Have Faith: Music man

St. Andrew’s welcomes new music director.

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Griffin McMahon performs at Manhattan Inn in Brooklyn, NY on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. -Mallory Sherman

Every other week, Connie Berry reports on the news, events, and people at Martha’s Vineyard’s various places of worship.

I try to make it to the Island clergy luncheons so that I can keep abreast of what’s happening at our places of worship. September’s luncheon came and went, even though I had it on my calendar — a gaffe which I am attributing to my recent birthday and the mountain of AARP mail that came with it.

I asked Father Chip Seadale at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown to catch me up a bit. He was happy to help out, and more than happy to introduce his church’s new organist and music director, Griffin McMahon, saying, “This new guy is the real deal.”

I gave Griffin a call, and found out he’s young, enthusiastic, a Juilliard-trained musician, and an adept vocalist. St. Andrew’s is taking full advantage of his talents by offering musical programs at the church, along with the usual Sunday worship services. Last Sunday, Griffin, who’s 23, performed a recital, and was pleasantly surprised at the turnout.

“The recital at church was packed with folks of all ages,” Griffin told me. “I played a program of Bach, early music, and American contemporary music, and I threw in a James Taylor song, ‘Sweet Baby James.’ I was hoping to get 15 or 20 people there, and we filled the church.”

Griffin said that he and Father Chip are planning monthly alternative church services on Sunday afternoons at 4 pm, hoping to accommodate folks who may not make it to a morning service, or those who are looking for a creative musical experience.

On Oct. 2 at 4 pm, Griffin will be joined by his brother Sean, who is a guitarist, and a harpist from Greenfield, Rosemary Caine, for a Celtic service. “We’re hoping to offer a different musical theme every month, to keep it creative and make the church open to all as a place where creativity can flourish,” Griffin said.

Griffin began working at St. Andrew’s in June, moving to the Island from Brooklyn.

I asked him how he liked his first summer on Martha’s Vineyard.

“I survived it,” he said, laughing. “It was awesome, especially after living in New York City. I embraced it; it’s an amazing mix of cultures here, and there’s so much natural beauty. It’s a world-class cultural experience in what’s basically a paradise.”

Griffin is a native of Western Massachusetts, and had visited the Island with friends a few years ago. He said the visit stayed with him, and he was thrilled to have an opportunity to live here. This summer Griffin played with a local band, the Dukes, did some session work, and began offering private piano lessons. He said that he typically practices around three hours a day.

Griffin said he’s been playing at churches since he was 13 years old. “There’s never been a Sunday when I wasn’t looking forward to waking up for church,” he said. “I love the sense of connection between the community, the music, and the spirituality.”

That sounds like a great combination for a church music director, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to hear Griffin soon.

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There are quite a few faith communities on the Island that are in the midst of finding new leadership. The First Baptist Church is between full-time pastors, Chilmark Community Church is still being led by interims the Reverends Vicky and Armen Hanjian, and the Federated Church is working on finding new leadership after the sad loss of its most recent pastor, the Rev. Amy Edwards. Besides the searches, the West Tisbury First Congregational Church’s pastor, the Rev. Cathlin Baker, is on a months-long sabbatical, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center’s Rabbi Caryn Broitman will leave for her sabbatical in a few months. I imagine the congregations are keeping Pete Seeger’s old song based on Ecclesiastes in mind: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

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The Island’s initiative to serve the homeless is getting ready for its second season. Now called Houses of Grace, the ministry will offer three orientation sessions for volunteers, the first one on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 7 pm at St. Andrew’s parish hall. Anyone who is interested can either just show up or email fatherchip@standrewsmv.org. The other two sessions are on Nov. 7 and Dec. 7.

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Don’t forget the MV CROP Hunger Walk on Oct. 23. The community walk benefits both the Island Food Pantry and the Vineyard Committee on Hunger. Visit crophungerwalk.org/vineyardhavenma to find out more.

If you have news for Have Faith, email it to connie.berry12@gmail.com.