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. :)

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

 

Relearning. Or, Duplets. Or, Watch Floyd, again.

As promised, here I am–back for a few moments, and ready to say something (though I’m still unsure what needs to be said) about Fall rehearsals and concerts.

I’ve said it before, and it won’t hurt you to hear it again: Joining the Choral Society is one of the (or maybe, simply, the) best decisions of my adult life. I would be hard-pressed to think of another choice I’ve made in the last decade that has resulted in so much fun, so much discovery, so much reconnecting with myself, so much simple soul-fulfillment, so many blessed relationships I didn’t know I was missing out on–friends new and old, heroes amazing and approachable. There is not even the tiniest speck of disappointment or regret in this area of my life. I am so blessed, so thrilled to be participating in the Choral Society.

This was my fourth concert season with the Choir–two spring concerts, two winter. One of the great things about the Choral Society is the winter concert. It is traditionally held at St. Peter’s Cathedral (where the acoustics give us a heavenly sound that even Floyd can’t summon of his own will), and serves as a sort of “ushering in” of the Christmas Season in our Walton-esque town. When Floyd turns to the audience during that concert and directs the community, not a soul dares keep silent. There, in the beauty and reverence of the Cathedral, I truly believe the townsfolk would follow Floyd anywhere.

But what of the Choir?

I’ve been mulling over this question since the concert, asking myself why we–why I–struggle so ferociously with following Floyd? I try, friends. I really try. But when I most need Floyd, I look down. At the music. It hit me again, like the lesson I didn’t learn last Spring. We were singing an incredible arrangement of Silent Night with an F-natural that the Altos had been fighting for all semester. And there, in the mess of this beautiful 6/8 carol, the Altos had a duplet.

Right?

Are you kidding me?

The Sopranos are singing a dotted quarter, for three.
The Tenors and Basses are singing a quarter and an eighth, for a one-two, three.
And the Altos get to divide those three beats into two?

I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to describe how lacking the Altos were at that moment when we first realized it was a duplet (I think most of us were content to ignore that little “2” above the notes and just sing it like a quarter/eighth with the guys). I’m sure there were a few who had it right–there always are; but I’m honest enough to tell you right here, on the wide open interwebs, that I wasn’t one of them.

In fact, I’m still not.

We went over and over and over it in rehearsal. And finally, we breathed a collective, Altoic sigh of relief when Floyd said, “I’ll point, like this, when you need to move to the second note of the duplet.” And he did. He pointed. A good, sturdy, unmistakable point. Right at any Alto who had the sense to look up.

And if you know me, if you know what a slow learner I am, or how I think I’ve learned some lesson and then have to go through the process several times more before I actually learn anything, you know that I didn’t have the sense to look up. There I was, at the Friday night dress rehearsal, still trying to count it perfectly all on my own.

I’m a bit proud that way. If Floyd can do it, if Brubeck can do it, surely Sarah can do it. Right? (And for those of us counting it right now in our heads, I just want to remind you [and me] that counting it alone is an entirely different pursuit than counting it in context of a choir, and an entire section which is made up of people trying to count it the same.)

So why is it? Why am I so slow to accept that I need Floyd’s direction, when there in the audience sit a community of friends and family who would take any cue Floyd offered without hesitation? Why does my pride, my ego always step in and blind me to my need (and desire) to follow Floyd? It baffles me! I baffle me!

This, friends, is the exact lesson I thought I learned last Spring. Remember? How insightful I thought I was when I told you all to “Watch Floyd“! And here I am, still struggling to watch him when I most need direction.

I would be lying if I told you that this is no reflection of my spiritual life. It strikes me hard, yet again: I look to Christ, and I trust Him to lead me, until things challenge me. Then, somehow, my self-preservation kicks into high-gear and I try desperately to come out on top on my own. And isn’t that entirely counteractive to the Gospel message?–that in and of ourselves, we can never accomplish what we need or desire (salvation)? Isn’t that entirely why Jesus became a man, gave himself to be born of a young woman in a barn, surrounded by animals?

As you approach this holiday, may your eyes be drawn once more to Christ, who never fails to cue us, to guide us, and to lead us in righteousness. May your trust be in Him, fully, when your duplets confound your rhythm.

Pax Christi,
and Merry Christmas!

