It was another full day at the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians conference here in Portland which started with a Morning Prayer service, followed by a plenary session. It’s the plenary sessions at ALCM which differentiate these conferences from AGO (American Guild of Organists) conventions. Our plenary speaker for these three days is The Rev. Paul Hoffman, who spent 17 years as Lead Pastor at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church in Seattle, whom we met four years ago when the Regional was last held in the Northwest. His sessions have centered on the theme: Lost in Wonder, Love and Praise. He retired from parish ministry in May 2013 to devote himself to writing and teaching. I have found his lectures to be incredibly interesting and engaging.
Immediately following today’s lecture, people had a choice of workshops to attend, and I decided to take in the one on new organ music. A bunch of us then went to lunch at the Concordia Ale House, a short distance away from the University, and the food was excellent, but with huge portions. One of those memorable ALCM moments happened when at our table of five, we sang “Be present at our table, Lord” in four-part harmony!
We took a short break at the hotel then came back for a Jazz Vespers, played by an excellent ensemble of piano, woodwinds, bass, and drums. I must admit, though, that the jazz idiom is somewhat foreign to me, and it seemed strange to hear this genre of music in church. Especially unusual were the jazz accompaniments to Richard W. Dirksen’s hymn tune on “Christ, mighty savior, light of all creation” (ELW 560) and KINGSFOLD, the English folk tune.
After dinner back at the hotel, we came back to St. Michael’s Lutheran for a full-blown hymn festival with choir and brass ensemble. Walter Krueger was the organist and instead of improvising, played several intonations/chorale variations by retired Pacific Lutheran University organ professor, David Dahl, whom we had lunch with in February, just a few months ago. As is typical of ALCM hymn festivals, the singing was hearty, especially since the conference was joined by parishioners (I think) of St. Michael’s.
I forgot to mention that in the opening Eucharist yesterday, one of the hymns was “Holy, holy, holy” and even though only the melody was printed in the bulletin, everyone sang in four-part harmony for the a cappella verse. That was another special ALCM moment as in . . . Where else could this happen unless you had an entire congregation of Lutheran organists and choirmasters?