Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Get A Response

This is an article I’ve submitted for publication in the weekly newsletter of the church wherein I do my church-giggin’. I’ve thrown in a couple of brief explanations, so that those who do not attend Sunday services there may have a tiny clue about a couple of things. (Or you could come to services and grasp them in person…!)


A word about one musical element of our Sunday morning worship services. With few exceptions, after the Lord’s Prayer and after the pastors’ words of benediction at service’s end, the choir chimes in with a short musical snippet. Again, with few exceptions, the text is: “Amen.” (Occasionally, during rehearsal, one of the smart alecs in the back row (*cough* basses) will note, “it’s not the notes I’m having trouble with, it’s the words!”)

Our term for this musical moment is “Response.” It’s our dignified version of a musical sting; more importantly, our opportunity to express what I used to say in my mid-’80s college days: “what he said.”

There are several Responses in the hymnal, right around hymn no. 900, and we utilize them quite a bit. If you sing in our choir long enough, you’re likely to be able to sing “898!” or “901!” from memory. If you’re not a choir member but have hummed along with one of the choir responses… then yeah, I guess it’s time we look for some new ones, just for the sake of variety, and of not taking the moment for granted. Every so often, we do dig around and find something different to offer as a Response. During Advent, we like to sing the third verse of “In the Bleak Midwinter” a lot, which starts out, “What shall I give Him, poor as I am?” – or just fire up a big “Glo – – – ria in excelsis Deo!” A big finish!

During the past few Sundays, those attending our services may have noticed that the choral response right after the Lord’s Prayer has been a bit longer than average. We hope that in the back of their minds, they’ve wondered, “darn it, WHERE have I heard that before?”


Mystery solved! … Two years ago this past Sunday, we presented the Christmas Cantata written by one Kevin F. Murphy, complete, unedited, and with full choral and instrumental forces, after its original Advent presentation had been, um, affected! by inclement weather. (We’ve since gotten smart and started scheduling snow dates for these things.) And the slightly more involved “Amen” we’ve sung this past month was the concluding moment of the fourth movement of what we affectionately have come to call “the Murphy”.

The SUMC music scene is, as I’ve been happy to write before, full of “an embarrassment of riches” – whether it’s bassoons and flutes and recorders on one Sunday, or vocal soloists on another; choir anthems or organ postludes or the children singing (and inspiring everyone else to sing) Sunday-School songs. But it’s an even bigger deal to have a genuine musical composer in the building every week; assuredly not everybody has this! So, for the past few weeks, the choir has Responded in a way that no other choir does. Literally.



January 29, 2012 - Posted by | choir, music, religion, SUMC | , , , , , , ,

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