Music Report 2019

It is my pleasure to submit my 2019 report for the music program at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Edgartown, Massachusetts.

Here we are!  The end of one decade, the beginning of a new one.  I arrived on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 2016 and it’s been a real honor and pleasure to spend the last half of the 2010’s decade as your Music Director and Organist! 

2019 was a year of exciting and stimulating change and growth for the St. Andrew’s community.  In the fall of 2019, we launched ReVision.  I had the pleasure of attending Mardi Moran’s small group discussions every Sunday after the 10 am service this past fall.  We discussed many ways we can help to make St. Andrew’s a more welcoming and engaging place to worship on Sunday mornings for fellow Islanders and visitors.  

I am very well aware that here at St. Andrew’s, we are a microcosm of not only the Episcopal Church, but of Christianity today in 21st century America.  The Northeast may possibly have some of the lowest attendance of church goers in this entire country, barring California and other urban regions where church has become increasingly less relevant in the lives of most people.  In my travels down South, particularly to Nashville and New Orleans, I’ve been struck at the role of church in the wider community’s life down there. Church is important down there. Culturally, the South seems to embrace church much more than the Northeast these days.  

Not to worry.

As we continue down the road of ReVision to help grow and sustain our church community, I want my fellow parishioners to know that I am committed to providing high quality sacred music of a wide breadth.  I love classical music, traditional Anglican anthems and chant, and revere the great traditions of this church.  But I also love to incorporate uniquely American music – gospel hymns, spirituals, Appalachian folk music, and improvisation. Not just hymns from our excellent and iconic Hymnal 1982, but occasional texts from the accessible Wonder, Love and Praise and Lift Every Voice and Sing supplementary hymnals.  It’s important to remember that we live in 2020 Edgartown, not 1950 London or New York.

This does not mean that we should ever compromise on musical integrity.  But it does mean that my vision of “blended worship” is one that tries to reflect who we are as a church and community.  I assure you that it isn’t relevance for the sake of attempting relevance. I put a great deal of thought and planning into how new and older hymns and anthems can work together in the context of the Eucharist. I promise our church never to musically “throw out the baby with the bath water,” but to try and include creative and fun music choices to keep things from getting stagnant and uninspired. Let’s keep folks inspired, not tired! Excuse my cheesy pun.

The St. Andrew’s Choir works hard week in and week out to provide excellent music to augment our 10 am Rite II services.  As always, we welcome anyone who’d like to join our choir (especially a tenor, bass or two!) and guest musicians such as Garret Savluk, Laquita Mitchell, Jenny Friedman, and David Behnke into our music life here. We hosted a wonderful concert featuring the music of award-winning composer Steven Schoenberg and poet Rose Styron on July 12, as well as our annual visit from bluegrass all stars Hitch and the Giddyup on August 24.  2020 shapes up to be another great year of exciting concerts and events at St Andrew’s!

I’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback from parishioners and visitors about our music program, particularly this past year.  This is in no small part indebted to the dedication of our choir members and the musical trust that Father Chip puts in me to choose and provide music for our services.  A big sincere thank you to our choir, Father Chip and our congregation for making my job a fun one and one that I look forward to every Sunday morning.  

Martha’s Vineyard is my home. I’m forever grateful to St. Andrew’s for their welcoming and sincere embrace of this ol’ washashore. I look forward to continuing to serve you all with humility, gratitude and love for years to come.  

Griffin McMahon

Director of Music & Organist

January 2020