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    A View from the Pew

    One is the Loneliest Number

    Today, A View from the Piew ended up as A View from the Loft. Invited by the music director to worship from the rafters in the balcony, the space serves as a choir loft that houses the organ double and as an office for the music director/organist/choir director (sound familiar?). I accepted the music director’s invitation and left my pew among the people to take my place in the seats above them. The experience got me to thinking about pastoral musicians who serve the liturgy from the hidden location of the choir loft.

    Choir lofts can be very isolated places for pastoral musicians, particularly during the liturgies when an organist works without the presence of a choir. In this particular instance, the choir dismissed after Easter; a young cantor led music from the front of the church. I found myself worshipping with several other members of the assembly who elected to worship in the loft and warmly welcomed by the music director. And why not? Two of them happened to be her daughters and the third person was her grandchild.

    If you have a family and know what it feels like to work every single weekend, holiday weekend and major feast days (Christmas, Easter) and trade your blood family for your church family, you more than know the gift of the presence of your spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews with their families who comes to worship with you when you play in a loft or a designated music section of the church. Otherwise, there you are, responding to the prayers of the liturgy to the sound of your own voice.

    One is the loneliest number that you ever knew when everyone turns and greets each other with Christ’s peace and no one from the community looks up and remembers that the loft contains a human being who needs that greeting. One is the loneliest number when the presider and all the communion ministers overlook the fact that a person sits on the organ bench and they all forget to climb to the loft to distribute the Eucharist to the musician at the end of communion rite. And one is the loneliest number that you ever knew when the community gathers together to share their weekly news as the organist plays a postlude as they dismiss. By the time the music ends, the empty parking lot seems quite symbolic of the loneliness that music directors just might experience on a weekly basis.

    If you serve as a pastoral musician from a loft, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you could share a story or two about feeling isolated and alone from a liturgy that should be anything but a one-is-the-loneliest-number-that-you-ever-knew experience. What’s your choir loft story?