February 16, 2012

Why I Love being the Pianist for a Small Congregation

Last night, our church took our mid-week service to combine with another church 45 minutes away. This church is like a sister church to us, and just in the last couple months had a new pastor and his family move to the area. Being still in the throes of adjustment and change, we decided to be an encouragement to them and combine services, offering some added fellowship for an evening.

I can't begin to tell you what a blessing this was to all involved! Our church people went away feeling refreshed, and I believe that church family did as well. There is something so reassuring in talking to fellow Christians and knowing that there are others out there that stand for the same things as you. As good Baptists, we had a time of physical refreshment as well, ending the evening with sweets and coffee. :)

But what I got on here to tell you about was the fantastic time I had playing for the service. I am the pianist for our church, but the sister church does not currently have a pianist. It was a joy to sit down at their old upright (which was in surprisingly good tune, I might add) and bring out a few songs...something those walls have not heard in a while! It was a great feeling.

I have played for services of all sizes, from merely a dozen people to several hundred, and there is something to be said for them all. But here are a few reasons why I love playing for small crowds:

1. You don't have to be a fantastic piano player. 
I think those people last night thought that I was the best thing since sliced bread...which is simply not true! I enjoy playing, but I lack in so many areas. They were just so excited to have anyone play their piano! I could have been terrible and they might not have noticed. :) This doesn't give me any excuse for playing poorly, don't get me wrong...but it is nice to know that even my limited ability can be used in a mighty way.

2. Where numbers are lacking, you get to bridge the gap.
We took a couple dozen people from our church and joined about the same number at their church, so compared to some, this was an extremely small crowd.  We filled that church building, however, almost to capacity...and everyone sang heartily! The sound was awesome! I think they raised the roof a few times. ;) So even though the numbers were few, the simple strains of a piano really round out the music...and IMO, we sounded better than a 100-voice choir! Almost....

3. There isn't as much "pressure."
As I said before, these people wouldn't have cared if I played standing on my head, so long as there was music coming out of that piano. I didn't, of course. :) But it does take some of the pressure off. In a large church with an impressive orchestra or several other pianos following your lead, the tendency is to feel the need to "perform" instead of play from your heart! With a small crowd that is appreciative of your efforts, that mindset is taken off, and I could just enjoy playing and hearing them lift their voices in praise to God!

Although some would view such a small crowd, simple building and traditional hymns as a waste of time, I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to be a blessing, honor my God, and have loads of fun!

I would love to hear your thoughts on playing for large or small congregations: which do you prefer? What is your normal playing atmosphere? How do you handle the "pressure?"


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