Musical Notes: Returning to the Sanctuary

Musical Notes: Returning to the Sanctuary

The ability humans have to adapt, adjust and create new methods of communication and connection is astounding. During the pandemic this has been made clear. What also has been made clear how important, how vital the human need to connect and communicate is. As we are looking at gathering together again as a congregation in a new way I’ve found myself looking over these past 18 months in a mixture of admiration, astonishment and no small amount of grief. The fact that we’ve been able to maintain weekly services rich with meaning, message and music is a testament to the human spirit, as well as the adaptability hard work and talent of the East Shore staff.

Last month, Catherine Ramsey and Tom Ball joined Reverend Steve and me in the sanctuary to sing the hymns and join me in presenting ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ It has been a challenge to bring a variety of voices into the services; safety has always been our primary concern while presenting on Sunday mornings, and only recently have vaccinations and boosters allowed for some flexibility in this realm. As Tom and I were singing the musical celebration I felt my entire being singing. Not only were we able to create harmony in the sanctuary, but there were several people in the congregation there to hear the singing live as it happened. (Recently, we have had invited about 10 congregants to do a test-run of how to present both live and virtual elements together in the sanctuary and over Zoom.) The difference was astonishing. While I’m grateful to have been able to find a platform over which we were able to present services virtually, there is simply no replacement for the act of singing together under a physical roof, in a building made for such joyous expression. I had a similar experience during the Halloween service, singing ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’ with my husband Paul. During both services I found myself smiling and fighting tears at the same time. This reunion of blended voices and in-person attendees felt like water poured on parched, thirsty soil.

The East Shore Mighty Choir has been meeting on Thursdays since September: masked, with extra ventilation, in Spring Hall. We found an immeasurable amount of joy in the mere act of singing together. We had met virtually on Zoom for over a year, and in the process were able to create some virtual videos that we’ve shared at Sunday services (we continue to share the Birthday Song and both sung benedictions in rotation on Sundays.) I will be forever grateful to the dedicated and hardy souls in the choir who were willing to meet, week after week, in an online format that was never designed to function as a rehearsal space. These months, while difficult, were a testament to the power of music, and the deep human need to connect with one another in voice and song. I feel the months we spent meeting virtually helped us bond in a way that has strengthened us as a singing family.

The Mighty Choir has been rehearsing five songs that we will present at 4:00 on Christmas Eve as part of our outdoor, in-person service. There will be canopies and outdoor heaters situated to keep congregants as warm and dry as possible (but we do encourage everyone to dress warmly.) The campus will be festively decorated with lights, inflatable characters, banners, wreaths and trees. We will sing Christmas carols together as a congregation, and enjoy a full service presented by Reverend Steve. We warmly and heartily invite all East Shore members, their families and friends to attend this joyful and meaningful in-person Christmas Eve celebration. There will also be an online-only service broadcast over Zoom from the sanctuary, featuring my friend Brenda David and my husband, Paul Rosenberg. This will be a more solemn service, with the sanctuary alight with dozens of candles and songs chosen to move the soul and warm the heart. This second, virtual service will begin at 7:00 pm, Christmas Eve.

As East Shore plans to reopen its sanctuary doors in January, I am excited by the prospects of the return of live music. At the same time, I am preparing myself to be as nimble as possible, as things will not be simply as they were before. For instance, the choir will be singing while wearing masks. We’ve found it’s not the most comfortable way to sing, but it’s possible, and the safety that masked singing affords is certainly worth the sacrifice of comfort. I have been reaching out to past musical guests, both from within the congregation and the professional performers I’ve brought into services before. I am hoping to present at least a partial East Shore Live season, as we look to see who and what will be available to us in 2022. Above all else, I am looking forward to the joy of being together again, sharing music in our beautiful sanctuary. I feel blessed, fortunate and incredibly enriched by the connections we’ve been able to maintain over these past 18 months. I look forward to forging new connections and creating new musical experiences in the year to come. Thank you all for being part of this grand, difficult journey. Let the new year begin with joy, optimism, and above all, safety and love.

by Eric Lane Barnes, Director of Music

Come Join the Choir!

