The Quotable Floyd, part VI

I can’t tell you how much I love quoting Floyd. He’s witty. He’s real. He’s wise. And often, he’s witty, real, and wise all at once. This semester, we featured the music of British organist, choral director, and composer, Paul Ayres. In honor of Floyd’s retirement, we also commissioned a three-movement piece by Mr. Ayres. It was a fascinating and thrilling process, start to finish. The commissioned piece, The Harmony of Heaven and Earth, which I will write about on its own merit in the future, gave fuel to the Quote Machine.

If you’ve missed them in the past, please go back and read our Floyd quotes from previous semesters.

And now, without further adieu, I give you, once again, the Quotable Floyd, Paul Ayres edition:

  • There will be instances of choral collision.
  • Just smile and put air in the room and sing what you can.
  • You’re not paid by the note.
  • Maybe I should take you higher in warm-up. That’s what you call a choral threat.
  • The song is not over until silence fills the space.
  • We could do that. Or we could do that. We’ve gotta discover it. We’re excavating.
  • Floyd: And that’s just 3 bars!  Annette: We just don’t know which 3.
  • As you can see, [Paul] loves rhythmic displacement.
  • Don’t breathe, by the way.
  • [Paul] completely obliterated the downbeat.
  • If you want to see me make a mistake, then watch closely!
  • It doesn’t have chord changes so much as it has rhythmic energy.
  • Do your feelingful singing there.
  • If you sing the right vowel, the sun will shine down upon your face.
  • It’s too many dissonances in a row to analyze.
  • Feel a gentle alto arrival.
  • Ha! You thought you were gonna be in a key, didn’t you?
  • Let’s have a little Creative Responsibility. If you don’t have a note, don’t sing it
  • Get thee behind me, piano.
  • You’re not getting paid by the note.
  • Middle C is a terrible note; I’d like to ban it sometimes.
  • There aint’ no pitch there.
  • Dissonance leads to consonance, so it must be a whale of a consonance!
  • Now we’ve gotta sing with the guys from some other harmonic planet.
  • It’s a real dangerous thought—to think that a choir knows something too soon.
  • We’re gonna do this in tempo. No? I hear the sound of terrified silence.
  • If it sounds wrong, don’t assume it’s wrong. If it sounds right, don’t assume it’s right.
  • I recommend breathing.
  • Don’t wait for me to cue you if I’m wrong.
  • I shall offer you the beat.
  • I’m gonna have to do a standard illegible 7-beat.
  • Keep doing that! The ladies like that!
  • I’m trying to make it so weird that when we get it right, it’ll seem normal.
  • Yanno, I really do need to pay attention.
  • We’ve gotta run you into the G#.
  • I hear the sound of stunned silence.
  • I like breath in general.
  • You don’t typically see a beat going that way. It’s not normal. That’s okay—neither am I.
  • When we do slow, you shouldn’t practice late.
  • Everything we do is a release. It’s a preparation. If you release early, you will force the next thing. If you’re late, you’ll miss it.
  • It will be logical. Trust me.
  • The men need a pattern upon which to depend.
  • I have no idea what I’m talking about.
  • By itself, it seems deliciously easy.
  • I need to stop making noise, cause I can’t hear you.
  • This is gonna be a whole lot easier if you don’t read music.
  • I may not be exactly metrically perfect…but don’t tell anybody.
  • Oh, it’s good to learn the right way to do things.
  • I wish you were making the same error every time. That’d be easy.
  • That’s what rehearsal is for—to be out of sync once in awhile.
  • Don’t speed up to make up.
  • Sing only with the stick.
  • I’m so wrong, I’m amazed.
  • You’re lucky—you get me!
  • If you don’t write it, it goes away.
  • I’ve never seen music where I could violate it so thoroughly.
  • Be fearless in your breath and attack.
  • We’re gonna make all the music. We may not get it right, but we’re gonna make all the music.
  • Arrr? This is not “Sing Like A Pirate” day!
  • It’s only two beats in that flavor.
  • Rather than ‘and,’ I’d like you to have ‘and.’ Make a symbol for that.
  • There are three levels to conduct, and I only have two hands. I’ll have to roll my eyes or something.

Thanks for reading, my friends!

