Holy time at music conference makes for melancholy journey home

I glanced up at my rearview mirror and there it was, looming behind me. Wistful thoughts flooded my mind along with the reality of just how short seven days can seem. Monteagle Mountain filled the view in my mirror, even though I was, by this time, several miles up US 41 on my way to Manchester, Tennessee, where I would turn north toward Ohio.

Once you’ve been to the Sewanee Church Music Conference (SCMC), a part of the experience goes home with you. To paraphrase the old saying, “You can send the attendees home from Sewanee, but you can’t take the Sewanee out of the attendees.” Leaving SCMC is always the low point of the week. Forget hot weather or rain that may come. They are easily survived, but going home – that’s another matter.

I had traveled this same route the previous Monday, US 41 from Manchester to Monteagle, home of DuBose Conference Center. The route traverses a long, wide valley through the towns of Hillsboro and Pelham. (I had the wise idea of taking a “selfie” in front of the Hillsboro town limits sign as I live in Hillsboro, Ohio. To my great disappointment, Hillsboro, TN has no town limit markers. In fact, it has all of the hallmarks of a “poke out town” which was my grandmother’s name for a town where, when you poke your head out the window, you’re out of town.) Back to the valley. At the end of that fairly straight and flat road, Monteagle Mountain is ascended by a very curvy and steep road, which leads one to the town.

Left to right: John Glaze, David von Behren, Justin Wiget, Stanley Workman, Michael Petrosh, Jan Smith Wood, Ned Brooks and Randall Ruthsatz (taken outside All Saints Chapel prior to entering for Evensong)

Left to right: John Glaze, David von Behren, Justin Wiget, Stanley Workman, Michael Petrosh, Jan Smith Wood, Ned Brooks and Randall Ruthsatz (taken outside All Saints Chapel prior to entering for Evensong)

Our week began Monday afternoon with a welcome reception, soon followed by our first of many rehearsals, dinner and then Compline. The rest of the weekday mornings began with Eucharist at 7:30 a.m. Classes during the week included lectures by our spiritual director, David Lowry, classes in choral conducting, Episcopal basics and liturgical planning, classes in Finale (music notation software), as well as organ master classes and more. Special events included the annual Gerre Hancock Concert, Choral Evensong and, of course, Sunday morning Eucharist. While it would certainly be fitting to say that SCMC has “something for everyone”, it would be more appropriate to say it has, “a lot for all”. Our outstanding clinicians for the week were Robert Simpson and Kevin Kwan.

The conference delegation from Ohio included David von Behren (Assistant Music Director at Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights-UCC), Ned Brooks (Music Director at St. James Episcopal in Wooster), John Glaze (Organist at St. Mary’s Episcopal in Hillsboro), Michael Petrosh (Lakewood Presbyterian in Lakewood), Randall Ruthsatz (Director of Music at Grace Episcopal in Sandusky), Justin Wiget (Director of Music/Organist at All Saints Episcopal in Portsmouth), Jan Smith Wood (Rector at Grace Episcopal in Sandusky), and Stanley Workman (Director of Music/Organist at Second Presbyterian in Portsmouth)

So, by this time, it should be evident that the tone of leaving “Sewanee,” while less than joyous, is made less painful by the fact that each day passed is one closer to returning to that holy mountain next July.

John Glaze serves as organist at St. Mary’s, Hillsboro.