Sar

The Quotable Floyd, part III

Well, friends, I’ve avoided my blog for several weeks now; and would be content to keep avoiding it, were it not for the incredibly quotable Floyd. I simply cannot resist sharing this semester’s quotes from Choral Society. As always, I do promise to share my thoughts about the concert weekend at another time, and I do encourage you to go back and read Floyd’s Quotes, part I and part II. Without further adieu, I give you the Fall 2013 Floyd Quotes.

This must be good! I have a power point clicker!

They look good. The Choir In My Head sings them really well.

Tenors, if it’s too low, just look like you’re humming.

No tongue lifts.

Relax the collision.

6/8 is a rhythm pit.

I heard s-words.

11/8 — it’s slowing down; who cares how many beats there are? Don’t count.

We’re going to fermataize.

You’ve gotta breathe sooner than you must for life.

If you can’t be forgiven in a choir, there’s no forgiveness for you.

O come, all ye faithful, lalalalala, Amen. That’s the Reader’s Digest version.

Sing in English or Latin as you wish.

There should be a fermata. If you keep your eyes open, I’ll actually show it to you.

I have nightmares about 6/8 carols.

I’m going to do the music there, not the notes.

Thank you for being wrong with me in unison.

You’re different from everyone else. But you’re Altos. That explains everything.

Oh my gosh! I thought that would be pretty! It is!

I wrote down “slower.” I hope this is the slower I meant.

I release you from any note-reading responsibilities.

You must fight for your right to sing C.

Virgin Mary had a baby boy? Have the boy later.

You’re still trying to read the notes, aren’t you? Stop that.

Please make sure your “w” has a pitch.

Big space. Big open hole. Look through there before you go on.

Take your legato engine and stop it.

It’s a vowelless sound.

We are the singers who sing “duh.”

Relax the Men.

Hum in Polish.

I will not do the proper tempo, apparently.

About 80% of this piece is entirely logical.

There’s no way I’m going to conduct this one steady. Completely not steady.

I think I will always conduct 8th notes. Except when I don’t.

I may not do what you think I’m going to do.

Do more like you did before, but not quite.

The Choir In My Head has perfect legato.

A comma isn’t a comma unless I say it is a comma.

Make it sound important.

I’m gonna sleep on my tempo.

I recommend more air. At every moment.

I wish I knew what I was doing.

Allegretto? I don’t think so. For reading, we’re going to do slow-o.

Those chords are so interesting. Why should we go through them at 40 miles per hour?

I’m gonna be releasing some energy right there.

You’re all by yourself. Except when you split. Then you’re yourself and a half.

Kris: We’re doing so well they shut the door.

Nameless Soprano: Can we keep singing this til we get to Jesus?

Nameless Choir Member: Where are we not supposed to breathe?  Floyd: Anywhere.

Wow! I didn’t realize Floyd gave me so many quotes this semester. It sure was fun! If you live in the Marquette area, please join us for Spring rehearsals. Contact me for details. :)

Pax Christi.

Sarah

Thirds: Choir, Parallelism, & 5K

Hello Folks!

The Summer is settling into something far more comfortable, something far less busy, something inspiringly familiar–Autumn. Here’s what’s happening in my Autumn-loving heart.

Choir
Our first rehearsal for the Fall 2013 semester is two days away! I cannot believe it. In 48 hours, folks, I will be overwhelmed with the joys of a first rehearsal. There’s something magical about it, about opening a book of arrangements you’ve never heard before (much less, sung) and attempting to sing through as many pieces as Floyd sees fit with a group incredibly unique to the semester. It can be scary, if you want to know the truth; but more, it is ineffably fun.

I am serving on the Executive Board this year as the Interim Secretary. I’ve been involved in this manner since the end of last semester, so there have been a few meetings during my already crazybusy Summer. I’m very honored to be serving the Choral Society in this manner, and the temporary nature of the position allows me to become more involved in the behind-scenes stuff without falling in “way over my head.” I have to confess, I am loving it. I am having such a great time with the Board, and I am looking forward to an excellent Concert Season.

Parallelism
As an official end to my Summer, and as an ushering in of Autumn, I have resumed my Three-Part Study of the Psalms. I know–this is news to all of you. Some time ago, a conversation with Steve here on my blog challenged me to pick through the Psalms with a fresh perspective. First, I am dissecting each Psalm (in English, not Hebrew) to better understand Hebrew Parallelism. Second, I am considering the focus of each Psalm–whether it is man or God (or both). Third, I am looking for correlations between music/sound and theology.

