Incense. A procession of acolytes, deacons, and priests moves forward through the nave to reach the chancel. The congregation stands, reverently observing this pompous performance.
What’s happening up in the organ loft while all this is going on? The (typically male) organist accompanies the procession with the droning sounds of his organ, while the music director (yes, also male) waits for choir (ah, there are the women!) to get into position—the air is full of excitement, for today is a special day. The church musicians will soon see whether their efforts during the past few weeks will pay off. The last major musical event wasn’t that long ago—and it was a resounding success, so the bar is set quite high. And even so, the singers had to be given renewed motivation. Which shouldn’t have been a problem, but it did take some fairly persistent convincing—and even after that, various birthday parties and long-planned theatre visits ended up getting in the way of continuous rehearsal work. So as usual, the music is under-rehearsed, and to top that off, three bases and two tenors are sick. But: the show must go on!
The churchgoers are still down below, waiting for the choir to begin singing. And today, once again, everything runs smoothly—there’s no repeat of the disaster that happened half a year ago. The musicians are satisfied that it’s all gone relatively smoothly. But tomorrow, at the latest, it’s back to square one. It’ll once again be down to the wire, and a good deal of convincing will be necessary to keep the choir members, all of them unpaid volunteers, in the right mindset. What’s all this work for? It certainly isn’t a roadmap to financial wealth. The main motivation is the music itself, that great treasure trove of sacred music ranging from the origins of Western music in Gregorian chant to the here and now—all the more since church music is one of those genres where the greatest amount of new music gets created and performed. And one’s also motivated by the people who share one’s enthusiasm for this music, be it in active or passive form.