The Quotable Floyd, part IV

Well, friends–here we are, one week post concert, and it is quote time. As always, I would encourage you to go back and read The Quoteable Floyd from previous semesters (I, II, and III), as I always do. The truth is that I’m a quote junky, and Floyd is ridiculously quotable. He can’t help himself. He teeters on a fencepost between incredibly wise and hilarious.

So without further adieu, I give you The Quotable Floyd. Spring, 2014.

From the Mozart…
Long notes should not be crescendoed. I know for a long time that was Choral Gospel, but don’t do it.

I like when Mozart is irritating and brilliant at the same time.

We won’t go allegro con spirito; we’ll go allegro breathe-a-lot-o.

It’s very important that it be unmushed.

When you get to the second note, just shake a little.

That’s a G! Good for you!

In the orchestra, you are the trombones!

Breathe in exact tempo.

Choral music is a constant stream of cues.

If you don’t do it well, it’ll sound like you did it well.

It’s almost as if Mozart said, “What are the notes we can leave out? Give them to the Altos!”

Altos, that’s not a melody; that’s an accompaniment.

We are the choir that sings “Ni.”

Keep it bouncy.

Try it and see if it fits.

The third pasus has a little Barbershop in it!

Those are rhythmic eruptions.

Only sing a normal sound.

It’s a G-sharp, but it’s spelled with an A-flat.

This time, make different mistakes.

From the Faure…
That “L” was better. We lost a couple of pitches along the way, but the “L” was better.

I don’t want that word in the room. [I think the word was "in," which, of course, is not pronounced the same in English as in Latin.]

You’ve got the note–it’s right in your voice.

Don’t grab it between the bars.

It’s got to be round without any edges to it.

Oh! Some of you noted the dynamics!

When you see an Amen, slow down.

If you like accidentals, you’re going to love this piece.

Don’t miss your “us.”

And suddenly, BOOM–there you are!

And out of nothing comes a sudden noise.

Try less hard in the fast department. Try less fast.

There are times in choir when you should not search for an answer.

If you don’t do it, it won’t do what it needs to do musically.

The piano is moving some other melody. Don’t go with it.

Let the dot step back for a moment.

We don’t want a big hole at that point.

Make sure your air is expelled.

Mark that in: Sing real purty there.

And, as an added bonus, I give you the final pre-concert quote:

If I make a booboo, make it right along with me; it’ll sound like it’s supposed to be.

Pax, friends!

Unavoidable Music: A Blog for Jean

If you read my post about Avoiding Music the other day, you may have felt sad for me or wanted to say something to encourage me without knowing what might do the trick. Jean (the excellent Alto you’ll hear in the Mozart quartet this weekend if you happen upon the Marquette Choral Society concerts–and please do; I promise we will not disappoint) greeted me at last night’s dress rehearsal with a hug. What a tender heart, to have responded so to my silly rambling blog! It meant everything to me, and it reminded me that those of you reading my blog commit to me and my trials every time you visit this site. It is only fair–for Jean’s sake–that I share the good stuff, also. She has earned it.

Jean…do remember that Bryan Adams line about his guitar? Played it til my fingers bleed? I’ve never actually known someone to play a guitar until his fingers bleed. Still, Thursday night left me pushing into those light Martins long after my voice gave out (which was somewhere around the F’s in my song binder). I couldn’t stop, despite the deep burn–and then numb–in my fingertips. I fell in love, Jean. I fell in love with my guitar. All over again.

Falling in Love

But something else happened, too.

I found comfort, I found hope in the place I least expected: In my own songs. Imagine, the songs that were birthed out of my own crazy life situations–situations that I sometimes doubted I’d ever survive–became the unavoidable music of my life once again. The hopes, the fears, the prayers; the stories, the jokes, the ridiculousness; the quips and proverbs, the poems and prose, the absolutely unavoidable music of who I am. And the more I played, the more I sang–the more I wanted to play and sing; the more I needed to play and sing; the more I was driven to play and sing.