Pax Domini,


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


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,


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


Roberta and I met Friday morning for coffee. It was remarkably good fellowship, which is saying a lot. Roberta is always great company, but this was more. More than just catching up with someone I love. This was heart to heart, the benedictions of life and peace and joy upon one another as fellow members of Christ’s Body. What a wonderful experience.

One of the things we spoke about is my complete lack of desire to sing or make music for an audience. We can speak honestly about this, folks. There was a time when I longed for audience. There was a time I believed my heart was there, on a stage, speaking life and hope to people too close to be strangers. And I don’t know precisely when it changed. I remember even in leading worship at the Tab that I made a subtle transition from wanting to “lead” to wanting to accompany and support a “leader.” When my brother got married six years ago and they asked me to sing a duet at the reception, I was so uncomfortable at the thought–but so comfortable with the reality.

I forget little things. For instance, I really do like the way my voice sounds in a microphone. And I really do enjoy looking out at people and making eye contact. And I love–more than almost anything in the entire world–noodling on the piano as I try to speak the words on my heart.

But I have long desired the solace of having no audience, no stage, and nobody looking at me.

The question is, as a musician, how do you love and pursue music without desiring an audience? This is a question I’ve pondered for years, and I am no nearer an answer than I was when I first posed it.

As Berta and I discussed this the other day, she–in her typical, gentle but challenging manner–suggested that maybe it would be good for me to be exposed to a bit of audience again. I love Roberta’s manner of making me feel totally uncertain and yet entirely certain. Of course audience is good for a musician, even if performance is not the aim.

So there I was, yesterday, sitting on the edge of the stage at the bandshell all alone, my bare, cracked feet swinging off the edge like a little girl, and my guitar in my arms. And I sang softly. There was no one nearby, so I allowed myself to have a little fun and let loose (which, if you know me, needs to happen more often). And so I’m singing one of my old favorites by Rich Mullins–My One Thing–and I’m hamming it out. And…?

This guy comes out of nowhere. With his dog. I figured he’d walk right by and all would be well, so I just kept going. Every night, every day, ya hold on tight or ya drift away, and you’re left to live with the choices ya make. Oh Lord, please give me the strength to watch and work and love and sing and pray…

Aaaaaand he sits down.


Like, I know it’s an actual stage, and I know there are benches for the audience during concerts, but the fact that no one else is there and I’m sitting on the edge of the stage without any equipment other than a guitar (without even a pick, I might add) should clue you into the fact that this isn’t a concert. But he sat. And his dog sat. And wow–that was awkward.

But what the heck, right? I kept going. And I know that the pure…the pure in heart…and I know that the pure in heart shall see God. Yeah, I know that the pure…the pure in heart…yeah, I know that the pure in heart shall see God… and out of the corner of my eye, I see a young man with a lot of hair walking towards the bandshell. And I’m thinking, he’s headed for the restrooms. And the dude with the dog is just sitting there watching me with a silly grin on his face, but the song is over so instead of stopping and having an awkward moment with the stranger and his dog, I went right into another song–another favorite–Thankful by Caedmon’s Call. Of course, it isn’t nearly as awesome without the trash can beat, but…•shrug•

So I’m singing along, trying to be a little amusing for the guy with the dog, but secretly wishing I weren’t dumb enough to sit on the stage where people might mistake me for entertainment. Cause I am just like Lazarus, and I can hear Your voice. I stand and run my eyes and walk to You…because I have no choice. And I am thankful…

And the young guy with the hair? Nope. He isn’t headed for the restroom. He turns toward the stage, walks right up to the very first bench, and sits down.

Oooookay. If I hadn’t left my cell phone home to charge, I likely would have paused right there to call Roberta and make her come out to witness this odd moment of my existence. But I couldn’t, because I did leave my cell at home.

So I finish the song and pause long enough to say, “I wasn’t expecting an audience.” They both seemed amused by this remark, but neither made a move to leave. And since the dog had laid down on the ground by his walker’s feet, I figured–what can I lose? So I sang them another song–this time (be proud, folks), I sang one of my recents–Daisies, which I shared the lyrics to here on my blog recently.

