The Harmony of Heaven and Earth

The Harmony of Heaven and Earth

One week.

We are one week away.

Next week, Saturday evening, the Marquette Choral Society will be performing the World Premiere of The Harmony of Heaven and Earth, featuring British composer Paul Ayres. This three-movement piece was commissioned on the occasion of Floyd’s retirement. (Shameless mention: NMU’s Vandement Arena, Saturday, April 25th, 7:30pm, Reception to follow the concert. Tickets are $10. We would love to see you there.)

My heart and mind are a jumbled mess. Floyd tells us that he asked Paul for a score of “medium difficulty.” I secretly suspect that Floyd said, “Write us something ridiculously impossible, and then add a Bell Choir so the Choral Society will REALLY have to watch me!” You’d think, by the way, that difficult music would inspire a choir to watch their conductor more, not less. Oh, the irony.

It’s such a beautiful title, though, isn’t it? The Harmony of Heaven and Earth. It makes us think of cherubs strumming on their harps, perched on fluffy white clouds, as flowers sway gently under a rainbowed sky.

But it isn’t easy and innocent.

It’s messy. It’s tense. It’s difficult. It’s unexpecting.

What happens when the supernatural comes into complement with the natural? Do our brains comprehend it? Do our hearts embrace it? Can our bodies move to a rhythm we can’t quite tap with our feet? Students of the Bible understand the idea of the natural man being at odds with the spiritual man. It’s the Apostle Paul’s infamous exclamation: “What I want to do, I don’t do; and what I don’t want to do–that’s what I do!” It’s the searching we hear in those old Rich Mullins’ lyrics, “do You who live in Eternity hear the prayers of those of us who live in Time?” The created world seems somehow separate and offensive to the spiritual realm.

Oh, but if we could see! If we could step outside of both time and eternity, both natural and supernatural…

But maybe that’s it.

Maybe we think they must be logically opposed to one another because we can only make sense of the one. Our created minds long to reject the paradox. Our created minds long to reject almost every paradox (justice and mercy; love and tolerance; foreknowledge and free-will; hope and fear; gravity and levity; joy and sorrow). The awe of any true paradox is that when we isolate the ideas which seem so contrary, we undermine the idea that is leftover. We rob joy of its meaning if it exists in a vacuum without sorrow. Maybe it is this way with Heaven and Earth. We view them as juxtaposed to one another, when perhaps there is a logical harmony that exists between the two. As much as our brains fight it, maybe the two really do “fit” together. Not only fit, but…complete.

All semester we’ve worked on this insanely difficult music. The meter is difficult. The harmonies are difficult. The page turns were conveniently planned by the evil page-turn elves who want to see us fail when the time-measure or key changes every time we turn a page. The piano is difficult (and difficult to follow) The words don’t entirely make sense to us (I’m still trying to figure out what “cloy” means). And in the stress of all this hard work, we found ourselves finally rehearsing with the Bell Choir last Monday.

My heart said, “Bells!”

My brain said, “Great! One more difficult aspect of this music to throw me off!”

Floyd said, “I have three parts to conduct and only two hands. I’ll have to roll my eyes or something.”

Everything within me was prepared for disaster.

Interestingly enough, what happened was the very opposite. Suddenly, this difficult piece of music existed within a structure to give it form. Suddenly, the seemingly illogical vocal score found confidence to be herself in the safe context of both the piano and bell arrangement.

Tell me again, folks…

Tell me there is nothing theological about music.

I have nothing more for you this fine Saturday, except to encourage you to come out and support Paul Ayres, Floyd Slotterback, and the Marquette Choral Society. Bring your friends and family

EVENTS:

Paul Ayres Organ Recital at Reynolds Recital Hall, Sunday, April 19th, 3:00pm, Free Admission, small reception to follow

Marquette Choral Society Concert: World Premiere of The Harmony of Heaven and Earth, featuring Paul Ayres, Saturday, April 25th, 7:30pm, Admission $10, reception to follow; Floyd’s Final Concert with us

Pax Christi,

Sarah

P.S. And are you wondering about Floyd’s Quotes? Oh…heavens…we’ll have Quotes! Stay tuned!!