It was like reuniting with a friend you haven’t seen in years. Without any effort, you are thrust into memories and common ground enough to disregard any awkwardness. It was like another part of myself was reminding me who I am. I was barefooted, Jean–no shoes, no socks, nothing to keep me from feeling the grit and grain of the world beneath my feet.

Barefooted

And now, with a heart full of music and a voice that is justifiably exhausted but eager, I approach concert weekend. My mind is flooded with longings and expectations that are going to meet their full satisfaction* in the next two days. There are entrances to await. There are cues to be seen. There are dynamics to be recalled. There are legato engines to be fired up and driven off a cliff. Are we ready? Am I ready?

Hellyeah.

Let’s do this, Jean. It’s unavoidable!

Pax,
Sar

*Full Satisfaction is not to be confused with Final Satisfaction. Remind me to come back to this and quote you some Jeremy Begbie. It’s about time to finalize my thoughts about his material. However, you, too, can have Full Satisfaction (with a tender hope for Final Satisfaction) by attending the MCS Concert this weekend. Mozart, Faure, and Floyd never disappoints–and Jean and I would love to see you there, right, Jean?

MCS Poster

Postscript: It’s okay to admit that you’re giddy-excited about the next edition of Floyd’s Quotes. I am, too. And there are some goodies this time around. :)

Avoiding Music

I’ve been avoiding music.

I know what you’re thinking, but it’s true–I have been avoiding music. Not all music, and not total avoidance, but definitely enough to break my heart last night.

Folks, I used to count the songs. I used to know each chord, each title, and exactly how many there were. Now? They are lost in a shuffle on my bookshelf. Binders, folders, notebooks, the graves of my once passionate heart. Each song is buried away for lack of…

What is it? Lack of passion? Lack of hope? Lack of desire? I don’t think it’s any of those things. Maybe lack of purpose.

As I listened to a local musician last night sing one of his own songs, I felt that gentle weight of God’s Spirit upon my heart, like a cat who sleeps on my chest each night. And it broke me. It broke me into a universe of indistinguishable pieces that all longed for the same thing: To sing.

Not for an audience.
Not for a career.
Not for a position in a church.

Just to sing. Just to lift my voice.

To remember my life verse, and to live it with full abandon:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

More than a favorite verse, this verse is the song my mother sang over me when she carried me for nine months. She would prop that beautiful 12-string against her round belly and sing it softly, the duet of alto and Cortez resonating there in that secret place where God was creating me–not only my physical form, but my spirit, my soul, that part of me that longs for eternity and my Savior.
Cortez
And now, I avoid the songs and the prayers that would return me to that longing. I have been content to let others sing, to leave my songs in their tombs.

I am content no longer.

Can Christ raise them to life again?

Can He give voice to the longing within my spirit?

Dash told me once to go through my music and play each song. I don’t remember why he advised me so, but I remember being thankful that he did; so that is where I’m headed this evening, friends–to sit on the living room floor, all alone, and at least attempt to work through every song I’ve ever written. Even the ones that hurt.

Maybe–just maybe–God can breathe life into these dry bones.

Choral Panic

I remember the very first time I felt what I’ve come to call “Choral Panic.” We were three rehearsals away from our Spring concert, and I realized (after I’d finally made sense of the ha-ha-ha-ha-hallelujahs in Handel’s Zadok the Priest) that counting and singing with precision in an auditorium with an organ was going to be an entirely different task than what we’d been practicing in the choir room with the piano for months. One person, I remember thinking; If even one person sings it wrong, we are all going to lose our places.

The following semester offered me a similar moment, when I tried to count 7/8 time. And then there was the German line that I was still worried about the week of the concert.

There’s always a moment.

There’s always a sinking realization–a fear–that wrenches my gut and says, “This is going to fall apart. You’re not ready. None of you are ready.”

