As you might be aware, The Emmanuel Choir is made up of both volunteer and a few paid singers. Some might think that “surely this is only something that is done at giant parishes in places like New York or Los Angeles.” You might be surprised. In Episcopal Churches with active music ministries, this is a more common occurrence than you would imagine. I’m connected with my colleagues through various professional groups. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t see a posting online asking about the ministry of these kinds of singers, where to find them, and how to work with them. It happens in even small parishes in equally small towns.
Why do it? For starters, our Episcopal tradition and our world-spanning Anglican tradition has always valued excellence in music in worship and service of God. This means that we are willing to do the things necessary to maintain that excellence. It also means that we are patrons of music and the arts in the communities wherein we serve. Doing that means helping to support those artists and musicians that work by helping them have an income, small though it may be. This is a tradition that is a part of our roots.
Here at Emmanuel we’ve employed between one and four Section Leaders in our choir as funding allows. A choir like ours is divided into four sections of singers named Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass and ideally each section has one leader. We currently have two: one in our alto section and one in our bass section. Both are very hard-working and dedicated musicians who serve this place with care and love for the choir members they work with and people of the parish.
Abigail Brandt is our Alto Section Leader. Compared to many of us, she is a relative newcomer to the Seattle area having arrived here from Arizona for college. Growing up in Phoenix, she was active throughout her childhood as a church musician in her Lutheran parish and also in school choirs and theatre. That musical work continued in college at Seattle Pacific University where she sang in the highly skilled Concert Choir which is a well-known group throughout our region. Post college, she has also sung with the Northwest Chorale and the Seattle Women’s Chorus.
Mike Dodaro, our Bass Section Leader has worked in churches and other musical organizations in the Seattle area for decades and is well known in our city. He spent many years working as a Section Leader at the historical Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Seattle. He has also worked extensively in the opera world in our area singing leading roles in too many productions to count using just as many different languages. Having him with us allows us to take advantage of his years of professional singing both in the world of sacred music and the secular world of theatre.
We are so grateful to both of these musicians for the work they do and for the caring personalities they bring to our choir. As Director of Music, my goal for these musicians is that they be much more than just a solo voice in our choir. I want any Section Leader that is part of a choir I lead to be an active member of the group, being a good example of musicianship to the singers they work with. I also expect them to engage with our musicians in a caring and personable manner, understanding the various backgrounds and experience levels that volunteer choir members come from, helping those singers to reach their potential in an emotionally safe and affirming environment. Our Section Leaders do that so well and we look forward to working with them for a long time to come.