About this time every year, I am ready to pull out my hair, but as you know, the hair pulling started early this year. Today, things are better. I have had internet for an entire 24 hours without interruption, I’m grading papers, filing things in Court, and next week, I will bake to my heart’s content – and buy my first Christmas present, meaning that the running will have just begun.
But the third Sunday of Advent will provide a respite from the rush, rush, rush in the form of, this year, my 36th Vespers service at Broadway Presbyterian.
When I was a new bride and new to Sedalia, I looked for a church that needed a musician. I had been an organist for my church from the time I was 13. Mrs. Pierce took an annual hiatus from rowdy students and the organ and spent the summer recharging her batteries in her home far from the madding crowd. Donna Baker, who had been the substitute organist during those summers, got married that year, and so my church music career began as the “subsequent sub.”
When we lived in Blue Springs, after a brief break when we looked for a church to attend, I began playing for the Methodist Church there, and I continued until my move to Sedalia. Then, by chance, I met who is now Bobbie Cowen, and she convinced me that Broadway Presbyterian would be a perfect church for us. Although Marian Tempel was the permanent organist, I could fill in when she might be gone, or I might sing in the choir, or I could do whatever was needed. And, as they say, the rest is history.
That first year, I remember going to the Vespers service. I can’t remember my role, whether I played the piano or sang in the choir or simply attended and listened to the heavenly music. All I know is that I was transported in time to my childhood when the church was dim and quiet, when I said my “piece” and sang “Away In A Manger” with other teeny tiny children, all of whom were eagerly anticipating first, eating a piece of Jesus’s birthday cake, and then, soon after, Santa’s arrival.
From that moment, Vespers has been my solace. Over the years, my role has changed from singer, to accompanist, to soloist, to music director, to the service designer who sets the music order and writes the script to share the quiet joy of the season with those who care to come and listen. Regardless of my role, my soul looks forward to the hour that I can be quiet – at least somewhat – and feel peace and a quiet joy.
And that hour is this weekend.
On Sunday at 4 p.m., Advent’s Joy Sunday, Christmas on Broadway will bring the sounds of the season: glorious music, quiet music, and best of all, small children who, just like me those many years ago, will say their “pieces” and ring the bells of Christmas.
Katie Dake has talked me into playing a three-piano piece with her and her friend and co-worker, Virginia Sparks (Virginia was also a guest artist at Katie’s last recital when we played two other multi-piano pieces), and Katie and Mark Piepenbrink will dazzle us with their piano-organ duets. Sandy Larson and I are going to play together on only one piano, but that duet will bring smiles to everyone’s faces. The choir will sing Mary’s song, and the women’s choir will sing a classic from everyone’s junior high school choir days – but it will sound different from junior high days. And One Track Train will bring its inimitable bluegrass style to the mix.
Then, after the music has filled everyone’s soul, the fellowship hall will be filled with all kinds of goodies for the congregation to enjoy. Years ago, the reception was bright and shiny with silver serving pieces, but now, we take time to enjoy each other as opposed to polish silver. It works out.
If you have nothing to do this Sunday at 4 – or even if you do – you will be glad if you come to Christmas on Broadway. We will be looking for you.