I’d like to sing an original piece entitled “Non Sequitur.” Well, actually, I’m not going to be singing and there is no piece, but this will definitely be a non sequitur.
As one or two of you may be aware, James Walker is leaving All Saints as its Director of Music on June 30 after 34 years of brilliant music ministry. Today we have had an opportunity to celebrate that ministry and we will continue the celebration after the concert with a reception in Sweetland Hall, a chance to greet James on the lawn and an opportunity for you to write your appreciations to James directly on his website at laptops set up for that purpose.
As James’ lawyer I have been working hard to negotiate a very favorable non-monetary severance package for him, and I’m sure that someday he will thank me for it.
So these are some of the terms of my negotiations on his behalf:
1. Sunday, June 25, 2017 will be James Walker Bobblehead Sunday. The first 800 parishioners in attendance will receive this fine collector’s item.
2. Every year, for at least the last 25 years the choirs have had the privilege of being taken back in time to James Walker’s childhood by way of the prominent display in the choir room throughout the entirety of Advent of a poster of James in his role as Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors. And I mean the entirety of Advent, week after week after week after week. Through substantial effort and expense I have been able to secure that poster so that you can see him at his most innocent. As James is leaving I feel that it is appropriate for the entire congregation to be subjected to this experience on a permanent basis and we are asking that the church employ the services of a prominent stained glass art studio to renovate the stained glass window to incorporate our very own Amahl looking lovingly up at Mary Buchanan Myers.
3. For many years, James harbored a deep secret. He finally came out to the choirs a number of years ago and I think it’s time that he comes clean with this congregation — and that is his obsession with Barry Manilow. So to honor that obsession we are requesting that at some point during each of James’ last three services as part of Weicheng’s brilliant improvisations after the offertory anthems that he incorporate portions of Barry Manilow tunes in those improvisations.
4. We want a full set of choir action figures for James to display on his shelf at home. In order to be consistent with his experience with the choirs over the years the heads of the figurines should be tilted downwards and not looking straight ahead so he can continue his habit at home of constantly crying “Look Up. Look Up.”
5. When Presidents leave office they often establish a presidential library where they can archive and display important documents and symbols of their term as president. We would like the church to establish the James Walker music library where we can display such important items acquired during James’ tenure, as the Marilyn Monroe outfit and wig worn by James in his performance at an All Saints stewardship event, his miter and other accoutrements acquired when he became an honorary canon of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, his purple conductor’s robe, the original signed Amahl poster, his tiara, and original scores for such important works as the Orchestra Song. In remaining consistent with the physical conditions in which he worked over these last 34 years, isolated in the dark, dank basement of Regas House, I have chosen the fine structure on the corner of Euclid and Walnut as an appropriate place to house the new James Walker library.
6. And finally, sports teams have a practice that when they have had a real superstar on the team they will permanently retire that players’ number. James doesn’t have a number but he does have a favorite note, which is low B-flat, so we are requesting that after June 30 B-flat be retired and not be used in any future hymns or anthems at All Saints.
Despite this fantastic package that I’ve been able to negotiate for you, James, it doesn’t begin to reflect the immense impact on this church and the choirs that you have made over the last 34 years. On behalf of the congregation and each member of our choirs I want to thank you for the difference you have made in each of our lives and for the love, humor and brilliance you have brought to your ministry here.
And I’m always available to assist in the negotiation of your future freelance gigs.
Gloria Pitzer is a long-time member of Coventry Choir, Co-Chair of 2016 Rector Search Committee, member of the 2017 Director of Music Search Committee and a stellar lay leader over decades. Her tribute to James Walker is part of Spring Concert 2017.