Come Join the Choir!

The East Shore Mighty Choir is resuming in-person rehearsals beginning on Thursday evening August 26th* in the sanctuary at 7:00 pm! WE CANNOT WAIT! In order to create and foster as safe an environment as possible, all singers in the Mighty Choir will need to be fully vaccinated and able to present verification.

  • No audition is required for choir membership!
  • No ability to read music is required for choir membership! (But if you read music that’s always welcome)
  • The Mighty Choir sings approximately two services per month; it is understood that not everyone will be able to sing every service – we understand that life often intervenes. We also sing a few special music services each year: one at holiday time and one in mid-spring.
  • We sing a wide variety of music. There is something for everyone! We have a lot of fun in choir rehearsals.

• If you are interested in being part of the East Shore Mighty Choir contact Director of Music Eric Lane Barnes at [email protected]. You can even simply show up on Thursday August 26, or *any* Thursday evening afterwards. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email ELB.

* We will continue to watch current guidelines for safety, but we hope this date can stay!

General Assembly 2021: Be A Delegate!

General Assembly 2021: Be A Delegate!

We hope that you will consider attending the national conference of Unitarian Universalists-the 2021 Virtual UUA General Assembly! As part of East Shore’s connection to our larger faith community, you can attend from home from June 23-27, online! The short list of worships and workshops below are just a handful of the fabulous 100+ live webinars and on-demand programs that GA registrants will have access to. One of the best parts about virtual GA – if you miss a live webinar or have trouble choosing between options, you’ll be able to catch up later on-demand! Also consider if you may want to serve as a delegate representative of East Shore or participate in the GA virtual choir! If you would like to be considered to be a delegate, please email Nicole Duff.

 Register and learn more here:

Community in a Post-Isolation Age (UUA)

For the past four years, people have been traumatized by the 45th Administration and its response to the global pandemic. We also suffer the pandemic of white supremacy and police brutality. This workshop will explore the trauma inherent in both these scourges and help congregations build trauma-informed communities that address both.

Harvesting Lessons, Planting Seeds: Reflections on Organizing, 2016-2021 (UUA’s Organizing Strategy Team)

UUs have organized for justice in unprecedented ways since 2016. What have we learned about our congregations, movements, and the political landscape? What is possible and most urgent now? Join the UUA’s Organizing Strategy Team to look back and plan forward for bold, faithful, strategic action for justice.

Resourcing UU Theologies of Death and Dying (Meadville Lombard Theological School and Starr King School for the Ministry)

Drawn from UU theological foundations, this workshop provides participants with imagery and language for UU theologies of death and dying. In this time of pandemic response we find ourselves in need of renewed theological exploration to sustain our covenantal communities.

REWIRE: Rewiring Your Racial Consciousness (All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa OK)

Explore your own racial identify and identify next steps for your own development. With a values-centered approach, we white people can reclaim our wholeness and heal ourselves. A panel of leaders will open the workshop and then trained facilitators will work with small groups.

Rights of Nature: Who Speaks for the Earth? (UU Ministry for Earth, DRUUMM, UUA Green Sanctuary Program)

Indigenous Peoples and, increasingly, more communities are declaring that lakes, rivers, forest, grasslands, and all of the earth has rights. Human communities can fight for these rights and win. This program will provide education, spiritual inspiration, training, and embodied practice for UUs to join the movement for the rights of nature.

Starr King School for the Ministry President’s Lecture: Art in Search of Justice    

A choreopoem in memory of UU minister James Reeb debuted at the 1990 GA in Milwaukee. Co-created by Rosemary Bray McNatt and Reeb’s daughter, Anne, it hasn’t been seen for 30 years. Its creators reunite to present the video and reassess both their collaboration and the UUA’s journey toward justice.

The Power of Story in Worship (The First Religious Society in Carlisle)

Our congregations struggle to find ways to keep the story element meaningful for all ages in worship. How can we harness the energy of intentional story as an essential part of the worship service? How can teens add their voice to crafting stories for worship? Let’s put the storybooks down and the “All Ages” back into the Time for All Ages.

