A Year of Music-Making and Community-Building

Wow, it has been an incredible year for music ministry at Foothills! It’s hard for be to believe that my first visit to the church was one year ago this week. In the 10 months since I started serving as your music director, we have shared so many incredible experiences together. Let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the musical highlights of the past year:

Benjamin’s first rehearsal with the choir during his interview in June.

In August, the Foothills Choir started up again after a period of dormancy during the pandemic. The choir’s first project was preparing music for a celebration of life ceremony for longtime Foothills member and retired choir director, Bob Mollison. We were joined by former students of Bob’s from around the country, bolstering the choir to over 40 singers, as well as guest musicians from the local Front Range Chamber Players.

Special music for our annual Water Ceremony at the Drake Center.
In September we held our annual Water Ceremony at the Drake Center, where a small group of Foothills musicians provided special music for the service, including premiering an original song that Steve Sedam wrote for the occasion.
The Global Peace & Justice Pick-up Choir sings a Ukrainian protest song.
Later that month, we partnered with the church’s Global Peace & Justice Team to host a film screening of “The Singing Revolution,” the story of Estonia’s non-violent, musical independence movement. Attendees had a chance to learn and sing some historic Estonian and Ukrainian protest songs. In October we held a follow-up event, the Global Peace & Justice Pick-up Choir, where participants learned protest songs and choral music from around the world, then shared those songs in Sunday services as a call for peace in Ukraine and around the world.
Singing along the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunset.
In November, we took our music ministry on the road as a part of the Foothills Grand Canyon Retreat! Every night of the retreat, participants gathered along the rim of the Canyon to sing songs of gratitude and love of nature, and every night we attracted tourists to sing with us who weren’t even a part of the retreat! This month also saw the return of our candlelit Vespers Services, which combined prayer, ritual, and music to create beautiful evening worship experiences. These services featured musical meditations that included didgeridoo, drums, various string instruments, and chants from the ecumenical Taizé community.
The Foothills Choir rehearsing Christmas and Hanukkah songs before the service.
Foothills’ Holiday Children’s Choir performing in services.

The holidays season at Foothills was filled with festive music! Worship services in December featured the Foothills Choir and our Holiday Children’s Choir, who shared modern and traditional holiday songs for both Christmas and Hanukkah. We also held a special special Winter Solstice vespers service with music celebrating the darkness and turning of the seasons, led by the Foothills Madrigals. Services on Christmas Eve were full of congregational songs woven throughout the Christmas story, as well as carols led by youth singers from our community.

Foothills’ caroling group arrives to sing at Columbine Senior Living.
Outside of services, a group of Foothills carolers also shared holiday songs and stories with the residents at Columbine Senior Living, another longtime Foothills tradition that returned this year after being on pause during the pandemic.
Foothills members marching at the MLK Jr. Day march in downtown Fort Collins.

In January, we held our first-ever MLK Jr. Day Pick-up Choir! This event invited people to sing protest songs from the American civil rights movement, learn the stories behind the music, and explore how the legacy of those songs lives on today. We had a record turnout, with over 40 singers from ages 10 to 90 years old! The singers then shared some of the songs we learned during services on MLK Jr. Day weekend, then took to the streets to sing at Fort Collins’ MLK Jr. Day March. Singers from Foothills led singing and chanting all along the route of the march, joining our voices with members of the wider community to call for justice and equal protection for all people.

Local drag queen Krisa Gonna performing during Sunday services.

In February, we launched a new worship series, GenderFluent, which was all about exploring the sacred mysteries surrounding Gender identity and expression. As a part of this series, we welcomed local drag queen Krisa Gonna, who gave an incredible performance in our Sunday services! The Foothills Choir also led the congregation in singing “You Are Loved,” an incredible choral anthem with words by our very own Rev. Gretchen. This series was so well received that we have adapted it into a curriculum––including all of the songs, hymns, and special music that were a part of our services––which other churches can use to start conversations around gender in their own communities.

In April, we held the Active Hope Pick-up Choir, part of a series exploring how we can work through climate despair to create meaningful change to protect the earth. The Pick-up Choir learned songs from Earth-based spiritual traditions, climate justice protest songs, and the stirring anthem, “Hallelujah for the Earth.” These songs served as the focal point for discussion around feelings of climate grief and loss and also served as a rousing call to action. Sharing these songs in our Earth Day services with the Pick-up Choir was one of my highlights of the spring!

A group of Foothills musicians on Music Sunday.

In May, we closed out the year with an incredible All-Music Sunday! These services were made up entirely of music suggested by members of our community, ranging from folk songs and renaissance madrigals, to pop music and original compositions, performed by all of our choirs, plus several special groups of singers and instrumentalists. The church was filled with joyous music and with people coming together to celebrate the songs we love. It was a beautiful way to end the season!
Looking ahead, the music ministries at Foothills have so much to look forward to next year! Planning is already underway for special music for the grand opening of our new sanctuary in September, including guest musicians and new songs presented by the Foothills Choir, plus an opportunity to get involved with music for the first services in the new space! In the coming months, I will also have some amazing news to share about the return of the Children’s Choir in the fall, an upcoming musical collaboration between the Foothills Choir and another group in our community, and information about opportunities to perform in an inaugural concert in the new sanctuary!
Thank you for being a part of this incredible year of music-making and community-building at Foothills. I can’t wait to continue singing with you in the years to come!

Benjamin Hanson, Music Director

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