The Changing of the Guard

Monday, October 1, 2012

Having a new choir director is different. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

David Brandt was directing the Senior Choir in 1979 when I got married and joined St. Paul's Lutheran Church. Dave was already a legend by then, but he served another 33 years before stepping down this summer.

He was replaced by Lydia Gallup, straight out of college with a music degree. Her approach to choir directing is very different.

When Dave was the director, we practiced approximately eight pieces in an hour. We sang through them, beginning to end, using the entire choir and the full accompaniment. Then we would go back and work on the problem areas. We sometimes did a piece a second time if we were floundering, but a section--soprano, alto, tenor, or bass--would go over its part separately only if it was having noticeable problems with a particular spot in the music.

Lydia concentrates on three or four pieces and doesn't plan to get all the way through the ones we won't sing for several weeks. She takes each part one at a time, then combines two of them, then the other two, and finally puts them all together. When she is doing two parts she mixes them up: instead of always doing soprano and alto together and tenor and bass together, it might be alto and tenor or soprano and tenor and so on.

Dave's method is good for people who read music. Lydia's is better for those who can't. And the Senior Choir has always had some of both. Dave's way worked because each section had good readers with strong voices for the poorer readers to follow. Lydia's works because even those of us who do read music can benefit by personalized (sectional) attention.

There have been other changes, too. Some members dropped out because the practice evening changed and they have conflicts. Others joined, or rejoined, because the change in day resolved their conflicts. The biggest change in composition came in the alto section. Two former sopranos have switched to alto to fill out the section. I'm one of them, and it's an adjustment. I sang alto in my younger days, but that was a long time ago.

Even so, the choir is doing fine.

There are also ways in which Lydia reminds me of a younger Dave. Liturgy-wise, she is a traditionalist who wants to reacquaint the congregation with chanting the Psalms and doing Matins. And both directors have the same passion for music and choir directing.

Still, things are different since the guard changed. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

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