And as I’m nearing the end…singing my very own song for these total strangers–a family of four walks up behind the benches. Mom and Dad and two little girls. And Dad just held the younger girl in his arms while Mom held the older girl’s hand. And me? I capo-ed the third fret and I sang the song I always sing over children, another one by Mullins–Let Mercy Lead.

And as I watched these people, watching me, I thought–being heard is not such a bad thing. It is that “being heard” that allows us to minister to one another, to speak truths through music that we are often unable to speak conversationally, to connect with people that we may have absolutely nothing in common with other than our humanity.

I stopped after that song. The family left. The man and his dog left. The young man with the hair spoke with me for a moment about guitars. And as I walked alone to my truck, with my guitar slung across my back (as no guitar-respecting young woman should ever do, because there is too great a risk of it falling [and trust me, duct tape does not fix a broken guitar]), I heard myself pray.

“God, what was that?”

But I didn’t really need to ask the question. I knew the answer.

It is just like God, too, isn’t it? We think we understand some aspect of our lives, our hearts. Someone (thank you, Roberta) speaks challenge to our assumed desires, and suddenly, God places the people and the circumstances in our lives to give us the opportunity: We can grow and learn, or we can remain as we have been.

I still have no desire to perform. But if you see me with my guitar, I hope you won’t be afraid to ask for a song, because the truth is–I don’t mind the audience.

Pax Christi.


I don’t remember when we met–
I’ve known Him forever, it seems.
I don’t remember what I said
to capture His gaze on me.
I don’t remember why I needed Him in my life,
but I remember His kiss.

And He
brings me daisies
from the field
where we fell in love.
And I fall in love.

It’s been a million years, it seems
Since I’ve longed for Him this way.
The memories feel sometimes like dreams
That fade with the light of day.
And it’s been so long, still this yearning is strong,
cause I remember His kiss.

And He
brings me daisies
from the field
where we fell in love.
And I fall in love.

And I thought that I had somehow lost His heart, lost His love.
His word an obligation now to me, wrestled free from His vow.

He reached for me with open arms–
That safe and familiar touch.
He whispered softly to my heart
the words that I’ve missed so much.
His delight is in me, and always will be.
So I welcome His kiss.

And He
brings me daisies
from the field
where we fell in love.
And I fall in love.


Songwriting & Daisies

What can I tell you?

I have fallen. Hard.

In an awkward conversation about jealousy (I won’t bore you with the details), a friend recently said to me, “I think you should keep writing songs.” How frustrating. How simple. How frustratingly simple.

How comforting!

I’m not sure what changed in my spirit when I read those words, but I felt as if a pile of dynamite was ignited in my soul. Suddenly, everything is alive.

And it is finding its place in my life again, the daily desire to simply pick up my guitar, to sing something–anything, to work on a new picking method, to clean my guitar, to write a song. All of these things are drawing me, day after day.

There is so much unfinished business. I have a binder of unfinished business on my bookshelf. It is disheveled and not worth much, I’m sure–but I find myself determined to go back and piece them together. There are songs there, on the random papers of my past.

And there are songs in the present. There are songs about new friends, old friends, changes in life, hugs…there are songs written, and songs to be written. I can’t get enough of it.

It’s a songwriting feast. I haven’t written like this in years. I thought…I thought it was gone. I thought I had lost “it.” I thought after my enormous life (and faith) blunders that God had taken my love, my passion, my calling (if that’s what you want to call it) and given it to someone more worthy.

The truth is, none of us are worthy. God doesn’t bless us because we are good, or because we deserve it. He blesses us because it is in His nature to do so–because He cherishes us, and He knows how to delight us. His delight is in us, and when we are delighted, I believe it delights Him. Just like a lover, who brings a daisy to his beloved, simply because he knows it will make her smile and exclaim at its beauty. Music is the daisy God gives me.

God is not slow with us. Sometimes we think that we’ve forfeited His blessings, His gifts. I’m not sure if that’s even possible, folks. I don’t know. Perhaps all this time, God has been bringing me daisies, and I’ve been simply too preoccupied to notice (or care). Or maybe He allows me a time without daisies so that I will remember the delight of them, and not simply fall into a routine of saying, “Oh, how lovely.”

What I do know is that He gives us our passions and talents for a reason. And He brings them to life if we will stop avoiding them.

How about you? What are you avoiding?


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.


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?


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


*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. :)