Distant

“You’re distant, Sarah,” he said. “Hauntingly distant.”

I answered, I questioned, I answered, “I am.”

How can I not be after the week I’ve had?

The year I’ve had. The life I’ve had.

And I’m so angry; I’m not even sure what about.

Maybe it’s my lovers, or my brother, or my father, or God.

But I keep losing everyone I love.

How can I not be distant? Tell me, friend–how can I not?

Cause there are some things you can never unlive–

No matter how hard you try.

So let’s stop pretending that Jesus will fix it.

He can’t undo the choices I’ve made.

And I’m so weary of the grief like I’m weary of snow.

I wish it would melt and flood me so I can feel whole.

But I’m so buried beneath it all.

I can’t feel anything anymore.

How can I not be distant?–I’ve lost everyone I love.

And I’m losing my mind here, in the chaos of it all.

So when you walk away, friend, I understand.

I’ll be here, distant and alone, in the end.

Counten Hands & God’s Voice

For the last week, I’ve been listening to a worship cd from 1988. It was my favorite as a child (more on that some other time), and it still resonates the strings of my spirit. One of  the songs tells us to “lift up your countenance,” and it has kept me smiling all week–not because I’m choosing to lift my countenance, but because I remember being a child and thinking they were singing, “lift up your counten hands.” I have no idea what that would even mean, but in a world of hand-raising Christians, it made sense to my 8-year-old brain. 

Isn’t it funny when we think we understand something, and later realize how mistaken we were? It doesn’t make us heathens. It doesn’t make us obstinate. It just makes us mistaken.

So often, this applies to my hearing of God’s voice. He speaks to me in quiet, intimate moments (like dreams), and I awake with this certainty of what He has said, realizing later that I misunderstood what He spoke.

There is a friendship in my life right now that has been the unfortunate recipient of such a situation. God definitely spoke to my heart about this person–even before we had met–and I misunderstood what God was telling me and why. My friend has been incredibly understanding, but it would be dishonest to say it hasn’t caused some tension between us.

All because I didn’t understand what God was speaking to me, so I used my best logic at the moment and tried to make sense of it.

Still, I have to tell you…there is no shame in mistaking. 

There’s a verse in one of the Pauline epistles (I can never remember which) where we are encouraged to “only let us live up to what we have already attained.” I have loved that exhort for many years now. It reminds me that God does not expect me to have everything figured out; He doesn’t expect me to walk according to some truth I haven’t yet learned; and He doesn’t expect my fallible self to perfectly understand His infallible self when He speaks. He expects me to live according to what I’ve learned and taken to heart.

For me…today…that means a shift in how I respond to His voice. It means prayerfully considering His words and asking His Spirit to make clear to me what He is saying. 

Wherever you find yourself today, I pray that you hear God clearly and seek to understand His words.

Pax Christi.

Sar

Broken Beauty

A poem. 

Alone in darkness,
void — Her shame,
a longing gaze
through time outstretched.
She searches, searches
long — and finds
no star can
hold Her fury, wretched.

She yearns to know
and to — be known,
Her waxing, waning,
pulsing tide,
bound to a Rock
She does — not love.
Her lifeless, listless
course in stride.

He finds Her cold
and — wandering,
engages Her
with steady gaze;
No shifting love, but
certain — True,
with hope and warmth 
for every day.

Revealing all the things
She’d — lost —
the things She is,
both joy and strife.
And in His eyes, 
She finds — Herself,
brings broken beauty

now to life.

Genealogy Do-Over: Week 1

A new year is the perfect time for a Genealogy Do-over! Many of us were genealogy addicts long before we had learned anything of the process, the resources, the citing of sources, etc. A do-over allows us the chance to go back, to start from scratch and implement some of those techniques and habits that (we think) would make our research more effective.  So let’s get to it. I invite you to join me (and countless other genealogists and bloggers) on this incredibly exciting and frightening 13-week journey. Be sure to follow Thomas MacEntee over at geneabloggers so you know what we are focusing on each week.

