Making Music

Weekly Reflection, Friday, July 9

By: Ryan Tibbetts

It will probably not surprise you to learn that being a church musician during the pandemic was a deeply strange and unpleasant experience. Joining the choir in high school was literally life-changing in putting me on a trajectory to pursuing music as a career, so the loss of communal singing for fourteen months was incredibly jarring! Zoom is good for meetings, but terrible for choral rehearsals – everyone but me would have to mute themselves, and I would play through repertoire and give instructions, but I couldn’t hear anything, and just had to trust that the singers were paying attention. I’m not sure if everyone knows how this worked, but all of those “virtual choir” videos in the pre-recorded services we did last year were created thusly: the singers would record themselves singing along to a guide track that I made for them and upload those videos. I’d take the videos, extract the audio, line it up in Garage Band on my laptop, make edits, then take the videos into Final Cut Pro, sync them up with each other, and then sync THAT up with the composite audio I’d made earlier to make the final product!

The one thing that I was able to do last year that felt like actual music-making was practice the organ. The organ is not my first instrument – I didn’t take any lessons until I was in college, and even that training was pretty sporadic. Although I’ve played a fair amount in church jobs since then, the two years that I’ve now been taking lessons with Grant Hellmers has been the longest single stretch of time that I’ve formally studied the instrument! Perhaps the one silver lining of the pandemic was that it did give me more time to focus more intensively on my playing, to the point where it feels like I can more consistently make music on the instrument, as opposed to just playing the right notes. I’m going to be playing a recital in a little less than two weeks (Wednesday, July 21 at 7 p.m. in New St. Mary’s) – this will actually be my first time doing a full solo performance on ANY instrument, and I’ll be playing a program with music by composers spanning four centuries from five countries and two continents. If you’re around, I’d love to be able to share some of what I’ve been working on with you.