Monday, May 18, 2009

Easter


Okay, so I know Easter was, like, so last month, but I'm a bit behind on the whole blog thing!

The week leading up to Easter Sunday is a busy time for any church musician, so you can imagine the class atmosphere of a group of students composed entirely of church musicians! It was a hectic week for all of us, but also interesting to watch and participate as the Holy Week observations went by, as we've been learning in-depth about the theological and liturgical background of this time. Specifically, we've had many discussions about the extended service known as the Triduum, which most people think of as Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. The vigil is a service that many Protestants are not familiar with. It takes place late on Saturday evening and is an extended service meant to go late into the night, the accompanying sleep deprivation being a part of the penitent observance. The service is comprised of four major parts: the Service of Light, in which the Paschal candle is lit and the light shared; the Service of the Word, in which a series of Old and New Testament readings are read, tracing the salvation story through our spiritual history and culminating in the Gospel reading; the sacrament of baptism, and the sacrament of Holy Communion. We all attended different Easter Vigils on the Saturday night, participating in rapt attention, as we each had to plan our own (fake) vigil service as a portion of our final project!

On Easter Sunday I had the great pleasure of getting to conduct the opening processional hymn at First Presbyterian, which by longstanding tradition is always "Jesus Christ is Risen Today." As the choir processed in I conducted a six-piece brass ensemble, timpani, cymbals, handbells (of course!) choir, and congregation. Whew! Ken had somewhat sprung this on me in the evening after the Maundy Thursday service (his exact words were "are you up for a challenge?") – RenĂ©e Boone, my predecessor as music intern, had warned me to be prepared for surprises on Easter Sunday! I got to have two shots at it, once at the early service and at the larger 11am service. I even got to use my $5 baton, purchased on Amazon.com for conducting class, for the first time in an actual performance. You go, little cork baton!

David came to participate in worship and be there for me conducting, after having attended an early service at Highland Park United Methodist Church, the biggest Methodist church in the universe. This was less a profession of personal piety than it was a bid to catch a glimpse of our new neighbour, former president George W. Bush. Dubya was there, but David didn't get to see him! He was miffed.

Remember how I said Easter is busy for musicians? Well, all my stranded MSM buddies, who couldn't take Easter break to go be with our families, got together at Chelsea and Chris's apartment for an extended Easter lunch and blowing-off-steam party. There was a whole crowd of us there – Darnell and Darrell, Ulston, me and David, Suzi Byrd and family, and Andrew. I calculated that, by noon that day, we had covered about 17 Easter morning services between us.

Each of us brought something of our Easter traditions to the party! David and I (with David mostly taking the lead) tackled our first-ever Easter lamb roast. I had spent every non-church moment that holiday weekend poring over articles and notes on J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion, in preparation for Ulston's and my 1-hour seminar presentation on the work that following Tuesday. So, to David's extreme annoyance, I was telling everyone who would listen that we were preparing "das Osterlamm." I was probably more delirious than hilarious, but you needed to cut me some slack. The twins brought real Louisiana gumbo which their mom makes in great big batches for them and puts in their freezer. It was wicked good, with crab and sausage and other spicy things, served over rice with a dollop of potato salad on top.

Watch out - twins in the kitchen!
Ulston made Carribbean "rice and peas", the peas being what we would call beans, but they always call any beans "peas". Chelsea was having a great time using all their nice plates and special things for guests. The delicious roast lamm.
Homemade iced tea is so ubiquitous here that people refer to regular tea as "hot tea."
A bunch of Easter treats and toys sent to us by the wonderful O'Briens made a big hit with Suzi's daughters. And... with some of the big kids, too. As per tradition, David and I made red Greek Easter eggs, for cracking with a friend. Our MSM companions, who had never done this good-luck tradition before, were taking the game very seriously and anyone who got the cracked egg got very dismayed. Maybe next year they'll loosen up a bit.

We were low on energy but had lots of fun and I loved sharing Easter with my new colleagues and friends.

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