Week One Goals:

1) Setting Previous Research Aside

I’m pretty sure I can do this. One of my primary reasons for embarking on this adventure is my frustration with my previous research! After losing my digital copies of all the records I have (thank goodness for hard copies!), I thought this was an excellent time to start over. This do-over is quite timely for me. My folders and binders aren’t exactly inaccessible, but I don’t feel any particular draw to them at present.

2) Preparing to Research

As I think is true of many of us, my research habits have been sort of…seat of the pants. I research when I have time, when I have energy, when I have an inkling, or when someone asks me a question I cannot answer. This, sadly, does not work. It makes my research lack the uniformity I desire. One of my biggest problems is that I’m not organized about my research.

In other crafts/hobbies/pastimes/obsessions, I tend to gather the materials at the beginning of a project and keep them together until I’m finished. I confess, I have not been so diligent about this with genealogy research. My goal here is to gather the items I know I will need, and keep them together in a tote bag so I know exactly where they are at all times (and so I don’t have to hunt for them every time I want to work on research). Thomas encourages us to “make a list of items that you must have available when you are researching.” These are the items I will keep in my tote bag!

  • A new genealogy research notebook (because who doesn’t need a new notebook?);
  • My genealogy flash drive;
  • A folder with blank forms (pedigree, individual & family group record, research log, correspondence log, and source log);
  • A folder for forms-in-process;
  • My trusty BIC (because no other pen will do);
  • A copy of my research goals, as listed below.

3) Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Here, we are challenged to list five most important tenets by which we will research. This is difficult, because researching often becomes so exciting or frustrating that we forego all form. Perhaps all the more reason to commit to a process! Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Begin an end with a “to do” list;
  • Cite and log all sources;
  • “Track all work, even dead ends, negative evidence and non-productive searches;” (thank you, Thomas!–what a great reminder!)
  • Stick to a twice-weekly schedule: Tuesdays for research, Fridays for processing and preparing;
  • Name and date all work.

There it is! There’s my Week 1 of the Genealogy Do-Over. I’m super excited about next week! Can I hold out until then? Sure…I suppose I can spend some time preparing my bag and locking away my old records… :)

Good luck! And let me know if you’re in!

Pax Christi,

Sarah

The Quotable Floyd, part V

Well, my dears, it’s time again for the best part of the choral post-season: Quotes! As I’ve said in the past, I love quoting Floyd. He’s so funny. More than this, however, I find his words sage and witty, pertaining both to music and to life. Now as we near Floyd’s final (full) retirement, I cherish these quips as memories. What a blessing it has been to learn and sing under his direction!

This time around, I’ve listed the quotes under the song title where they were written into my music, and I offer them to you here in concert order. Enjoy!

Resonet in Laudibus
If you sing the way I conduct, you’ll sing a wonderful concert.
 Always keep your accompanist happy.
 Everybody sing everything.

O Magnum Mysterium
 If you wait too long, you’ll sound late; if you’re too quick, you’ll be early.
 Just go ahead and try it. You may actually get it right!
 Where in the heck do you put the pitch?
 There is still some residual pulsation going on.
 I’m just gonna give you a three-four ‘cause I have a three-four to spare.
 Those two notes are friends.
 Ascend, Altos! You may ascend!
 You may flip your R in that way if you like.
 Sopranos, would you sing “la la la la.” No, wait. That’s not it.
 If you were a medieval scholar, you’d be forbidden to write that interval because it would summon the devil.

Ave Maria – Stravinsky
 If you’re gonna be wrong, be wrong loudly.
 Once in awhile I may even cue your section.
 You may generally breathe; don’t specifically breathe.
 This is the hardest little piece I know.
 There’s our friend the G!
Lynne: Watch out for the nunc!

     Floyd: Notice the dynamics?
     Lorna: They’re easy to miss.
     Howard: Mine says ‘piano for rehearsal.’

Ave Maria – de Victoria
 Our tempo meter has gone pfffffft!
 It’s gotta be in tempo. You can’t just dribble off.
 If I looked up to find you, I…I wouldn’t!
 Take a breath on the rest; don’t rest on the breath. Ooooh! That was good! Write that down!
 After awhile, the bar lines don’t matter anymore.
 If there were a sharp in front of that G, it’d be the pitch you’re singing.
 You had a real nice G#. Please don’t do that again.
 Orapronobis fermata-bus.
 Nobis? No breath.

