St. Paul’s UMC Houston Hosts Royal School of Church Music

Date Posted: 7/9/2015

Girls from as far away as New Zealand gathered together this month at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and Rice University for the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) Gulf Coast Course for Girls and Adults. These serious young female vocalists lead four worship services and one concert, open to the public, during this weeklong experience. The Choral Eucharist was accompanied by a brass quintet, and the repertoire includes Messe Solennelle, Op. 16 by Louis Vierne and Parry’s “I Was Glad.”
 
“Not to us, O Lord, but to your work.”
 
Centered on the first verse of Psalm 115, this Anglican chant was sung as a grace before meals at the recent Royal School of Church Music  (RSCM) Gulf Coast Training Course for Girls, and that was the underlying tone of the week.
 
A total of 48 girls from ages 10 to 18 participated in this year’s course, based at St. Paul’s UMC, Houston, and Rice University. They traveled from churches throughout Texas plus Arizona, California, Minnesota, and New Zealand.  Course manager was St. Paul’s Director of Children’s Music Anna Teagarden. Course director was Dr. Frederick Teardo, Director of Music and Organist at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, AL.
 
 “The principles of RSCM invites choristers to approach sophisticated music written for their voices throughout the centuries as well as today, encouraging them to sing with beauty and understanding,” explains Anna Teagarden, director of the course and Director of St. Paul’s Children’s Music. RSCM - America is the United States branch of the Royal School of Church Music founded in England in 1927 by Sir Sydney Nicholson, organist of Westminster Abbey. The goal of the organization is to uplift the spiritual life of its member communities through high quality choral music by providing musical education to singers through a structured choral music program and summer music courses.
 
Each morning began with a service of morning prayer in St. Paul’s chapel with Rev. Emily Chapman of St. Mark’s UMC, Houston, as chaplain. Vocalists then held rehearsals throughout the day, punctuated most evenings with fun activities. They discovered that the best place to view Hermann Park’s 4th of July fireworks was from the balcony of their Rice University dormitory. Friday night’s talent show was full of music, including dancing and a poetry reading. They also wore thematic costumes and showed their visual artistry in dorm door decorating contests.
 
But the core of the week was dedicated to liturgical music and worship.
 
Upon registration the girls were sent a list of music to learn. These included:
Irish Blessing - Ross C. Bernhardt
Duo seraphim - Richard Dering
Responsory - Gerre Hancock
If ye love me - Thomas Tallis
Messe Solennelle, Op. 16 - Louis Vierne
Prevent us, O Lord - William Byrd
Canticles: The Gloucester Service - Herbert Howells
I Was Glad - C.H.H. Parry
 
From these selections they presented two public Choral Evensongs (Rice University’s Bates Organ Hall and St. Thomas Episcopal Church), one afternoon concert at The Methodist Hospital, and one Compline service at St. Paul’s, Houston culminating in a Choral Eucharist accompanied by a brass quintet at one of the July 5 Sunday services.
 
“This was a wonderful week in which music supported faith formation,” said Rev. Tommy Williams, St. Paul’s senior minister. “It was wonderful for us to host musicians from near and far, and to partner with other institutions and congregations to make these programs happen.”
 
One of only 10 RSCM training courses in North America, this was the 10th year for this one to be in Houston and the third hosted by St. Paul’s. “It truly takes an army to put this together,” Anna admits. The loudest applause of appreciation came from the girls when their volunteer bus driver, John Robinson was recognized. “He was there at 7:30 in the morning, and stayed with us until late in the night.”
 
Months ago, volunteer coordinator Beth Brown visited every adult Sunday school class to seek support, and, she says, “Not one class declined.’” Larger classes brought homemade food for meals, other classes and individuals underwrote snacks and an ice cream social. “Our people made this happen. Many appreciate our beautiful cathedral style building, but the people inside are the heart of St. Paul’s.”
 
Throughout the year, St. Paul’s and most, if not all, of the churches represented follow the RSCM Voice for Life curriculum, a guide to training choirs and singers of all ages. The curriculum also supports an award system through which individual choristers can be recognized for their vocal skills and knowledge of liturgy and music. With only 13 qualified examiners in the United States, these RSCM summer training courses provide an opportunity for choristers to test.
 
Additional organists and coaches were Dr. Paolo Bordignon, St. Paul’s Director of Music and Organist; Dr. Giles Brightwell, Organist and Choirmaster at Houston’s St. Thomas Episcopal Church; Ken Cowan, Associate Professor of Organ at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music; Brady Knapp, Associate Professor, Director of Choral Activities at Houston’s University of St. Thomas; and Joseph Painter, Organist and Choirmaster at Houston’s Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. Joseph Russell, a student at Curtis Institute of Music, was organ scholar, and Collin Miller of Northwood UMC, Lafayette, LA, was junior organ scholar.
 
For more information about the Royal School of Church Music – America, see www.rscmamerica.org. For information about the RSCM-A Gulf Coast training course, see www.rscmgulfcoast.org, complete with photo galleries of each year the course has been in Houston.