For the first time in its long history, the Waterford Congregational Church has hired a full-time music director to lead its choir, perform solos, and plan musical events to enhance the church’s liturgical calendar. Edward “Gabe” Gabrielsen, 52, of North Norway officially began his tenure on Sunday, Nov. 8. Originally from Texas, he is a 15-year resident of Maine, and a well-known vocal soloist and private music teacher in the Oxford Hills area.
Gabrielsen has expressed interest in growing the small choir and in starting a children’s choir at the church, located at 15 Plummer Hill Road. in Waterford Flat. He will also plan and direct music for the holidays—starting with the Christmas Eve Service—and special events.
His philosophy of music in the church setting goes well beyond standard hymns and choral music. He is interested in innovation and exploring harmonies. He also wants to bring more contemplative practice into singing, using such modalities as Gregorian Chant and Taize, and emphasizing natural harmonies. “I’m interested in moving music more into the heart, where it should come from, as opposed to making it more intellectual or academic,” he says. “Devotional singing inspires feelings and builds great community.”
The Church’s Music Committee expressed great enthusiasm for the new director, and has told him to “run with it,” said chair Jean Struck of Waterford. They are encouraging him to experiment and explore as well as maintain the well-loved traditional religious music. His tenure follows 12 years of volunteer work under the able direction of Jane Morse of Waterford, who stepped down to devote full-time to her career in the Oxford Hills schools. The Rev. Petra Smythe is the pastor of Waterford Congregational Church.
Gabrielsen began studying voice at the age of 16, and as he says, fell in love with singing. He has been a soloist all of his adult life. He also plays guitar, piano, and harmonium—a rectangular reed organ with a small keyboard that is pumped by hand or foot. But voice is his primary instrument, and his rich tenor is a wonderful gift. In addition to his new position with the Waterford church, Gabrielsen will continue to sing for weddings, funerals, and private functions. His next public concert—a classical program entitled “Forever Love Songs”——will be Nov. 14, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at the Franco American Center in Lewiston.