In early August, I was fortunate once again to attend the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) training course in Newport, Rhode Island. Every summer these weeklong courses are held throughout the country. Each course has its own make up – some are for boys only, some for girls only, some are just for trebles, and some, like Newport, are for both trebles (boys and girls) and adults. I’ve attended this same course the past five years, and each year I return invigorated and optimistic for the future of church music.

newportccpeople.jpgFor several hours a day, choristers rehearse on very complicated music. While we might tend to think this would not appeal to children, this assumption would be very wrong.  I was inspired watching these children progress through the week on music of a high quality. Nothing was simplified or dumbed down because they were kids. Choristers from all across the country were present in Newport – all working towards the common goal of offering their best in the musical worship of God.  We were ably directed throughout the week by Walden Moore, a faculty member of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and the Director of Music at Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut.

Another inspiring element of the course, to me at least, is the wide variety in ages. Our youngest chorister was 9 and the oldest was 86. Yet, these two were present and participating in each service singing together – working with one another, and about 150 others, to “perfect the praises offered by thy people on earth” as the prayer in our Prayer Book states.

newportpicsinging.pngOn Tuesday evening, we were at one of Newport’s beaches to have dinner. Many community members were also around us at that time. After we had been there a while, one woman approached me and asked who we were. I explained the camp to her and she told me that she had never been so impressed by so many young, well-behaved children. I invited her to attend some of our services that week so that she could hear them sing as that was even more impressive than their good behavior. She showed up the next night at the Hymn Festival. The next day she appeared again at the Evensong. Following that service, I sought her out and thanked her for attending. She grabbed my arm and told me that she hadn’t been in church since she was in the 6th grade, and that she wasn’t sure exactly what she believes in, but added, “but I certainly believe in what you all are doing.” Her comment has been running through my head ever since. I’m reminded of the words of Saint Francis who said, “You may be the only Gospel your neighbor ever reads.”

 

 

 

 

Top photo: Members of the Christ Church contingent attending the Course take a picture in front of St. George's School in Newport.

Second photo: The choir singing Choral Evensong in St. George's School Chapel in Newport.