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.

Watch Floyd

Watch Floyd.

Or…Look Up.

Or…Fix Your Eyes.

Or…”Then Let All the Living.”

I can’t decide on an appropriate title for this blog. There are so many good choices.

In just under two weeks time, the Marquette Choral Society will be performing our spring concert. I can’t wait to tell you about it. I think I love this music even more than I loved the music last spring. I feel connected to this program for a few different reasons, but I won’t bore you with those details tonight. In two weeks, I promise to share my thoughts about the concert, the material, and (best of all) my Floyd quotes from the semester. It hardly seems like we can be so close to performance…

Anyway, I had something of a revelation last night during rehearsal. We are singing several incredible (and difficult) pieces of music (those Germans know how to write a hymn, yo). We were working on a piece from one of my newest favorites, Heinrich Schutz, entitled, “Dank sagen wir alle Gott”–or, We Offer Our Thanks. It’s a beautiful hymn in a sort of flowing 6/4 time.

At least, the first page is. I confess that I’ve been struggling with measure 11. It’s right there on the page, easy as can be–a half note (two beats), then a quarter rest and half rest (three beats of silence), and a quarter note (one beat). It doesn’t sound hard, does it? The two notes are even the same pitch, so there is absolutely nothing about this measure that should be difficult. All semester as we’ve worked on this, I’ve chided myself: “If you were able to sing the 7/8 song last semester, and Zadok with the organ the semester before that, there’s no way you aren’t going to master this simple measure.”

Yet…I struggle. Why?

Well, I could tell you it’s because of the page turn. That could be part of it. I’m not turning soon enough. I could also tell you it’s because this nice flowing piece of music, beginning with that last quarter note of the measure, suddenly moves. And I could tell you that I’m not being diligent about counting my rests, so I’m not hitting the quarter note with anything that could be mistaken for confidence. It could be that I’m still feeling “new” to the piece, and the movement of the next page still catches me off guard. I could tell you that I’m not breathing when I should. All of these things, I suppose, are true; but none of them (individually or together) are the reason I struggle with this measure.

And I realized that quite clearly last night when I did everything right–the counting, the breathing, the page turn, the expectation of the next page. I had it, folks. I was there, I was ready, and still–I missed it. How did I miss it?

I know I wasn’t the only one because Floyd stopped us and made us do it again. And as I sat there, wondering how in the world I was going to conquer this measure–this stupid little measure that was half silence–I had a brilliant idea. “Stop trying to figure it out,” I said to myself, “and just watch Floyd.”

The amazing part about it is that even as I forced myself to not look at the music, to turn the page a measure earlier than normal and fix my eyes on Floyd, I have to confess to you that there was an enormous part of me that didn’t expect anything to happen. I’m embarrassed to tell you that it surprised me when Floyd gave me my breath, and my cue, and by gosh, if he wasn’t movin’ to the rhythm of the page turn in expectation of what we were barrelling into!

It shocked me.

It shouldn’t have.

Poor Floyd, who tells us week after week, “Watch me.” Poor, poor Floyd. Hahaha.

I just had to laugh at myself. Of course the answer is to watch my director. What’s really amazing is that I knew it all along. I pride myself in watching Floyd, in paying attention when he’s talking, in following his lead. But me, in my pride, in my folly…do I trust him when I am faced with something I am struggling with that I shouldn’t be struggling with? Nope; I decide I’m going to conquer it alone, rather than trust the man at the front of the room who really knows where we’re going.

It reminded me of the verse in Hebrews that tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. How often do we try to conquer situations and emotions on our own? Even when we have all the particulars analyzed and figured out, even after we’ve counted every beat of silence, we blunder; we step without confidence; we don’t anticipate the page turn. Christ knows exactly where He’s leading each one of us, and if we could but turn our face toward Him and trust Him to lead us, we would excel through the most difficult situations.

“Then let all the living, then let all the living join with the angels’ shouts of thanksgiving, thanksgiving.”

God bless you this week as you learn to fix your eyes on Christ.

Pax Christi.
Sarah

The Three Loves of Herman Schmitzer

January 19, 1973.

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of my Grandfather’s death. Though he died several years before I was born, he is a man who continues to shape my life, as well as (I know) the lives of all my cousins. In a world where being remembered requires that we be the very best at something, score the most points in a game, make the most money in our field, come up with the newest and bestest fad diet, write the seven-book series that the world is waiting on with held breath (GRRM, this was for you…get writing), having the most “friends” on the f@cebook, etc., ad nauseum, there seems to be less and less legacy; more and more fame.

Legacy is something greater. Legacy changes the way people think, changes the way people behave. Even thirty years after his passing, Herman Schmitzer changes us.

When asked about his teaching career, he was quoted as saying, “The three loves of my life–and in this order–are my religion, my wife, Margaret, and music.”

Herman Schmitzer

I thought of this quote last Monday at our first rehearsal of Choral Society for the semester. We are singing a compilation of Lutheran choral works, which means that two of my own loves are melding into one: my Lutheran faith and music. If you don’t know already, I believe there is a strong connection between theology and music, so to have these two things coming together in a semester of song is really overwhelming for me–overwhelming in a good way.

I wish, more than anything, that he could be in the audience this April as we perform these pieces. He would, I imagine, take such delight in it. I know I will.

Another Random Sunday

December 2, 2012

The most wonderful thing about my family is…

Did you know that I’m singing in a choir? Yes, of course you did. This is my second semester as a member of the Marquette Choral Society. It is, quite honestly, the best decision I’ve made in my adult life. Not only am I geeky-in-love with music and singing, but I am geeky-in-love with the incredibleness of being in a choir.

This weekend is our Christmas Concert, Carols in the Cathedral, which is performed at Saint Peter’s Cathedral. You’ve never heard Christmas until you’ve heard it in a Cathedral. You want acoustics? Baby, you’ve got acoustics!

As we were rehearsing last night for the first time in the Cathedral, something happened. I was standing on the far right where an Alto 2 belongs, and I was feeling nervous about the distance between us and the Basses. I find that the Alto part always makes more sense when I hear the Bass part. And there was an entire half an Alto section (the Alto 1’s) separating us. I was a bit anxious. We arrived at the song with The Great Alto Conflict (as I’ve come to call the dissonance at the end of Alan Smith’s There Is No Rose) and I thought to myself—this is going to fall apart. Right here. On the risers. In the Cathedral. We’re not going to be able to hold these notes without the strength of the Bass part in our immediate hearing. So there we were, gently descending on those beautiful words—“transeamus,” meaning “let us go” or “let us follow”—and I heard the most remarkable thing.

While the 2’s held firmly to our middle C, the 1’s D struggled against us. It was the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. It was like the rest of the choir existed, in that moment, only to give context to this beautiful juxtaposition of the C and the D. We found ourselves in relation to one another. And suddenly, it didn’t bother me that the Basses weren’t right behind me, because I realized that we can’t just understand ourselves in terms of one other part; we must understand ourselves in terms of each other part.

It is the same in a family. You don’t understand your character, your identity, your dreams, your talents, your weaknesses, your passions simply from one relationship. You begin to understand yourself most fully when you hear your part in the context of the other parts.

And you know what the greatest thing about this is? The greatest thing is realizing that all of us are learning and growing at the same time. While I’m depending on you to help me understand my own self better, you are depending on me to do the same! In that regard, we are a very fluid, very malleable unit.

That’s the most wonderful thing about my family: We’re still being made into the people we are, and we’re doing it in context of one another.

Stay Rooted!

Aunt Sarah