Behind the Music: UUA Cluster Worship


If you attended worship on Sunday with 500+ of your fellow East TN UUs and the UUA Board, I hope you came away with a sense of joy, connection and renewal. I wanted to give you a glimpse “behind the scenes” at the amazing effort that went into the excellent music woven

throughout the worship service.

The Cluster Choir was made up of 35 singers from all four local UU congregations. They attended two big rehearsals, each two hours long, giving up time on their Saturdays to learn and rehearse the music with Jason Shelton. Many also attended two one-hour rehearsals I hosted to learn additional notes and keep the music in our memory. For me, this meant creating a registration form so we would know who was coming, check for section balance, and be able to communicate about rehearsals. It also meant making a LOT of copies - 22 pages of music, to be exact. I’d estimate that the choir alone put in over 250 hours of volunteer work into learning music!

Next, we needed a band. As you experienced, Rev. Jason Shelton’s music is contemporary and needs more than just a pianist to play a hymn tune. What a gem we found in our own Geoff Mazeroff, who was able to quickly pick up syncopated, and often complicated, accompaniment in addition to helping the choir learn their notes. We also recruited Gina Grubb from ORUUC to play drums, perhaps the lynch pin that holds the group’s tempo together. Recruiting a bass player took asking three different people because the charts were so intimidating! Jake Alexander, initially tapped to help with our sound set up, stepped in with just four days to rehearse. All together, I bet the band put in more than 50 hours of work in learning their parts.

Then, there are the people behind the scenes that you might not even know were making the music possible. Volunteers who helped pack up and set up and pack up again our sound equipment, risers, drum kit, and keyboards. Did you know we had to rent a U-Haul to bring it all over from Oak Ridge? I’m personally grateful to Michael Raymond, Gina Grubb, Ethan Coon, Jake Alexander, and Martin Bauer from ORUUC for their hours of work. I’m probably under-estimating here at giving the group more than 35 hours of volunteer work.

Seeing the immense volunteer amount effort that went into the musical elements of the service yet?

Of course, there’s more! We brought in the ORUUC Mighty House Band and kids choirs for our offertory. More rehearsals, more communications, and - to top it off - the first time we all could be together to rehearse was Sunday morning!

It’s a labor of love, for sure. All of these different volunteers, making music happen for you. Hours and hours of rehearsal and set up and pack up. Just as you gift thanks at the dinner table for those who grow and prepare food, please take a moment to give thanks to all those who dreamt, planned, and presented this amazing worship experience.

Hundreds and hundreds of hours of work. Was it worth it? The answer lies in the tears I shed when one of the kids from my kids’ choirs sang the “Song in My Heart.” Every minute of work is worth it when together we are building the beloved community. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. May this be the beginning of many cluster worship services together! I am honored to have had the opportunity to play a small part in making it all happen.


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Westside Unitarian Universalist Church

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