That’s where I am right now. At rehearsal this week, I sat in my little corner of the choir room trying desperately to find the F-natural after the F-sharp of which the entire alto section seemed entirely oblivious, and it was enough to bring me to that moment. We are three rehearsals away from our concert, and I can’t find an F-natural. I am in Choral Panic mode. I’m wondering how I’m going to sing that Latin at a gajillion-Mozartmiles-per-measure (no, I’m not exaggerating [okay, yes, I am, but it might as well be a gajillion]). I’m wondering how I’m going to count all those ridiculous rhythms. I’m wondering how I’m going to keep from crying when the choir breaks out in Libera Me. I’m wondering whether it would help me at this point to go in and mark the solos so I don’t accidently sing with Jean on her beautiful alto parts. I’m wondering if I’ll be cognizant enough to remember that the altos do have three measures to sing in Faure’s Sanctus. I’m wondering whether my shoes are still comfortable enough for the concert. I’m wondering how I can stop myself from singing “homni-es” when I need to be singing “homines.”

In spite of how it may seem, I actually love this part of the process. I love this anxiety, this restless uncertainty of how our performance will turn out. It is an incredible lesson in any area of life–not only in music, but in sports, in writing, in work, in relationships: You prepare as much as you’re able and then do what you’ve been preparing for. In the end, one of two things will happen. It is commonly expressed as “sink or swim.” It’s that moment, when the audience hushes and we know: This is it. We are going to give it everything we have and there’s no stopping to fix it. This is when we see what we’re really made of as singers.

But here’s the truth of it, folks: Floyd has never lead the choir where he couldn’t conduct us (okay, except during that one concert where he tried to bring the ladies in at the wrong time and we rebelled and came in where the music implied). He knows this music better than anyone in the choir, better than anyone who will attend the concert, better than anyone else I know. He knows where he’s leading us; he knows how to get us to respond and produce the very best that we’re able if we will simply commit to following him.

So am I in Choral Panic? I am. But I’m going to bunker down and do with it what I always do with it–listen to the music as if it were Bing Crosby on ‘repeat all’ and work on it until it makes me crazy. I’ll tape the Latin to my bathroom mirror until I am comfortable with it. I’ll trust Floyd.

It’s such a neat parallel to faith, isn’t it? I’m so glad that Christ never leads us where He can’t conduct us. I’m so glad that He allows us to prepare and struggle through F-sharps and F-naturals and 7/8 time signatures and foreign languages while He makes a beautiful piece of music of our lives.

Have I mentioned that joining choir is the best decision I’ve made as an adult? Yeah. It still is.

If you’re in the area, contact me for concert details. I’d be honored to see you there. :)

Pax Christi,

Sar

 

Struggling Toward Spring

I’ve been struggling.

It’s a difficult confession for me for so many reasons. First, I suppose, because (as I’ve allowed myself to contemplate again this week) I am an introvert. I am such an introvert. I am an outrageous introvert. This has sucked in many regards, because it means that I hurt people unintentionally and they hurt me back unintentionally. I haven’t quite figured out how to maintain a healthy lifestyle (in any regard–physical, spiritual, emotional, workical, friendlical) as an introvert. When I struggle, I withdraw. I close the blinds, I lock the doors, I turn off the cell phone (or refuse to answer it), and my natural stance becomes one of retreat. You’re far more apt to not see me when I’m struggling than to even see me walking away. Hiding helps. For a time, hiding helps. Second, in spite of hiding, I find that I am no nearer a resolution to my struggles than I was previously. In fact, I am, perhaps, farther away. Third, one of my goals right now is to minimize unnecessary drama in my life (which is ironic, if you know how ridiculous the past few weeks of my life have been–isn’t it funny that the moment we resolve to do something, the exact opposite attacks us with vengeance?). Fourth, as so often is the case in my life, I simply don’t know how to talk about my struggles. Even writing them down is difficult for this gal.</p

I’m exhausted.

I’m stressed.

I feel entirely overextended, entirely taken advantage of, entirely disregarded, and entirely disappointed in several areas of my life.