8th Principle: FAQs

8th Principle: FAQs

Several folks from ESUC have been attending an ongoing series of meetings of the 8th Principle Learning Community, organized by Paula Cole Jones, an experienced facilitator skilled at organizing people for systemic change. Early last year at a nationwide meeting, 171 folks were present to learn about applying the 8th principle and the UUAs Jubilee program in RE. Testimony by kids about the importance of the 8th principle and antiracism work opened the meeting with poignant testimony about why this is important. The Community was organized by Paula Cole Jones on Facebook as a private group and has grown to 307 members across the continent. Members of ESUC can join the private Facebook group if interested by being invited in by a current member. More than 40 congregations have already voted to add the 8th Principle to the seven we all know.

Here’s the language of the proposed 8th Principle: “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”  ESUC has a small group ministry working on this, and members of ESUC are invited to join this transformative journey. We hope to hold some town halls in the future to answer more questions. Until then, here are some FAQs.

Why the 8th Principle?

This Principle was developed by Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU), an organizing collective within the UUA. They found the systemic racism within Unitarian Universalism to be inadequately addressed by the 7 principles. We are listening to them, as are many others.

I don’t like the language.  Let’s adjust it.

The language was drafted and vetted by BLUU, and has been adopted intact by more than congregations, and counting. This is a grassroots effort to modernize and change the UUA. It is not top down. Think of it like amending the Constitution. We are voting on an 8th Principle to add it to our 7. While UUs love to wordsmith, this proposed principle will take final form when it comes before the GA via the UUA procedures, so wordsmithing it is not advisable nor necessary. The question before is:  do we support what our BIPOC UUs are asking of us?

Children may recognize the 8th Principle as: “Build the beloved community, free from racism and oppression.” This was created by DREs in collaboration with Paula Cole Jones and is used widely across the country in RE programs.

Why does THIS congregation need this?

The nation and the UUA is in ferment. Marginalized people are speaking up for change.  Our congregation had, last time we counted, an average age of 65 and was 96% white, while our community is already majority minority. We need social action, change, growth, and have been unable to grow using our current methods.  This principle embeds racial justice work into our core principles and will become part of everything we do.  We believe this is core also to retaining some of our leadership and long time members who are already committed to this work, and is a means of attracting young families who want to see social change but are relatively detached from church as a means.  This is a time for rebuilding UUism in rapidly changing times. Can you think of a better way?

Where can I learn more?

There is a whole website with more information, you can find that here.

by Paul Buehrens, member 8th Principle Group

Come Join the Choir!

News from the Music Department: Choir in Covid

It has certainly has been an interesting time for musicians. When the pandemic hit and East Shore made the wise decision to close to in-person meetings, the staff and ministerial team went to work on how to best craft virtual services that would be engaging, uplifting, spiritually nourishing and connecting. The shape of the services has remained very similar, at least as far as what elements go into each section (welcome, chalice lighting, readings, sharing joys and sorrows, a sermon/homily, a sung benediction and a postlude) but the format changed quite a bit. Putting music together for live performance through live rehearsals is something I’d been doing for most of my professional life. But how does one create a sense of live music for a virtual context? How does one work with a choir in a virtual context? Is it even possible?

I had numerous conversations with choral directors across the country who were figuring out what is possible in a virtual musical setting and what is not. We all faced one common technical dilemma: something called ‘latency.’ In a virtual setting like Zoom there are countless variables that go into how sound is sent and delivered. The different types of devices being used (smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop) in addition to the varying speed of internet connection and networks meant that there was no one unified signal on the receiving end. This is somewhat noticeable when people are having a virtual meeting where people are speaking and sharing graphics or videos; at best it’s just a bit annoying when someone’s voice comes in late, or there is a juddering sound, or the sound breaks up. But in a rehearsal, when people are trying to sing the same thing at the same time, the problem of latency creates nothing short of a chaos of sound. For this reason choral directors (as well as instrumental directors) have needed to have participants mute their mics in rehearsal, and take on faith that the participants are singing (or playing) beautifully in tune. This is why we ask participants to mute their mics during Sunday services. If everyone’s mic wasn’t muted the resultant sound would be painfully cacophonous – not quite the unifying, joyful sound we like to make when singing in person. This ‘everyone mutes their mic except the director’ isn’t a bad system for teaching music part by part – the director can sing or play a passage, and then ask the participants how they are doing, sometimes having individuals sing their parts one by one. But creating a virtual choir – one where it sounds like everyone is singing together – takes a bit of editing magic.

