O sing unto the Lord a new song.
Yesterday, as I was singing MacMillan's little anthem, A New Song, with its slightly bonkers organ accompaniment, it struck me how, in microcosm, it reflects how it feels to start a new year in a choir, from the first note of the first year, to the first note of the senior year.
The organ part starts by mirroring the treble notes, holding down each as it is sung, creating a distinctively MacMillanesque sound. From there the accompaniment slowly speeds up the same scale of notes, continuing regardless of tempo, while the full choir sings the next section. The pattern repeats with different voice part combinations. And then, at the end, the organ suddenly comes into its own, with a whole page to itself after the choir stop singing, building and building, until it fills the entire cavernous space.
Those opening uncertain notes are much like a new probationer, copying the choristers, maybe holding notes on too long, not quite getting the intervals right, creating a particular discordance. They mimic the older choristers, learning by trial and error, gaining in confidence.
The repeating organ scale pattern that intersperses these sections brings an excitement that goes beyond just performing music: the organ part is independent of the rhythm the choir is singing, as if unconstrainted by tempi. The passion behind the music shines forth through the excitement regardless. The choristers are beginning to understand why their older peers love the choir so much.
Finally that ending, when the organ bursts out from the choir. Probationers have become choristers, and their singing takes flight, comes to the fore, is the core. As the older choristers leave, the new choristers are the new choir, and they are singing a new song.
Starting a new choir, or a new year, can be scary, but there always those who go before you, have stood where you stand, and sing uncertainly like you do. The senior choristers, like harts in headlights at first, step up, and find their place at the waterbrook.
Whether you are singing your first note with the choir this year, or starting your last year in the choir this year, may you look to finish the year with as much brazen bravado and cataclysmic confidence as the end of MacMillan's anthem.
Sing unto the Lord all the whole earth.