And some of it, quite frankly, is simply the weather. This winter has been of an incomprehensible length and weight. I do take vitamin D to help with the lack of daylight, but let’s be honest–there is something about the warmth of sunlight on your face (even on a chilly day) that is therapeutic and irreplaceable. And you know, I can’t even express how badly I want to dig my fingers into the soil and plant something. The snow drifts in the yard (you know, the ones that are taller than the bird feeder, the back deck, and even, oh, myself) pretty much guarantee that the only planting I’ll be doing is indoor seed-starting. And that’s okay! It’s a sort of therapy in its own rite! Still, I’m eager for the outside stuff…with the bumble bees and the apple blossoms and even the neighbor dogs charging down the hill at me.

I feel a bit overwhelmed, you know? I have much to do, and not much time to get it done. I’m struggling to finish what I need to finish when I’m at work. I’m struggling to keep up with my writing and reading. I’m struggling to get things done with the Family Reunion this year. I’m struggling to even get my laundry done. And friends? Don’t get me started. I haven’t had time for my friends, and they have realized it. Neither Sarah nor her friends are happy about this.

Additionally, I’ve been missing Rodger. It is still very near and very personal. Grief changes over the course of time, but I keep thinking about him. I keep thinking about Burkina Faso, and how he would have been the first person to encourage me. I keep thinking about the “friend” that will never be more than a friend, and how Rodger would have said something outrageously threatening and hilarious to remind me that I don’t have to set my hopes on someone who is unworthy of my affection. I keep thinking about going back to school, and how Rodger always told me he and Kristin would make sure I had help if I needed help. I keep thinking about his beautiful children, who are children no more–how proud he would have been to see his kids grow up to be such incredible young adults, so ready and willing to change the world, each in their own way, each as nobly and as dedicated as the next. I keep thinking about how Joy pointed to his picture and knew who he was, even though she had never met him, and how he would have adored her. I miss him. I miss him so much. Rodger was more than my sister’s husband, or the father of my nieces and nephews. He was, he always will be, my brother. And I miss him. My heart grieves, friends.

Life, it seems, is going faster than me. I can’t keep up. I don’t want to keep up. I want to shrug off every responsibility and write stories of my family, and look at old photos, and laugh. I want to laugh.

I am struggling. 

If you want to pray for me, it would be most appreciated. All will settle, as it always does. Life is nothing, if it is not constant change.
God’s warmest blessings on each of you.
Pax Christi.
semmie

All About the Mustard: Burkina Faso, part II

I was cleaning my desk this morning, and what did I find?

Mustard seeds.

Mustard

When did I buy mustard seeds? I don’t even like mustard. Why on earth would I buy mustard seeds?

Nonetheless, there they were, just waiting to be found.

What seems like a lifetime ago (but was really only, say, 15 or 16 years ago), our youth pastor gave us mustard seeds as part of a lesson. I wrapped mine up in a little plastic-wrap pocket, secured the edge with tape, and kept it in my Bible for years. It is likely still in my old Bible.

The lesson is one that I needed as a teenager; It’s a lesson that I still need today.

It doesn’t take much.

Matthew 17:21, NIV
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

I don’t know when it happened, friends. I don’t know when my heart shifted from “I want to go to Burkina Faso” to “I’m going to Burkina Faso.” I don’t know when I recognized that seed of faith in my heart that was whispering, “From here to there.” I don’t know when I decided that my finances were going to cooperate with my plans.

It just happened. It just is.

The journey will be a long and difficult one, long before I even leave my little hometown. I humbly ask your prayers and encouragement as I chase this dream God has birthed in me. Maybe if we all plant and water and give light to our mustard seeds, God will grow something of it.

If you’re not already doing so, please consider sponsoring a child living in poverty. You can break the cycle.

Things That Grow: Burkina Faso, part I

Yesterday, I was perusing the conversations over at OurCompassion and learned that Compassion International has posted the expected Sponsor Tours for 2015.

