Last night Bill and Kevin played the evening service. Piano and guitar, with one singer and me. While we generally have at least another instrument and maybe another voice, the makeup for congregational song was pretty typical. But the playing was anything but typical.
We are rich with resources at College Church. If I let myself, I can be smitten with the embarrassment of riches. I'm just as likely to take them for granted. I try to stay somewhere in the middle - appreciating the many who give so much for this great work, and not being apologetic that other churches would pay huge sums to get any number of our volunteers on a regular basis.
But with Bill at the piano, and Kevin on guitar, we enjoyed the subtle dynamics of two skilled servant musicians, whose primary purpose was to play so that the people can sing. Not because they can't play to impress! Kevin is capable in many styles, on every guitar-type instrument (I love to have his mandolin and his banjo involved); Bill is a repetiteur with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The men are no slouches. But each gives himself to the support of others. And, man, what they give!
It has been a while since they played together in our evening service. So in rehearsal it was a delight to be reminded what they bring - individually and in ensemble. They listen to one another, without a word changing roles and parts, complementing and drawing each other out. Kevin would pick up the melody, and Bill was immediately chording. Bill would brig out the melody, and Kevin would slip into a new rhythmic accompanying pattern - completely apt for the melody, and altogether surprising.
I don't know how much the typical singer in the pew could have said what was happening. But this interplay evoked some extraordinary singing. Our evening services tend to be laid back. They mix hymns - classic, modern, gospel - with new songs that may or may not be Praise & Worship (but are normally not identified with that genre, whatever that may be). Another planner would turn up the heat a bit in the services; and these musicians would be right there for that, too. But the beauty of their leadership last night was that even with this laid-back vibe, there was variety, energy, and a musical vitality ... a fecund creativity ... that lifted us all in glorious song.
It was something like jazz, spontaneous and responsive. It was a treat to stand in front of them and lend my very average voice to the mix, with a sweet soprano also on mic, and be caught in the middle of a beautiful night of song. Because Bill and Kevin gave themselves the way they did, we had a true ensemble of the whole - a room united in voice, heart, intent, and worship. That's glory.