempo.

Vespers with a Priest – one we’ve not done the Vespers service with before – is going to be different (hopefully we’ll do ok), but a Sunday service with rather a lot of priests plus a Bishop is rather outside the realm of experience for (I think) most of us – all of our group, and probably a lot of K-Town’s, too.

And there’s a few “If you see him do this, then do this” sort of instructions, which elicits a sort of “please please please let this go well” sort of reaction…

I’m looking forward to the service. I’m not sure I’m entirely confident about it, but fortunately the Bishop, visiting clergy and other guests, aren’t there to be critical.

For a lot of the rest of the day today, I’ve been working on a text-only version of the Sunday service. Version 1 is basically a copied version of what we do, and there were points I had some variations to work with (what a version of the service I’d typed up before said, as opposed to the version we use, and where the version we use has the same thing in a couple of places and there are slight variations).

Need to get this and the Vespers version I did the other week, checked over by a few people, get permission for artwork and so on, before I can put them on the Transfiguration site, but so far so good :)

One new song which I’m enjoying, is apparently also used as part of the wedding service. It’s called “Rejoice, O Isaiah”, and I haven’t immediately found the music in my brief Internet search. But I found the words on Orthodox Wiki (that wedding service link at the beginning of this paragraph), which if they’re different to what we’re singing are close enough (I did find some more varied ones):

Rejoice, O Isaiah! The Virgin is with child,
And shall bear a son Emmanuel,
Both God and Man,
And Orient is His Name,
Whom magnifying, we call the Virgin blessed.