I told you some time ago of my desire to go to Burkina Faso. Though it was not possible for me to make the trip this year, I find myself already quite settled that I need to pursue the possibility of the 2015 trip. I could spend this blog entry trying to explain my desire to go, but I will, perhaps, save that for another blog. It should be sufficient to mention here that I simply long to wrap my arms around the two boys I sponsor, to hug them and play and laugh and love on them. “Simply.” I simply long for this.

Chris Tomlin. There is love. This might be a good time to mention that I’m listening to this song. :)

Anyway, as is my routine, I spent the early part of my Friday evening in prayer. I lit my first candle and prayed for Israel; I lit my second candle and prayed for Syria; and I lit a third candle, and asked God to speak anything to my heart about Burkina Faso. He didn’t. Not in the way I’ve come to expect. So instead of looking for answers, I just allowed myself to be quiet and settled in God’s presence. All alone. It was, I confess, just what I needed. But it didn’t resolve my questions and concerns about the possibility of a Burkina trip next year. It didn’t answer the enormous issue of finances (and if you clicked the link in the first paragraph to look at the upcoming tour information, you know that finances are going to be an enormous issue for this girl). Still, there is something affirming about the silent and stillness of God’s presence.

I awoke this morning with the same questions, the same concerns. How am I ever going to make this happen?

And there is the crux.

It’s funny how God speaks to us, and how He teaches us.

I have a friend who likes to lead the conversation a particular direction to make his point. He will ask me questions and challenge me to think thoroughly about the matter. In the end, I will have come to some revelation about the topic. With human beings, with fallen man, of course there is a danger that I will be misled (even with the best intentions on either side of the equation) or that I will misunderstand. But I’m finding that God does this with me often, and there is such a safety therein because we know (by experience and by faith and by the witness of His Spirit in our lives) that He will not mislead us, that He is not mistaken, that He is patient to continue the dialogue long after we claim we understand, and that He is steadfast and faithful to plant those truths deep in our hearts so that they become convictions.

(Wow. I really do talk a lot, don’t I?)

Anyway, there was the crux: How am I going to make this happen?

I’m not.

I was quite looking for some other passage this morning–the one about us being the temple of God’s Spirit–and I stumbled upon the Growth verse, 1 Corinthians 3:7 (ESV);

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

I am so quick to try and figure things out on my own, but the truth is, I can’t.

I can’t raise the money on my own.

Even if I did raise the money, I can’t ensure that nothing in life will prevent me from making the trip.

I can’t determine that there will be no emergencies at work or in my family.

I can’t make politics and weather cooperate with my travel plans.

I can’t force Compassion to offer the trip if I am the only sponsor to sign up.

I can’t guarantee that Joseph and Moise will be excited to see me.

None of it, folks. None of it is in my power.

What a relief! What a blessed revelation! Thank You, God!

But let’s not pretend there is no responsibility on my part. Or yours. If you are reading this blog, friend, you are somehow invested in my life. God brings the growth; and He requires that we plant and water seeds. The question becomes–what does that translate to as we are discussing this Compassion Sponsor Tour?

So what do I need from you, friend? Only you and God can determine what He is speaking to your heart. But might I offer a few suggestions?

  • Prayer – We will talk about this quite a bit in the coming year, as I’m sure there will be many ways you can stand with me in prayer.
  • Encouragement – I would be lying if I told you there isn’t some fear involved in all of this. I need more encouragement than I want to admit.
  • Accountability – Ask me where things are. Ask me how close I am to the goal. Ask me how I’m doing with the plan.
  • Ideas – Thoughts on how to raise the money; thoughts on what gifts to bring on the trip for the children at the Center; thoughts on how to prepare my heart and my mind and my body for this type of experience; packing tips; etc, etc, etc.
  • And what does God require of me? That is a matter for many blogs to come.

    And by the way–this is a good time to mention that there are many, many children waiting for Sponsors. It is not nearly as expensive as you think it is, and there is nothing as rewarding, nothing as wonderful as changing a child’s life. Compassion-dot-com. Go.

    Pax Christi.
    Sar