“If I never hear another song from Grease, it will be too soon,” Lorraine Nelson, the new music director of the Reformed Church of Saugerties, says with a laugh.
But it is her background, in part, as a Broadway pit musician and assistant musical director of Broadway shows that won her the job over about a dozen other applicants as the new music director at the church, according to Pastor Terry O’Brien.
During her stint on Broadway, Nelson was keyboardist for such shows as Grease, Sweeney Todd, and Little Shop of Horrors and worked with composers Julie Stein, and Marvin Hamlisch. She worked on nine Broadway shows.
“Having come from a background in musical theatre, I am well aware of the skill, dedication, and discipline it takes to have the kind of success she has had on the Broadway stage,” O’Brien said of Nelson, who has also won a number of awards for her work.
“Her work in churches reflects the spiritual commitment, overall abilities, and passion that we were looking for in this position,” he added.
Nelson has either been the musical director or church organist since she was 12, with her most recent job at the Reformed Church in Hopewell.
“I really wasn’t looking for a job,” Nelson said.
She had been the music director in Hopewell for 7 years and was looking for a position as a substitute organist while she and her husband, Godfrey, a guitarist, toured the area, playing concerts along the East Coast.
Lorraine and her husband, Godfrey, and daughter, Lauren, live in Claverlock, Columbia County. The two continue to write, record and perform music together, some of which is sacred. They’ve released ten albums. There’s also a series of children’s CDs called Come Follow Me!, which is made up of “folk songs from around the world.” There are currently two volumes of the children’s songs and they have received a Parents’ Choice Award.
“We’ve been writing music since the 1990s for commercials, and documentary films,” Nelson said.
“But lately, we were shopping for a church closer to home (then Hopewell),” Nelson said.
Then there was the ad for the keyboardist and music director in Saugerties. “We came over for a service, and knew that this was our church,” Nelson said.
An interview soon followed, and the Nelsons now have a new spiritual home and a new job.
Speaking about what Nelson brings to the plate, O’Brien said, “her work in churches reflects the spiritual commitment, overall abilities, and passion that we were looking for in this position.”
For her part, Nelson said that, “I really liked the vibe of the church.”
“They have a fabulous organ,” Nelson said. “The audition was so much fun and the organ has unlimited capabilities for color. It blows the roof off the place.”
“It allows me to play not only the big works by Bach and Mendelssohn, but more modern works as well,” she added.
As the music director, it will be Nelson’s job to work with the choir, something she says she looks forward to, and work with O’Brien to make sure the music for the service matches that day’s sermon.
O’Brien said the church leaders were looking for someone with a number of skills for the job. “They also need to have very strong choral direction abilities. Add to that a deep spiritual commitment, the passion and desire to build the music ministry program, and a positive engaging personality that will make it a joy to sing in our choir.
Nelson, who began her job at the church this past Sunday, said one of her main goals is to bring the community into the church, and building up the church’s music program.
To that end, on Sunday, Oct. 2 Nelson will present a concert, Songs of Love, Loss, and Hope, where, according to O’Brien, people “will hear and feel for themselves the incredible gift she brings to our community as an artist.” The concert begins at 3 p.m. and is free. l