This is a project I began some time ago and set no goal for finishing. I wanted to give myself ample time to ponder and dig and pray as I studied. Some of my remarks have been quite unimpressive, but there may be nuggets worth discussion somewhere in the midst of it. And because two young ladies that I love and admire have asked me to share my insights as I go along, I have decided to make it a weekly post on my blog. I need to be blogging more anyway, and this will give me cause to do so. I think I will make it my Friday project each week–though, I’m not sure yet whether it’s feasible to share the Parallelism part here; I may skip that for the purpose of the blog. Anyway, be watching for the big Psalm Project!

5K
Well, folks, here it is. The news of the hour. I’ve kept it to myself for the past several weeks, except for a few people from whom I’ve tried to glean an ounce or two of courage! A few weeks ago, I began the Couch to 5K Running program.

You have to understand–I am not a runner. At all. Attempting this program is scary for me. But I realized something today: I just finished week 3. That’s means I’m one third of the way done! Keep me in your prayers, and encourage me as you see fit!

Pax Christi, folks!
Sarah

Seven Robins

I had a great idea this morning. I awoke and thought, “How ever many robins I see today, that is the number of things I will share on my blog.” Of course, I realized early this afternoon that I had no chance of seeing any robins if I stayed home all day. I could have justified staying in (strep and bronchitis and green phlegm, you know), but I took a gander and went for a drive and a short walk, which presented me with seven robins. So here we go. Seven Robins for you on this beautiful April day.

Robin One
I awoke to the sound of honking geese this morning. You cannot know (unless you live in the Upper Peninsula, where winter–which is always long and fierce–felt particularly long and fierce this year) how the sound comforted me. Mother Nature, nice try; but the geese have voted for spring. It reminds me of what Pastor Drake used to say: “Faith is believing, in the middle of winter, that spring will come.” How I’ve clung to those words this winter. How thankful I am for geese, and the underlying promise of at least a few months of warmth and sunlight.

Robin Two
We are in the final countdown–the last week before the Marquette Choral Society concert. If you’re in the area and you need details, please don’t hesitate to ask. I would love to see you there. This concert is going to be amazing. I am praying today that my voice returns so I can perform with the choir. I, however, am surrendered to the knowledge that God knows what He’s doing. I don’t want to miss what God has for me, even if it’s not what I think I want.

Robin Three
My goal was to write letters today. I’ve written one. It seems about par for the course, and I refuse to feel bad about it, considering my current state of phlegm. I have received several in the last few days that deserve my attention, however–and the promise of one to hopefully arrive this week. I love receiving letters. I need to love writing them again.

Robin Four
I am reading The Lord of the Rings again. It never gets old. I am always slow to start. I find that it takes me awhile to suffer through the first part of The Fellowship (Book One). I want to pull my hair out and scream, “Just get out of the Shire!” It takes so long, but I suppose that is my movie-centric instant-gratification nature. And, I’m sure, it’s also that The Two Towers is my favorite, and I’m eager to get there. Still, it never gets old. It’s like visiting old friends.

Robin Five
I’m considering a trip to Israel next year with my sister. There is someone in my life (not really “in” my life so much as…”randomly appearing once in a blue lagoon”) that I spoke with a few years back and shared (for the first time in my life, really) my desire to visit Israel. I never thought–not even in my craziest dreams (and Lord knows I’ve had some doozy dreams)–that I would actually be telling you that I’m possibly going to go there. It’s not written in stone; it’s not even written in ink or charcoal. It’s pretty much just feathers in the wind right now, but…feathers can give you flight, I suppose.

Robin Six
I’m also considering…very prayerfully…a Compassion Sponsor Tour. It has long been a desire of mine to travel to a third world country; and it has lately been wedded with my desire to meet and hug and take a photo of myself with Joseph and Moise–my two boys. It’s a long way off, and it would require funds that I can’t even fathom having to my name…but…there’s something stirring in me about Burkina Faso. I want and need to be there. I think. I’m not sure. I need to pray about it more and think about it less. Compassion has a tour going next year, so I have time to pray on it. I invite you to pray with me. Registration opens late next month, so I hope to have made a decision by then.

Robin Seven
And finally, Robin Seven: If you’ve seen the Dove video floating around the web, don’t believe it. Beauty is about so much more than physical appearance, and even those of us who greatly lack in that department…are beautiful. Your worth, your identity, your character–these are not determined by whether your face and body appeal to others. Go out and be who you are, and be fully that. Change the world. Find your purpose. Chase your passions. Forget beauty. Those who love you don’t need it; and those who need it don’t love you.

Pax Christi,
semmie.