One of my great joys at Trinity Church is working with our Church Music Interns. The program is designed to be one of mutual ministry, giving a music student the opportunity for practical, hands-on experience with our wonderful choirs while also sharing their unique gifts with the congregation and providing valuable assistance to me. Over the years we have been blessed with many wonderful and talented interns who have enriched our music and our lives in many ways as well as letting me feel like I have, in some small way, also offered them something of value. Our current Intern, Sarah Saul, has most ably continued that tradition.
All, of our interns have had different gifts, but Sarah has been more out of the ordinary than most. Usually the interns are here for just one year, much of which is spent just learning the ropes. Having served in this position for two years, Sarah is easily able to read my mind and usually know what needs to be done before I do. While most of our interns come from a choral background, Sarah is a supremely gifted flutist with an orchestral background. Not only have we had the pleasure of her artistry on the flute, we have also benefited from her instrumental perspective.
Due to Sarah’s instrumental training and skill, I gave her an opportunity that no previous intern has had. Last month, Sarah conducted the prelude for brass and organ on Easter Sunday. It has been exactly ten years since the first and only time I have used this wonderful piece of music and in the second part of this article I include what I wrote about it at the time.
Sarah will be conducting her final anthem on Pentecost Sunday and then winding up her time here in June leaving us all a few weeks to thank her for her service and wish her well as she pursues a graduate degree in flute. In her time here, Sarah has touched the lives of many, both young and old, and been a dear friend and trusted colleague to me. And so, I offer to Sarah, Farmer Hogget’s words of highest praise on a job well done. “That’ll do pig, that’ll do”.
From Genesis – April 2008:
I must admit, I’m curious as to how many people recognized it…
A month or so ago I was reviewing pieces for brass quintet and organ to use for the Prelude on Easter Sunday when I found an arrangement of the Maestoso from the Organ Symphony by French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It was everything I was looking for. It was the right length, used the instruments I had available, made a grand musical statement to set the tone for the service and expressed the triumph of Easter. There was only one problem. This very piece of music was used as the main theme for the children’s movie “Babe” and I wanted this first piece of music heard on Easter Day to create images of victory over death and not visions of a talking pig. I went back and forth on it for a few days soliciting opinions from a trusted few. I shared my dilemma with the rest of the church staff who assured me that very few people would make the connection. I felt more confident. Just before a children’s choir rehearsal I asked our music intern, Drew, about it and he agreed that no one would recognize it. I felt more confident still. Not ten minutes later, as the children were coming into the choir room, I was diddling on the piano a few bars of the main theme. Completely unsolicited, they immediately asked, isn’t that the song Farmer Hogget sings in “Babe”? So much for confidence.
And so it was that I began the greatest celebration of the Christian year wondering if my choice of prelude music was a mistake. At 10:25 I gave the downbeat, a grand fortissimo C major chord in the organ followed by an introductory fanfare in the brass. Then came the moment of truth; Farmer Hogget’s theme. It is introduced by just the organ so softly that I felt sure I could hear a murmur in the congregation. As the piece went on to its triumphant conclusion and into the opening hymn, I hoped that it had conveyed the desired effect and that I had not turned Easter into a secular farce.
Through the next bit of the service, I continued to privately fret about what the reaction to this music would be: And then came the sermon. The first words out of our beloved Rector’s mouth were “What’s the deal with the Easter Bunny”. My concern vanished instantly. First of all I now knew that anyone who had a problem with music used in a children’s movie would probably have a much bigger issue with a sermon about the Easter Bunny and forget all about my prelude; (Thanks, Rob). More importantly, I realized that this sermon was drawing everyone into the story of new life. A church brimful of people of all ages and backgrounds, some regulars and others who had not been here since Christmas, all found something familiar and accessible about this sermon introduction and then listened carefully to its real message of Jesus’ Resurrection. I can only hope that the same is true for a piece of music that has been played in the greatest of concert halls and churches for more than a century as well as accompanying a little pig who also triumphed over death.