It's beginning to look a lot like **SUB NEEDED**Op-ed
It started last week with a bit of a trickle. But then, the landslide began.
There’s a way that classical singers keep their pocketbooks healthy between gigs in larger city centres. That way is by landing yourself a paid section-lead position at a local church. You get paid per call; usually there’s a rehearsal on Thursday nights (#ChoirNightInCanada) and the service call on Sunday morning. These little calls can add up - especially in the months with five weekends.
Then comes the holiday season. It can’t come as a surprise to a singer to find out that Christian churches go into overdrive during two periods: Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. The former celebrates the birth of Jesus, and the latter (in fact the more important of the two, according to the church) is about his death and resurrection. For these celebrations, the amount of calls can triple or quadruple, depending on how “high” your denomination is (eg. High Anglican will have a very busy last week of Lent, or Holy Week).
The past few weeks every time I log on to my social media feeds, or open my inboxes, I find the same messages. “Sub needed for Dec 23, 24, 25,” etc., outlining the money made per call. This doesn’t just happen at Christmas either. I see the same barrage of posts happening during Lent/Easter as well.
Notwithstanding the incredible duress under which it puts the music director of the church, it really doesn’t do you, the singer, a world of good to be passing off these days to a sub. Why? It says that you are in no way really committed to this gig. Which is a shame, because there are likely a handful of other singers who are really hungry for the work and paycheque, and who are willing to make the commitment to be there during the busiest and most meaningful seasons of the year. Believe it or not, you are the highlight for a lot of people in the congregation’s week.
As always, some are genuine issues that can’t be avoided; some may be agreed to beforehand and only made public when the need arises to actually book the sub. But when you see a singer who goes home for the holidays every year (which is 100% their prerogative) but abandons their post to do so (again, every year), it just sort of sticks in your craw - especially when you’d be more than happy to take that position for the whole year round.
Or am I just getting crotchety in my dotage?
As a colleague of mine said, “Music Directors, I feel for you.”