Okay, I know churches don’t have podiums for their music directors, but Rick Gremlitz at First Parish Church (UCC) in our town does conduct with a short white baton. What’s amazing is that he’s been doing this, in that venue, for a half century.
Among other things, the house of worship – serving the oldest congregation in the state – has its Belknap concert series where world-renowned organists perform on a remarkable hybrid organ. Parts of it are historic, as it Hastings and Hutchins, and part are state-of-the-art electronics, probably installed during Rick’s tenure. Any doubts in my mind about the sound itself vanished when bete-noir Cameron Carpenter did one unforgettable, amazing workout on the machine one afternoon a few years ago. It survived. The audience was left in a swoon.
Look, I’m a purist and lean toward the E. Power Biggs line of thinking that contrasts sharply with the Virgil Fox excesses that Rick adores. He addresses the man as the great Virgil Fox. I forgive him. We all have our icons.
So be it.
In his ministry, Rick’s led a number of Handel Messiah performances in the sanctuary. Last year it became an open sing with prepared soloists and two guest conductors. Seated between two seasoned voices, I discovered that the choruses are easier than they sound, not that I was anywhere near perfect. It was a most exhilarating event.
Today, though, Rick’s acclaimed friend Hector Olivera returns to the console, with a twist.
An ecumenical community choir, including yours truly, has been rehearsing to join in the performance.
We’ll be performing the world premiere of an anthem composed by Kevin Siegfried for the occasion, and we’ve been rehearsing weekly since mid-September at the Methodist church. How can you possibly keep something like this a surprise?
We’ll see. It’s still a special occasion. And, I might add, one of the joys of living in a relatively small community.
I’m hoping it comes off well. Especially if I don’t miss a cue while we’re singing.