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

The Quotable Floyd

The Quotable Floyd

or…What I learned at Choral Society…
or……Take a breath!
 

I am a quote junky. It’s true. Words inspire me. I love to be surrounded by words and quotes and ideas–even when they aren’t serious in nature, statements can be fascinating, can evoke strong response.

Our Fearless Leader is uncommonly quotable. Last semester, I had the idea to write quotes in the margins of my music wherever we happen to be working when Floyd said something that inspired or humored me. I, unfortunately, erased many of the remarks I had quoted from our Spring rehearsals, but here are a few from this Winter. These all pertain to music (to choral music, specifically), but several can apply to life in general. Regardless, I hope this gives you a taste of how much fun we have at Choral Society.

There’s no shame in having no E, Basses. 

Turn to “ding.” 

If I give a cue and no one sees it, is there even a conductor? 

Make spacious vowels.

Seek verbal enlightenment.

Sopranos, you may roll in like a Mack truck.

Are you ready to accent your yums?

There’s a breath there; take it.

Eyes are good at cues.

Don’t turn the page and lose your pulse.

You are allowed to have fun in a minor key.

It’s hard to say which quote is my favorite. I’m partial to each! Still, I think especially in light of this Advent, we should encourage one another to breathe. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the stuff of our culture (and even the stuff of our traditions) that we forget to pause, to breathe, to take the moment of the incarnation and let it bring life and rest to our souls. Somewhere, friends, in the midst of the busyness and the beautifulness of this holiday, I pray that you’ll realize…there’s a breath there; take it.

Pax Christi!

Adam Lay Ybounden

Have you heard this song? Oh…my goodness. Listen to it before you read my post. Please.


Our Fearless Leader sprang this song on us at choir rehearsal last night. I regret to tell you that the experience sent me into a fit of laughter. I thought I would never make it through the song. How embarrassing! It’s also distracting, I know. The last thing the choir needs is someone who can’t stay focused when we’re learning a new piece. But seriously–this piece is ridiculous. Maybe it was just a crazy end to a crazy Monday (after all, I did field several insane phone calls at work yesterday [seriously, I’m going to start keeping tabs to see which question gets the most phone calls–the cheese or the sinus infection]). I digress. I felt terrible, but the song just struck me with the ridiculous stick, and I feel my only recompense is to list the ridiculousness here on my blog. These are the things that kept me in stitches.

  • Ybounden is a ridiculous word. Seriously. Ybounden? Okay. 15th century English, I get it. Still. Ridiculous.
  • Adam lay ybounden, bounden in a bond. Really? Bounden in a bond? Is that how one is bound–with a bond? Brilliant!
  • Four thousand winter thought he not too long. What? That doesn’t even make sense to me. And of course, as our Resident Linguist explained, it makes perfect sense because it’s a reference to the span of time between the Fall in Genesis and the Crucifixion. Okay, but…it doesn’t make sense to my speaking (and singing) parts. At all.
  • As clerkes finden written in their-e book.I know the “e” belongs to “their,” but I have to tell you, my first thought was: “It was written in an e-book?!”
  • Pulsing Light. Fearless Leader said the drone of this piece should feel like a pulsing light. I won’t tell you what Liesl said it sounded like; as for me, I thought it felt like a death march.
  • F. F. F. F. E. D.; D. D. C. C. C.; F. F. F. E. D.; D. D. C. C. E.; etc ad nauseum.  Wow. I love being an alto, but I do grow weary of the F’s and E’s. There are a whole lot of them in an alto line.

All of this being stated, I have to confess to you that the most difficult pieces are those I end up falling in love with. I already love it more than I did last night. This song is not at all ill-written; quite the contrary, it is an astounding piece. Its difficulty is what will leave the audience with goosebumps, if we do it well. I hope we will do it justice! Skempton’s work is impeccable.

I must close, but I need to add that, upon further reflection, I think the death march feeling is effective. We are, after all (I think) talking about the Fall of Man, the Curse, Death. The unsettling nature of the piece (lyrically and musically) suddenly makes sense to me in light of the beautiful resolution (again, lyrically and musically): Deo gratias!

It’s quite theological (aside from the e-book, of course).

Yes, folks…I may just learn to like this one.

Deo gratias!