If you are a Unitarian Universalist, or leaning in that direction, and are a musician, then you should be a member of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians’ Network. It’s that simple.
There was a time when I had no interest in joining; I thought it was a waste of money for someone like me. That’s because it seemed to be heavily oriented towards choir directors and organists, with very little for the contemporary style musician. But eventually I thought I should give it a try, and was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a few contemporary musicians (thanks, Jim Scott and Jeannie Gagne, for carrying the banner!) and some contemporary worship music. It was just enough to keep me coming back.
Boy have times changed since my first conference! The first day of this yaer’s conference, there was a contemporary/pop/jazz “recital”, which featured some terrific new music by some very good musicians, all members of the UUMN. The “choral reading session” focusing on UU composers also had some very fine contemporary style pieces that were written for or easily adapted for small ensembles. And I didn’t have any chances this year to skip a workshop slot and have a coffee because there were relevant and interesting workshops for me every single hour.
The after-dinner “talent show” was amazing, the Sunday worship music included a piece from a “bluegrass mass” as well as contemporary gospel style singing. I could go on … but you get the idea. Things are moving quickly, and it seems that the UUMN membership is ahead of their congregations when it comes to adopting contemporary worship music. (See previous post about General Assembly, for further celebration of this.)
I may be beating this drum too loudly, but I believe strongly that UU worship practices must move into the 21st century (or, at least, the last quarter of the 20th), or we are doomed. 16th-century worship styles just aren’t selling these days, and there’s nothing inherently sacred about that style. We need the same variety as we have in our theology. This conference is a great sign that the musical thought leaders of our denomination are moving in the right direction!