No, silly, we didn’t hear Bach on a dinner cruise — the first day at the Region 4 conference of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM) started with a Bach Cantata vespers at St. James Lutheran Church in downtown Portland, followed by a dinner cruise on the Willamette River.
We registered at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church near the Concordia University campus and I remarked to someone that we’ll be wearing a dog tag for the next two weeks as we’ll be in Boston for AGO on Sunday. What was a little different for this conference was that instead of a program and/or a service book, we each received three-ring binders (with our names typed on the spine) with different colored pages for the schedules, worship orders, biographies of conference personalities, maps, organ specifications, and suggestions on where to eat. And the biggest surprise was that we each got personalized ceramic coffee mugs with our names and the ALCM logo etched on the outside. Now if only I drank coffee . . . !
Since we have rented a car for this conference, we drove ourselves to
St. James Lutheran downtown and our first impression was that the building and its interior was historic at best. It looked like a church from the 1950s, with the altar against the wall and an elevated choir loft to the right. Dark woods predominated throughout, and we could see no attempts to update the building in any way. The Bach cantata was number 194, Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest which was sung in two parts, before and after a short homily. The service began and ended with Bach pieces in which I know every note intimately: Jesus Christus unser Heiland (BWV 689), Komm heiliger Geist (BWV 651) from the Great Eighteen Chorales, and Wir glauben all’an einen Gott from Bach’s Clavierübung.
Then it was off to a leisurely dinner cruise, a time to reconnect with colleagues and take in the gorgeous scenery down the river. You’ll recognize Evangeline Rimbach in the photo below. You may remember that we had dinner with her and her sister in Tacoma, WA which we visited in February. She was the former editor of Grace Notes, the quarterly newsletter of ALCM.