Ave Maria – Biebl
 We’ll follow the music and see what happens. Then again, maybe we won’t.
 Go ahead and sing your fullest forte.

Glory to God in the Highest
 Some of you head too much sloppy for supper.
 The grammar will defeat you.

Jazz Gloria
 We could throw a few more pitches in there. Just for fun.
 There’s where the pitch lives!
 There’s no chord upon which to sit.
 Eat enough to fortify your jazz chops.

     Beth: Were we low enough?
     Floyd: You’re fine. It’s just ugly.

     Nameless Alto: We can’t see you.
     Floyd: Why do you want to see me? You don’t watch anyway.

One, two, three, four…twelve…thirteen…square root of eight…
 There’s some magical musical mysticism going on here.
 I don’t know what I was doing; I was improvising.
 I can’t tell what’s coming out of my mouth sometimes.
 You could, without knowing it, tripletize the sixteenth note.
 Swing: That’s not notated; it’s just felt.
 There’s no rushing in Jazz Land.
 It’s just here and there and back again.
 We’ve got two Jesus Christs, and then Jesus Christ followed by the Holy Spirit—which is very important, theologically.
 Don’t think of it as a measure. Think of it as a series of notes upon which I will pounce.
 No matter what happens—SING.
 Don’t think in rhythm.
 The wrong note at the right time equals music. The right note at the wrong time equals noise.
 Find your seats and put them in your chairs.

Christmas Day
 Make them up. (In reference to the words.)
 I bet I can unlegatoize you.
 I will shoot a cue to you that you can’t miss!
 I’m not in the right key, but who cares?
 You’ve got a rhythm to wait in expectation of.
 You’ll have a rhythmic moment right there. It’ll be short, but you’ll have it.
 The minute the tongue touches the teeth, cut it off.
 At this point we have a surprising harmonic move. It always comes at a page turn.
 I would never look down on good music!
 What you just did—write that in.
 If you’ve got the notes, I’m not gonna stop you.
 Relax. Relax. Blalalalala. Blalalalalala.

Fortify your jazz chops. Hahahaha. I want that on a bumper sticker. Don’t forget to go back and read the quotes one, two, three, and four. :)

Pax Christi, friends!

Sar

Let Go, part I

What are you holding onto?

In my closet, all the way to the right, tucked into the corner, just beyond the Hawaiian blue chiffon dress I wore at my brother’s wedding, a sassy pair of boot cut blue jeans hangs from the same hanger that has held them for the
past fifteen years. They’ve been a favorite all this time, in spite of the fact that I haven’t been able to squeeze into them since the summer I graduated from high school and fled the dreary Copper Country. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I cling to the hope of what those blue jeans represent.

Every woman knows what I mean. Somehow, it has nothing to do with the jeans themselves; it has everything to do with the way you felt when you wore them. I have one lone photograph of myself wearing these jeans, and when I see it, I still marvel. I look happy, I whisper to my soul. I want to feel the way I look in that photo.

Okay. Let’s be real for a moment. Blue jeans do not have the ability to make one happy, neither can they make one beautiful or engaging or alluring or any other desirable trait. They are an object of denim, stitch, and button. In light of eternity, they mean nothing.

But here in my physical world, they represent something. They represent the young woman I was fifteen years ago: Bright, hopeful, unjaded, confident. So you see, they are–and are not–just a pair of old blue jeans. There in the back of my closet, they whisper to me that I once was this woman…that I should be her still…that I could be her still…

The truth?

I can’t.

Oh, I’ve no doubt that I can somehow find beauty and life and confidence in myself again. I only recognize, as a woman in her thirties is more able to appreciate, that it has taken many choices, many roads for me to become the woman I am today. The girl in those jeans? Yes, she was unjaded; she was incredibly naive. Yes, she was confident; she was incredibly foolish.

Beauty is deeper than a pair of jeans.
An appealing spirit reveals in the eyes, not the hips.
Confidence is knowing who you are, not being comfortable.

So this year, as I approach the New Year, this wretched pair of blue jeans are the first thing on my list.

I’m letting them go.

Pax!
Sar