Taken from the website of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bellingham, Washington.
[The photo is of members of the Boys’ Choir at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, from the archives of LIFE magazine.]
[I somehow think asking Episcopalians to sing “For All the Saints” to Vaughan Williams’s SineNomine—especially if it’s sung on All Saints’ Day—will elicit an even more robust response than “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” But Keillor is correct, I think, about congregational singing being a normal aspect of the Episcopalian ethos.
I attended a liturgy at an Ordinariate group at which there were apparently more cradle Catholics than former Episcopalians, for when I, standing in the pews, sang the ordinary of the liturgy (Healey Willan’s St. Mary Magdalene Mass) along with the paid quartet, vested and standing in the chancel, some members of the congregation looked daggers in my direction! “United but not absorbed,” I kept telling myself, as I continued to sing.
Brother John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.]
We make fun of Episcopalians for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese.
But nobody sings like us.
If you were to ask an audience in Des Moines, a relatively Episcopalianless place, to sing along on the chorus of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Episcopalians, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! ….And down the road!
Many Episcopalians are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage.
It’s natural for Episcopalians to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.