The virtual choir has been around for some time. Well-known choral composer and conductor Eric Whitacre has created international virtual choirs by having individual singers record parts that are collected and edited together. Since March, choruses across the world have taken their cue from Mr. Whitacre and have created virtual choirs of their own. My first experience with this was creating a virtual chorus video with Puget Soundworks, the inclusive singing community for which I am artistic director. We chose the song ‘One Voice’ by The Wailing Jennys, and had individual members record their parts (with audio and video) which we then stitched together to create the illusion that everyone was singing together. The recording process was novel-to-daunting for most of the singers – choristers are generally not used to singing a part all by itself, let alone recording themselves singing their part essentially as a solo. The editing was painstaking work, but after several weeks we created the video and put it onto YouTube. By September many choral groups across the country had created virtual choral videos using this same method. By September groups from around the world have put forth hundreds of virtual performance videos; performers from Broadway musicals to vocal have banded together virtually to recreate scenes and songs, vocal ensembles and enormous choirs alike have created these virtual choral videos. It has been wonderful to see the creativity and ingenuity that have gone into these creations, not to mention the adaptability of the creative human spirit when faced with a difficult situation. These virtual performances not only gave us a sense of the shared struggle, but it brought performers and groups into homes that have heretofore not seen or known such things even existed. People who have been unable to go to live shows or performances have seen some of the most creative forces in the world gather together to create songs and tell stories. While everyone I know is aching to be able to rehearse and perform together live again, it is incredibly life-affirming to see how music has continued to flourish.

The East Shore Mighty Choir has been meeting on Thursday evenings over Zoom since early March. These meetings are something like a rehearsal – we do vocal warmups and we sing through songs, part by part. These meetups are also an affirmation of community, a reminder that we still care about and love one another even if we can’t be in the same physical space. Those who participated in the Christmas Even 7:00 pm service at East Shore heard and saw the virtual choir videos we created specifically for that event. Each member had recorded their part and sent them to me and Craig Nelson, who helped edit the sound and created the Joy To the World video. Currently we are singing through some of our favorite UU hymns from both of our hymnals, and are working toward creating a virtual video of our birthday songs (we have two!) as well as the sung affirmation (‘From all who dwell below the skies…’) These are videos that will be part of services once they are edited and put together. But the main reason we get together on Thursday evenings is for the love of singing, and for the love of one another.

Anyone is welcome to join the East Shore Mighty (Virtual) Choir on Thursday nights. The Zoom meeting starts at 7:00 pm and we go to 8:00 pm or a little after (depending on our various check-ins at the end.) If you have been a choir member in the past and didn’t know we were meeting: welcome! If you have thought in the past, ‘Hey … I wonder if I could be in the choir’ – welcome! If you live miles away from East Shore – welcome! One of the benefits of being all-virtual these days is that distance simply doesn’t matter.

We do sincerely and earnestly look forward to when we can rehearse and sing together again in person. If we have learned only one thing in this time of lockdown it is that nothing will ever replace the joy of singing together. When that day comes there will be such love and joy resounding from the rafters that it will shake the foundation. But until that day happily – and safely – arrives, I am glad we have our virtual spaces to occupy. Love will survive. And what is music other than love, expressed in sound?

Join The East Shore Mighty (Virtual) Choir Thursday evenings at 7:00 pm via Zoom room: 897 5868 1236, Passcode: choir

Puget Soundworks sings ‘One Voice’ by The Wailing Jennys

by Eric Lane Barnes, Director of Music