Our new director of Music, Ryan Van Dijk, reflects on his experience of helping lead us musically in 2022 and his hopes for 2023.
From my perspective this past year has been both very challenging and very rewarding. Challenging considering the social climate left for us in the wake of the covid mandates, but also with all the changes that have come about for St.Marks pertaining to leadership, format and of course where I come in, the music.
Rewarding as I find myself meaningfully engaged with a new project that challenges and stretches my abilities professionally, socially and most of all musically. I must admit that although I’m much more comfortable now than at first, I still feel like I’m finding my feet. I’m so very thankful for everyone’s patience during the transition and also for everyone who has taken a moment to encourage me along the way. Although things no doubt are not the way they were before the events of the last few years, it does leave us in what I think of as an exciting position where we can pick up the pieces and start again, and I am very honoured to be here to help shape what that future could look like.
I helped with a couple services of lent before I went away to work for a few months. Upon returning I began leading the summer services little by little with the help of Elizabeth, Hugo and Janet (as the choir is off for summer, and before that covid) I saw this as a time to learn to navigate the services musically and to explore music that we may have in common with one another. At home behind closed doors I bought an organ for my bedroom and have practiced madly since as I feel it’s an integral step for me in my development as a church musician, but also that the organ of St.Marks continue being played.
In September regular services resumed and the choir returned. This has been a lot of fun for me. I’m so grateful for everyone of them! They put up with me. We laugh, sing, bicker and when Sunday roles around somehow we manage to squeeze something beautiful out of the music grinding machine. I often approach the music from a different angle than they are no doubt used to and at times I know it has been hard on them. None the less, they keep coming and they keep singing and I am so grateful for everything they bring and do. It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know each one and I hope to continue growing that group as we move forward.
The advent and Christmas season was very fun. A group of young ones sang a song for the 4pm Christmas service which was lovely. The choir was very dedicated and learned all the new music I threw at them over the season. I used the organ more than I ever have and with more confidence. Although there wasn’t a lot of us and no big bells or whistles, I feel that we utilized what we had efficiently and made some beautiful services. Let’s also not forget the collective congregational voice of the church singing at Christmas! At the end of all those practices, work and stress, for me that is the reward: to hear the congregation sing heartily. And you did! Thank you.
Moving forward is hard to predict. Everything is new again. I currently feel that my cup is full with simply maintaining the weekly music, although we do need to get a children’s choir up and running again at some point somehow. So those are the areas I will be focusing on in this upcoming year.
Once again I want to thank the choir for all their hard work, but especially I would like to thank Elizabeth and Hugo. Not only for their help every week, but also during the summer services and also for the early 9am service. It’s such a relief and an encouragement to know that there will almost always be someone there to sing with and to back me up. It makes a big difference having them there at those times. Last but not least I’d like to thank Rob. Since I came aboard he has been incredibly patient, encouraging and helpful in every way possible. He was wise to keep my load light at first and then to add incrementally to it as we pushed forward finding a rhythm together. I look forward to continuing to work with him as well.
I’m looking forward to the year as it progresses. Introducing some new music. Learning better some older music. Wrangling some more children and growing in whatever direction seems best. Thank you all for being so hospitable and so gracious.