by John Repulski

About 45 church musicians and clergy gathered at Claggett Retreat Center in early September for the annual “Musician’s Retreat”, sponsored by the Diocesan Liturgy Resource Group (formerly known as the Diocesan Worship Team). It was a terrific gathering for enrichment and refreshment for musicians all over the diocese as they begin a new program year.

The opening Keynote Address was given by Marilyn Haskel, a Maryland resident and a well-known career church musician: organist, choir director, liturgist, and composer. During the Keynote session, Marilyn talked about her time at St. Paul’s chapel, near 9/11 “ground zero,” and included several examples of leading engaging congregations in song without use of the hymnal. It was a thoroughly enjoyable, inspirational, and informative session.

After the Keynote session, all gathered in the chapel for participation in a special Compline service which was led by Rev. Jim Hamilton, rector of Church on the Square in Baltimore. Almost entirely sung, it included chanting, anthems, and a generous amount of silence. It was beautifully administered, well-crafted for everyone to participate, and was a powerful and peaceful way to worship together.

The beloved and notorious Bachanalia, the annual Friday evening wine and cheese reception, followed Compline. The “meet-and-greet” was filled with fun and frivolity that faithfully progressed to sitting on the rocking chairs on the back porch, with lively conversation continuing to the wee hours of the morning. Special kudos to the catering service at Claggett who provided a lovely spread of hors d’oeuvres and tasty goodies.

Saturday morning in St. Andrew’s Chapel Ellen Johnston presented a practical and interesting workshop called Making Music for Small Choirs. John Repulski, Director of Music & Art at Emmanuel Episcopal, Baltimore, assisted as accompanist. Ellen is a career church musician is the wife of the Bishop of Virginia, The Right Rev. Shannon Johnston. Ellen is on the Standing Commission Liturgy and Music for the Episcopal Church and currently serves as the director of the Center for Liturgy and Music at Virginia Theological Seminary.

Later Saturday morning  Creative Use of Hand Bells in Worship was led by Beau Lochte who is a musician, teacher, composer & conductor with a degree in music composition from Towson University. In addition to directing the chancel handbell choir and youth handchimes programs at Second Presbyterian, he is Artistic Director and founder of Charm City Bronze, an independent handbell ensemble, and directs the handbell choir at the Cathedral of the Incarnation.

Organ and Instrument Duets for Worship was led by John Repulski and Ken Brown. Professional violinist Blair Skinner from Baltimore was guest instrumentalist who beautifully demonstrated a variety of pieces with impeccable musicianship. The compositions were accessible, interesting, and appropriate for liturgical use. Other instruments for organ duets were demonstrated using an electronic keyboard/synthesized that replicated a piano, harpsichord, trumpet, cello, chimes, oboe, flute and others. There was also a unique piece of avant-garde electronica for organ and pre-recorded tape. It was a fun, creative, and comprehensive session.

The final session of the retreat on Saturday afternoon was the popular annual Choral Reading Session the repertoire was a wide variety of titles chosen by the members of the diocesan Liturgy Resource Group, and everyone participated by singing their part in all the anthems.

Special acknowledgement goes to The Musical Source who again this year set up a fine display of music, books, and recordings for sale on site. Everyone left with a bag of at least a few purchases to support their own church’s music program. The Claggett Center is a beautiful diocesan facility, arguable the finest of its kind among all Episcopal dioceses, with comfortable, well-maintained and appealing accommodations. The meals in Sugarloaf Hall were enjoyable, flavorsome, and varied for carnivores, vegetarians and even hearty omnivores.

Colossal thanks to the members of the LRG 2018 Musician’s Retreat Planning Committee: Ken Brown, Rosemary Beakes, Richard Strattan, John Repulski, Linda Stowe, and Cynthia Dedakis. This event was well-organized with good and useful content. The comment cards show by all accounts a five-star success! If you missed this year’s retreat, mark your calendar for the 2019 Annual Diocesan Musician’s Retreat at the Claggett Center, September 6-7.