Music during the pandemic
During the pandemic, we are keeping a close eye on what is considered to be safe or risky related to music. We are exploring creative ways to bring people together through sacred music and worship. On-line projects will leave some people out for technological (or preference) reasons, though are completely safe, and have the silver lining of allowing us to connect over distance to musicians who moved away. On the flip side, it is increasingly apparent that in-person projects – even with many safety measures – will carry some amount of risk that will be up to the individual participants to assess. We will not pursue a project that is not designed to take those safety measures and respect CDC and other government guidelines.
This spring we expect to:
- Create virtual singing and band projects.
- Meet outdoors in person and sing through masks.
We miss making music together as of old and are looking forward to a future where that becomes possible again. For now, we hope everyone stays safe both physically, and spiritually.
Bryn Athyn Church benefits from a vibrant musical community with singers and instrumentalists at all levels. There are many ways to get involved in the church music scene here, including choirs, bands, and instrumental groups. In addition to festival services, we offer four regular services on Sundays throughout the year, each with their own style of music and worship.
This service features Contemporary Christian music led by a varying team of musicians often including guitar, piano, and bass. It opens with ten minutes of music, and also includes three songs in the body of the service. On a given Sunday, most or all of the music is sing-along.
A more traditional service, the music is supported by the organist, and includes four hymns as well as two other short selections. The service is preceded by meditative preludes starting at 9:20, and followed by a postlude.
This service is aimed at families with very young children, and the regular musician is a pianist. There are three children’s hymns, as well as several minutes of preludes before the service and a postlude at the end.
The most formal of the services, this is another service primarily supported by the organ. It is preceded by meditative preludes starting at 10:40, and includes four hymns, an interlude, and a postlude, as well as an Office with selections sung by the congregation. Guest musicians often bring variety alongside the customary organ music, and this service is the home of the Cathedral Choir.
Choirs and Ensembles
The Bryn Athyn Cathedral Choir is the regular adult choir for the community. They primarily sing at the Cathedral Adult Service (11 am) approximately every alternate Sunday during the academic year, and serve as the core of the Festival Chorus at major church holidays. The choir is made up of adults from all walks of life from current students to retirees, and numbers about 35 singers. Rehearsals are on Thursday evenings between Labor Day and Memorial Day, and recently have been ending the academic year by singing a Bach Cantata at the first Sunset Organ Vespers of the summer in mid-May. Anyone interested in singing with the choir is welcome to contact the Director of Music.
The Choristers are two choirs of elementary-school age trebles that rehearse weekly under the direction of Dr. Robin Bier, with the assistance of Mr. Nathan Odhner. Each semester they sing at the different Bryn Athyn Church Sunday services, and are featured at Thanksgiving and often at the Choral Vespers services before Christmas or on Good Friday. Auditions are held in September, and sometimes in January if there are any spaces available mid-year. Girls and boys with un-changed voices in grades 1-8 are welcome to audition. The Seraphim Choristers is a competitively auditioned group that studies more challenging music, and the Cherubim Choristers welcome all interested children to gain introductory experience with music and singing.
To express interest, contact the Director of Music.
A rotating group of musicians that lead the congregation in song at the Informal Family Service in Heilman Hall each Sunday (9:20 am). The music (typically around seven songs) is selected by a designated Songleader who puts together the team and announces the songs during the service. All instruments (within reason) are welcome, and all singers who are comfortable leading from a microphone in front of the congregation.
To express interest, contact the Director of Music.
This larger choir (often between 50 and 70 singers depending on the project) prepares special evening Choral Vespers services to mark major holidays. The main two events are during Advent, and on Good Friday. The Festival Chorus is frequently accompanied by orchestra, and have recently undertaken Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, and a version of the famous Nine Lessons and Carols service. This group also takes on occasional extra projects such as singing at our annual New Church Day celebration or performing with the Bryn Athyn Orchestra. Rehearsals are typically for 4-6 weeks prior to the performance and fall on Thursday evenings.
To be put on a mailing list announcing Festival Chorus projects, please contact the Director of Music.
The popular Tableaux services at the Cathedral involve a large cast of volunteers, including a choir costumed as angels and shepherds who sing while the congregation visits the nativity scene. Members of this choir take part in an intense rehearsal schedule the two weeks following Thanksgiving and perform in all four Tableaux services. Participating children must be accompanied by an adult family member, making it a popular activity for families to sing in together.
Please contact the Director of Music prior to Thanksgiving to reserve a place in this popular ensemble.
Taking part in three rehearsals the week prior, the Handbell Choir prepares eight pieces each year to play at all three of the Christmas Eve services at the Cathedral. The only requirement beyond committing to the rehearsals and services is a steady sense of rhythm and the ability to count.
Ranging from a quartet to a septet, the Bryn Athyn Cathedral Brass is a professional ensemble led by euphonium player Keith Genzlinger that traditionally plays for Palm Sunday and Christmas Tableaux services.
During vespers services involving orchestral pieces, an ad hoc orchestra is drawn together of instrumentalists from our community and the greater Philadelphia area to accompany the choir. Recent projects have included Fauré’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, and orchestrated versions of selected Psalms by C.J. Whittington.
The Cathedral is not available as a performance venue for concerts, but we do welcome interest from musicians and ensembles who are genuinely interested in volunteering their music to beautify our church services. Our congregation has a deep appreciation of sacred music.
Select high school ensembles in our area have attended our 11am Adult Service at the Cathedral to offer their music to our congregation. In recent years, choirs have visited from the Academy of the New Church, Central Bucks East High School, Central Bucks West High School, Hatboro-Horsham High School, and the advanced string ensemble from Harriton High School.