THE EUPHONIUM IN THE CHURCH
by Frank Meredith
Lack of performing opportunities is a common complaint among musicians, especially among Euphoniumists. Performing as a soloist In churches is one very excellent outlet which is often overlooked. Though financial gain is minimal at best, this type of experience may prove to be priceless.
The benefits of church soloing are threefold: first, the performer has the opportunity to appear before a largely non critical audience, concentrating on the production of a beautiful, expressive tone in an auditorium that usually adds even greater resonance and warmth to the sound, Secondly, such performances need not be limited to advanced players. Many appropriate pieces are playable by younger players who have developed a sufficient degree of tone quality and musical sensitivity. Introducing the public to the beauty of the Euphonium's sound is another very valuable aspect of such playing -- a benefit that cannot be underestimated if the Euphonium is to increase in popularity.
Specific playing opportunities within most church services include prelude, offertory, postlude, and/or a featured solo selection (especially during vacation periods when a choir may not be available). Some churches also enjoy having instrumentalists accompany the singing of hymns.
There are many churches which sponsor a series of recitals featuring local performers, This is an excellent opportunity that advanced players cannot afford to ignore. Such a series can be set up rather easily. A good church organist, an outstanding vocalist from the choir, a cantata or oratorio presentation and a good Euphoniumist would provide the nucleus for a varied and stimulating recital series.
Special consideration must be given to the selection of music. Tastes vary greatly, even within the same denomination. If you are not certain what would be appropriate, be sure to find out by checking with the church's music director or ministers. Generally, music of a meditative nature or rejoicing quality is well received. Many arrangements of appropriate selections by Bach, Handel, Mozart, etc. are commercially available. Rubank publishes a collection entitled Sacred Solos that is particularly useful.
[Editor's note: appropriate music for church services is listed on our site, for either bass clef or treble clef.]
Another consideration is the mode of accompaniment. For me the combination of the Euphonium and the organ is very delightful, though many pieces are more suited to piano accompaniment. Be aware of the facilities (and their condition) and plan accordingly. The matter of the accompanist can give rise to occasional problems. Often it is highly impractical to have a separate accompanist trying to share the keyboard with the regular organist who must perform the regular service music. This may require arranging to be accompanied by the church's organist. Be prepared to supply your own accompanist but indicate your flexibility to suit the church's desires.
Making contact with a church is relatively uncomplicated. If you don't have a personal contact with someone associated with the church, then a letter to the director of music or minister indicating your interest is the first step. A description of who you are, what you have to offer, and a brief account of your playing experience should be included.
Generally, it is not appropriate to discuss fees, since few churches pay their soloists. To request a small honorarium to defray travel expenses, etc., would not be unreasonable, depending upon the situation. I have found that the real reward comes after the service when people make it a point to comment on how surprised they were to learn what a beautiful sound the Euphonium has and that they would like to hear it more often. Isn't this what music is all about?
About the author: Frank Meredith received a B.S, in education from The King's College in Briarcliff Manor, New York and his M. Music in low brass performance from Ithaca College. He has appeared as soloist and recitalist in many churches throughout the northeast United States. Formerly Director of Music at a large church in northern New Jersey, Frank is currently Chairman of the music department of the Schoharie Central School in the Binghamton area of New York.
NOTE: this article is reprinted from Euphonia magazine, January, 1979, with permission of the publisher, Glenn Call.
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