Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bist du bei mir

The loveliest of all Baroque adagio melodies . . . little Brenda sang this in church yesterday on Good Friday. Keep in mind, friends, I'd like this sung at my funeral someday, so somebody, please learn the music! Text:

Bist du bei mir, geh' ich mit Freuden
zum Sterben und zu meiner Ruh'.
Ach, wie vergnügt wär' so mein Ende,
es drückten deine lieber Hände
mir die getreuen Augen zu!

English translation:

Be Thou with me, then I will go gladly
unto [my] death and to my rest.
Ah, what a pleasant end for me,
if your dear hands be the last I see,
closing shut my faithful eyes to rest!

Enjoy this fine performance (posted above).

Friday, April 2, 2010

5 Browns at Pabst Theatre April 17, 2010

“THE PASSION” – by George Herbert

Since blood is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloody fight;
My heart hath store; write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sin:

That when sin spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sin may say,
No room for me, and fly away.

Sin being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sin take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Nunc Dimittis

We at Pilgrim Lutheran, in the long-standing tradition of the church, as a matter of common practice, sang the Nunc Dimittis this morning after Communion. I have been puzzled over why we sing Simeon's Canticle at this particular point in the service, but today the theology became clear to my view! Here are the words, translated into elegant Elizabethan English:

LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace: according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen: thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared: before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer, 1662

Simeon was a servant of God who had been promised by God that he would not die without "seeing the salvation" that God would bring about physically through the person of Jesus Christ. This canticle is the record of Simeon's praise following the encounter with the infant Jesus. So why do we sing it now? Because in Biblical theology, ["This IS my body . . . this IS my blood] we in the bread and wine have also made an encounter with the physical Christ; we have "seen the salvation" of God--we have tasted, touched and handled it. We, too, must praise God!

It always amazes me how these truths are "hidden" in the liturgy for us to dig out.

"A light to lighten the Gentiles . . . the glory of thy people, Israel." How wide, how inclusive, God's grace.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Adventures of a Weary Church Mouse

Life is just very busy these days. I now work 30 hours per week at Principal Financial Group, carry out my varied duties of rehearsal and performance at church, care for a husband, a house and two entitled cats. I'm learning many new things, especially as I learn a completely new job role at Principal, and because of our move last summer, new opportunities are opening up. Nothing is dull!

Last weekend Bryant and I celebrated our first anniversary by taking a three-day weekend. Note to self--we really should go out of town next year, because it's too tempting to "work from home" and not make time for each other! It's hard enough to prioritize life's duties on a daily basis. Truth to tell, we're both overcommitted at this point, and something needs to change. I'm praying for wisdom on this one, because it's so hard to give up "opportunities." (Sometimes they're really temptations in disguise!)

For instance, I have wanted to polish my accompanying skills for some time, not having had much opportunity to do so. I was contacted by the Slinger Middle School teacher with a request to help her with students this month, so I was able to accompany a dozen kids in the competition. It was a great experience, and I'm sure I learned more than the kids did!

My good friend Audrey--another church mouse--has helped me out with a couple of vocal performance opportunities, and I'm very grateful. I'm hoping for a few more. But all of these things compete ruthlessly for my time, and I really must learn when to say "no." Up to this point, I've always reminded myself that opportunities come disguised as hard work, but now my priorities have to change somewhat. My marriage has to come before my career in any case!

I'm hoping some of my sage readers have helpful suggestions for me! What are the time challenges you have faced in balancing work and family life?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Performance Insight

I had an eye-opening (ear-opening?) experience yesterday. I was driving along, listening to the radio, when I heard the orchestral introduction to a Ron Hamilton song I knew well. The song itself has a lovely melody and is easy to sing, but as the song progressed I was struck with the way this man sang: robotically, with no feeling, no passion and obviously no comprehension of what he was singing. It was as if he did not like the melody and sang only syllables of text, unheeding of content. I did not know it was possible to sing any song that way. It’s possible to play notes that way if you’re not into the music—but to sing so insensitively, unfeelingly, is a feat in itself, because singing is such an intimate extension of one’s inner life compared to playing an instrument. I’m quite sure I’ve never heard anything like it. Absolutely robotic.

His vocal technique was low-to-average and he carried a tune well, but he did not produce any music. I do not know the name of this particular “artist,” and that is well.

Mary Jane and I have been discussing what it means to really get inside the music and portray the attitudes and the message the composer intended—so that your audience can experience the magic. It was most interesting to hear an extreme example of “what not to do.”

Are there any other musicians who have had a similar experience? Or perhaps you’ve just happily experienced something quite the opposite?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


SWEETEST of sweets, I thank you when displeasure
Did through my body wound my minde,
You took me thence ; and in your house of pleasure
A daintie lodging me assign'd.

Now I in you without a bodie move,
Rising and falling with your wings :
We both together sweetly live and love,
Yet say sometimes, God help poore Kings.

Comfort, 'Ile ; for if you poste from me,
Sure I shall do so, and much more :
But if I travell in your companie,
You know the way to heavens doore.

--George Herbert

"Here was a man who seemed to me to excel all the authors
I had read in conveying the very quality of life as we live it
from moment to moment, but the wretched fellow, instead
of doing it all directly, insisted on mediating it through
what I still would have called the "Christian mythology."
The upshot of it all could nearly be expressed, "Christians
are wrong, but all the rest are bores."
-C. S. Lewis

Sunday, November 8, 2009

You Know You’re a Lutheran Music Director When . . .

You have Sunday’s dates all memorized through the next few months, and are able, at the drop of a hat, to reel off all the musicians involved.

You arrive at church at least an hour before anyone else and make a beeline for the organ.

You have a food stash in the church basement (not even kidding).

You have a hard time getting downstairs to socialize because you’re always wrapping up “loose ends” of the music scene.

You acquire music faster than you can organize it.

Your way of “killing time” is getting in a few more hours of organ practice.

You receive news of an upcoming funeral, and immediately think, “Can I get off work that day?”

Your idea of a successful Christmas/Easter service is stuffing it full of as much music as folks will sit through.

You’re suddenly aware that you forgot to give the congregation that crucial piece of music history that would have made the chorale so much more meaningful . . . . that must be the reason for the lackluster singing.

Halfway through the introduction, you realize you’re playing the right hymn, wrong tune.

In an exchange with a Baptist, you come to the realization that he has (gasp!) no clue who Paul Manz is.

Your congregation is really eager to sing a nominal German stanza of “Silent Night.”