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"Now, however, that the state of music is quite different from what it was, since our artistry has increased very much, and the taste has changed astonishingly, and accordingly the former style of music no longer seems to please our ears, considerable help is therefore all the more needed to choose and appoint such musicians as will satisfy the present musical state, master the new kinds of music, and thus be in a position to do justice to the composer and his work."

--J. S. Bach (1730)

 
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Weddings at Faith United Methodist Church in Champaign, Illinois

A note about using the sound system....

We do have a sound system and a microphone in our North Sanctuary. It is possible to have a piece or two sung at your wedding using background music on a CD. However, I would like to discourage this option for the following reasons:

First, don't worry about the organist. I'm not one of these guys who buries himself only in the music of 300 years ago and can't play anything else. Whatever image you might have of a cranky old guy who plays badly and thinks anything written in the last 100 years is trash, I'm not him. I can play in any popular or contemporary style, and I have the ability to play without music in front of me, so if you bring me a sheet with just chord symbols on it and/or a CD of your favorite group singing the piece, I can play it. If you've got sheet music for it, I can probably read it on sight for the ceremony itself! (I still recommend we rehearse it first, though!) We've got a very nice piano in the sanctuary (a 6-and-a-half foot Yamaha Grand) and I can switch from it to the organ and back very easily, the same way I can go from one style of music to another! Since I am a church organist (with all the attendant stereotypes), people who sing in popular or contemporary styles are always pleasantly surprised when we work together. Then there's the one about temperamental artists and pretentious snobs and I'm not one of those either.

Second, a recording won't accommodate you while you are singing. If you come in a beat late or a beat early, it can't adjust. I can. Sometimes we'll have singers go through an entire verse a measure or so late because they couldn't hear when to come in and never got back on track. I can add a beat or a full measure and get us together, usually smoothly enough that nobody will notice.

When our sanctuary was designed, apparently nobody thought we would be using microphones to sing with our sound system. I say this because the music is actually piped through a cluster of speakers at the ceiling just above the steps which lead to the altar area. This means that people singing from our "stage area" or the pulpit are slightly behind and well below the speakers, and singers who have tried this arrangement have almost unanimously complained that they couldn't hear the music. Turning it up more doesn't really help because then the congregation can't hear you over the music, and you still won't be able to hear it very well. This doesn't make it impossible (several singers have managed to make do in the last two years since I've been at this church) but it is never as pleasant an experience as the singers would no doubt like it to be.

Note: since I wrote the above paragraph, new sound equipment has been installed in our sanctuary, which includes a monitor in the choir loft, which may help the situation (perhaps considerably). Since no one has yet sung using a CD since the new equipment was put in (and since we are still trying to use it effectively ourselves) I would still be cautious about this until I know to be otherwise!

Believe it or not, sometimes things go wrong even when somebody is just pushing buttons. At one wedding this year the fellow pushing the buttons in the sound booth hit the wrong selection for the unity candle music, which was sort of embarrassing, since what we heard was the recessional music instead (and even that was an odd choice). I often wind up doing the honors these days, which can be a bit tricky if I have to run from the booth (in the back of the sanctuary) to the organ (in the front) or back. Personally, I find it easier to just play the music than to do the sound system. You'd think it would be easier to just push buttons, but it never seems to be.

Anyhow, the bottom line is that we do have this service available and you are allowed to use it. I will do whatever I can to make it go smoothly. But if you would rather have a live musical accompaniment you need only come to the rehearsal with your music and we'll have a good time.

michael@pianonoise.com