I was a guest artist at the Old Greenwich Presbyterian Church in rural Stewartsville, NJ. My good friends Bruce and Betsy Gaston put me in contact with the Sunday Service committee and we agreed on this Sunday. They’ve been doing outside services for a while and today’s weather was perfect: mid 60’s and a cloudless sky.
The congregation put together a real band wagon, a portable keyboard station, sound equipment, access to broadcast on FB while the congregation can pull up chairs on the lawn or sit in their cars and listen on the radio. Pretty nifty how folks are dealing with this distancing situation.
Tom DiGiovanni, one of the music directors greeted me as I arrived for the sound check. As I was setting up, a large flock of geese flew overhead, leaving the surrounding cornfields. Too much honk in the monitors….. We got to chatting about my Presbyterian past in Albany, and how my minister Bob Lamar headed to Selma, Alabama for the marches. Tom remembered the same about one of his early ministers.
As 10 am rolled around, I started with A Place in the Choir, reminding us all that we are in choir and we all have our parts, referencing Pete Seeger along the way. In the twenty minutes away from my guitar in the sun, old Martin went out of tune. (My wonderful tuner is difficult to read in sunlight). Later, I followed with We Are Welcomed, again I battled with my tuning. Still, it went over as it could, with folks honking on their horns as applause. That was new and curious!
I did Down in the Valley to Pray as an anthem, and, luckily, I was able to do it a Capella. I didn’t have to wrassle with an out of tune instrument. I finished the service with Here Comes the Sun, my guitar finally at one with the universe. My postlude was Chuck Pyle’s Step By Step.
I had some good chats with some folks who came up afterward with some interesting connections shared. Always interesting. It was nice to get compliments on the sound, the choice of material, etc. so I was pleased with the overall presentation in spite of the tuning difficulties. It was a spectacular morning to be outdoors making music with a loving community.