I’ve enjoyed my yearly visits to Christ Lutheran Church as part of their summer series of services. Normally, there has been a fairly sparse turnout but today was a full house, thanks, mostly because of the return of their youth group from a week of outreach in Houston.
Regardless, I have had the opportunity to play some of my family songs, usually aimed at the children. (The elders like these songs, too.) Today I took a different aim.
Pastor Phil was in the house for the first time (usually out of town) and it was good to have his leadership. He asked me to do Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds (performed by Pete Seeger) and I was glad to be able to work it up. “All made out of ticky tacky….”
I started with a mandolin medley as folks gathered. The folks were quite chatty (and late) so I ended up running through quite a few of my tunes. Long medley! After the minister prefaced the service, he introduced me to the congregation and we sang Little Boxes. As Phil delivered the children’s message and felt moved to join the kids on the edge of the “stage”. A couple of “cools” from the kids.
After the youth group’s presentation about their trip to Houston (this takes me back to my time in First Pres in Albany), I sang We Are Welcomed with the lyrics in the bulletin. This sanctuary is a delicious place to play, with copious wood and a congregation that is willing to take chances and sing along. It rocked.
I decided to do Lessons from Pete as the anthem and introduced the song with Pete’s ” It’s not so important to have music in people’s ears. It’s more important to have it on their lips.” I also talked about the hormonal “trust” that happens when we sing together. I added ‘church’ to the lyrics (that’s where we sing together…). Only screwed up once.
I finished up with Chuck Pyle’s Step By Step and the congregation picked up on the chorus nicely and, at the end, I let them hear their voices alone. It was a pleasure to play today.
As I was wrapping up my instruments, a gentleman came up and purchased two Troubadour CDs. His grandchildren were in town for the weekend so I offered Peanut Butter and he said they had it already, so I gave him Playground for good measure. He then talked about how his mother had a grand piano in his home. Oh, my! I asked if he listened from underneath it and he said enjoyed crawling around under it. But he related how his family would gather around the piano on Sundays and sing hymns and songs along with that magnificent instrument and his mom on the keys. Powerful stuff.
As he was telling me this, relating this story to my Lessons from Pete, he started to mist up. He said that this song touched him deeply and he had teared up while I was playing it. My goodness. This moment brought the whole gig home for me.
Afterwards, the minister thanked me, bought a CD and asked about my religious upbringing. I mentioned my Presbyterian roots in Albany as well as our youth group’s activism. I had, at the time, considered becoming a minister. I also mentioned my lapsed UU background. He said that this congregation is similarly progressive and I did recognize it.
I get to play a wonderful variety of venues, in front of a wide demographic of audiences and in some sonically wonderful rooms. This one had it all; one of the good ones.