Kansas City: Day 1

Everyone has a different convention experience.... here is mine!

5:00pm: Meeting of incoming & outgoing Regional Councillors

This convention is the first "official" event I have as the new Regional Councillor (RC). As a welcome to Kansas City and as a thank you to the outgoing RCs, we had a meeting of all of us together. It was a really special time of sharing and learning about each other. Many of the of outgoing RCs had served their maximum 3 terms (6 years!) and were ending their term on such a positive and generous note. We newbies felt so encouraged and welcomed. 

As a fun project, we filmed this short video for the upcoming annual meeting! (I joke that in my church job, I'm know as "Tech Girl", so it was only appropriate that I help out with the filming. You'll see my short-girl attempt at keeping everyone in frame, despite having to simply hold the camera (read: phone) in the air. I think the video turned out great! The AGO is lucky to have so many dedicated, hard-working folks.

6:15pm: Bus to Helzberg Hall

The meeting ended right on time so that we take the bus to the venue for the evening's Opening Celebration concerts at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. As any convention-goer knows, the bus situation can make-or-break a convention experience... and by the looks of things this evening, we are in great hands! The communication was easy and direct and we knew exactly where to go and how to find the buses after the event. (It might sound like a minor thing, but the moving of people from place to place is one of the most complicated elements of a convention). 


Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

6:45pm: Remembering Dr. John Obetz

The evening's programing started with a special dedicatory program for Dr. John Obetz, who dedicated his career to spreading music through his radio broadcast from the headquarters of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ). Organist Jan Kraybill played music from the weekly broadcast (excerpts from BWV 542 & 734) while a narrated video showed images from the broadcast and from the organ. This was such a meaningful time to those who knew Dr. Obetz and was a beautiful introduction for those of us who didn't  get the chance. 

(Ignore the empty seats in the front... concert attendees sat in the balconies for better views & acoustics)

(Ignore the empty seats in the front... concert attendees sat in the balconies for better views & acoustics)

7:00pm: Opening Concert: "Remembrance & Reconciliation"

Wow! I am still processing the experience of this program. As this years marks 100 years since the end of World War I (otherwise known as "The Great War" or "The War to End All Wars"), we had the opportunity to experience music that was directly inspired by these terrible events. John Muehleisen's A Kipling Passion, the world premiere of Ben Spalding's The Great War Requiem, plus new hymn arrangements by Zachary Wadsworth, John Bell, David Cherwien, and Richard Webster created space and boundaries for us to experience the impact of this war. 

Punctuating the music was a stunning narration by Dr. Matthew Naylor. Using historical accounts and personal reflection, Dr. Naylor guided us through what could have been a perilous journey. From the beginning of the war to its optimistic peace, we experienced the cynicism that only hindsight could bring: that this war did not end all wars. That this peace was temporary and human nature would once again cause irrevocable damage to our world and its inhabitants. 

I was once again reminded of the power of congregational song. The hymns not only allowed the audience to stand and participate, it made us part of the story. In the way that a Greek chorus is participatory in a play, we were active in the remembrance. We sang "What shall we pray for those who died, those on whose death our lives relied? Silenced by war but not denied, God give them peace."   In that same hymn by John Bell (hymn tune: KINGSTON), veterans and active military personnel sang the third verse: "What shall we pray for those who know nothing of war, and cannot show grief or regret for friend or foe? God give them peace."

Golden hour at the Kauffman Center 

Golden hour at the Kauffman Center 

8:45pm: Kansas City Chorale

After a brief intermission, we were treated to a second concert! The Kansas City Chorale, under the direction of Charles Bruffy with organists Elisa Bickers and Kurt Knecht, treated to us a program with two world premieres: Walk With Me, Lord by Rosephanye Powell and Mirror Cantata by Forrest Pierce. Ms. Powell's composition combined the eponymous spiritual with "Go Down, Moses" and "Wade in the Water", creating a lush texture.

For Mirror Cantata, I can explain best by sharing this excerpt from the program notes:

Mirror Cantata takes as its conceit the inner "Clear Mirror" already awaiting the seeker, and builds from simple structures of diametrically opposed modes and triads a musical landscape of anticipation. Void and saturation, expansion and contraction, silence and sound- all these flesh out a Cantata in a 5-movement Baroque form, interleaving two mystical fragments from the words of Jesus, and the famous "Dark Mirror" passage from I Corinthians." - Donald Loncasty
The lighting director had fun with this concert!

The lighting director had fun with this concert!

10:00pm: AGOYO Reception

As many of you know, we organists do love a good cocktail reception! This evening's was a celebration of our under-30 (but over 21!) members. We have so many fantastic younger members and it was such fun to get to know some of them better (yes yes... I am not under 30 but RCs and national council members were included so we could all get to know one another). I am looking forward to meetings with the Northeast-region AGOYO leaders over the coming week and hearing their ideas & visions for how we can best serve them. 


Sheraton Hotel

Kansas City

That's all from today! Join me tomorrow for more from Kansas City!