Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Safe As Band Rooms

This week, quite a number of people in my FB world will return to their musical ensembles – scholastic or church-related or community groups or whatever – stand in front of them, and try to find something to say that addresses the place we find our nation in. Not an easy job. (No easier is the job of the people who will return to their music – or other! – classrooms and try to find the right thing to say to their elementary and pre-school-aged charges. That’s certain.)

I will, too. So, I’ve been thinking furiously (and you may take that however you like). I’ve been remembering ensembles I’ve been a member of, throughout my life, and drawing inspiration from them.

Here’s what I think I would say to any of the ensembles that I get to work with. Here’s what I think I would say to any ensemble I’ve EVER gotten to work with — because there are groups full of people from my recent and distant past that I’ve been thinking of in the last day or so, as well, who happen to be wonderful people but even if they weren’t, it wouldn’t matter. They all were – are – PERSONS, and as such deserve respect unconditionally.

Deep breath.

I feel like I have to say this, in this moment; but I also feel like there’s no need to say this, generally, because you all know this already; but I also feel like it’s worth saying at all times.

In this ensemble, no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter what instrument you play or what flag you wave or what voice part you sing, no matter whether you read music well or somewhat or not at all… no matter what…

When you are on this field, in this choir room, on this stage… you are IMPORTANT… you are WELCOME… and you are SAFE.”

Effectively, that’s what George Parks said (by way of his actions), for all those years. It’s what newly-minted NafME GNP Leadership Award winner Thom Hannum has done for all of his years – and specifically, valiantly demonstrated six years ago when a particular bereft band needed it the very most. It’s what was shown to me and to anyone within reach, by all the band directors and choir directors that I’ve ever played or sung for. And I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and for, a pleasant number of friends who are stellar band and choir directors, and they all personify that sentiment.

As role models go, they’re all far better than some of the public figures we’re fixated on now.

November 9, 2016 Posted by | band, BUMB, CCSUMB, choir, current events, GNP, HCMB, heroes, music, news, politics, SUMC, teachers, Thom Hannum, UDMB, UMMB | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Twenty-Eight: Lacrimosa

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 28: “last time I cried”.

The actual last time I cried? I’m going to bypass this one. It occurred a few hours before I wrote this … and I’ve spent quite a lot of time on that little “difficult time in my life” (speaking of writing prompts).

Instead, I shall scoot backward in time to the second-most-recent time, which was, oddly, a tiny bit more public.

For background, go read the item that I read at my Dad’s memorial service. I’ll be here when you get back.

That wasn’t my moment of weep.

He died on a Tuesday, if I’m not mistaken; and the following Sunday, I was at my post in front of our church’s volunteer choir. Partly because it was one of my jobs; partly because of Dad’s “carry on” philosophy; partly because it was something to focus on, rather than sitting and moping.

Our family decided to put off the memorial service at least a week, mostly so we wouldn’t have to rush pell-mell through the planning process in just a couple of days.

One part of the plan was that I would deliver a little paragraph or two, in the spirit of eulogy; which I did. There were folks who marveled that I did so with not a hitch or a pause to wipe the eyes or nose. I kinda wrote the thing so that there were more laughs and smiles than anything else. Distraction, maybe, but also a focus on the great and funny memories.

Another part of the plan was that I would conduct the volunteer choir that assembled to sing an anthem or two at the service. There were folks who were completely blown away that I could do that, but as my college band director used to say, “I’m a professional. I can do this.” Again, notes and rhythms and such to focus on. Again, distraction, and an awareness of the responsibility of conducting a choir (and helping to keep their heads in the game).

What took me out, though, was the last hymn of the afternoon. “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, by Thomas Chisholm and William Runyan. Number 140 in your Methodist Hymnal. Before and since, it’s been one of my very favorite hymns. A couple of really cool chords in there, the kind that gives us music theory nerds a little tiny thrill and causes us to see how the chord was approached and how it was resolved thereafter. A fun intellectual exercise, at the same time as the harmonies stir the spirit.

Well, between that and the accumulated experience of the previous nearly two weeks … the stirring won out. All I can say is, I’m glad that everyone else’s noses were kinda “buried in the score”, as we say in the choir world, so they didn’t notice that I was a quiet wreck. At least I didn’t have any more musical or public-speaking leadership responsibilities that afternoon, so there was that.

But it was a good day, so I didn’t mind, and have not minded since. And now, every time the opportunity to sing that hymn rolls around, I lay into it with just a little extra verve, and just a little extra smile.

May 28, 2016 Posted by | blogging, choir, family, music | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Fifteen: What Am I Doing?

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 15: “Timeline of my day”.

Fine. Let’s take today, shall we?


6:00 AM … alarm goes off. Amazingly, I get up.

7:00 AM … in the car and away, to the east.

7:40 AM … arrive at my church gig. I am alone in the parking lot, which is not a surprise, because it’s still Absurd O’Clock. Go in, determine that there’s no special musical furniture to set up for the morning’s service.

8:20 AM … rehearse a couple of quick musical items with my musical partner-in-crime (-slash- brother-in-law) and niece for an event later in the day.

8:23 AM … done with that. Efficiency!

8:30 AM … begin the choir “early bird” session. Earlier this program year, we began offering a 15-minute extra session for the benefit of the folks who travel for business during the week and can’t get to Thursday night rehearsal. Not only are people not abusing the opportunity (i.e., “oh, I don’t feel like going to choir Thursday; I’ll just catch up Sunday morning”) … lots of people who did get to rehearsal are showing up to the early bird session, just to get one more chance to live with the notes and rhythms. Such that, for the first month or two, people who showed up on time for the “official” 8:45 AM start time looked around, worried that they were late. … I’ll take it!

9:30 AM … Sunday service begins. And progresses. Choir delivers two anthems – gliding neatly through Harold Friedell’s “Draw Us In the Spirit’s Tether”, and fighting hard for every note in our a cappella rendition of Thomas Tallis’ “If Ye Love Me”. Gads I love these folks. And they sing pretty too.

11:00 AM … extra-lengthy service (full of Confirmation liturgy and such) concludes. While many people rush for coffee hour, a few of us gather in the choir room to rehearse a quick musical item for next week’s afternoon concert-series date. More on that item in a separate post!

11:40 AM … hit the road, bound for a congregation couple’s house, wherein the annual “staff appreciation lunch” will occur.

12:00 PM … our staff/parish relations committee appreciates the staff; the staff appreciates them. And the spread. Yummmm.

1:40 PM … hit the road again, bound for the sound check for the Composers Concert held by the Worcester chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

2:40 PM … probably thanks to a poor choice of route, arrive there 20 minutes later than I wanted to. Just about get things set up by the time …

3:00 PM … concert starts.

4:30 PM … concert ends. Briefly we stand, smile, chat, say “yay concert”, and realize we’re all (sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, mother) really hungry.

5:00 PM … arrive and immediately get seated at a very fine Worcester seafood eatery, and stuff our faces – I may not eat again until 9 o’clock. Tomorrow morning. Yummmm.

6:20 PM … return home, and begin writing the day’s 31-Day Blog Challenge item.


Many of my weekdays are not as busy as this particular Sunday.


This is the life.

May 15, 2016 Posted by | arts, blogging, choir, family, music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment