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Mad Organist on the Loose

21 Dec


I participated in a Christmas Choir this year.  We practiced for about 2 months before the concert.  The music was VERY ambitious. Our conductor was so encouraging and so much fun.  The energy he put into every rehearsal and preparing practice materials was astounding.  He wrote 3 of the pieces we performed himself and arranged another.  The music he wrote was absolutely beautiful. We are super lucky to have him living in our little corner of the world.  

  Five weeks before the concert, our conductor mentioned that he was still looking for an organist to accompany the choir for the final number.  None of the usual organists in our area were available.  So being me and wanting to help so much that I forgot my own limitations–why is it that my desire to rescue so far exceeds my ability?  I offered to work on the piece–warning the conductor that I haven’t had very much experience with organ beyond a 1 semester class that I took in college.  

I went through all kinds roller coasters of despair and hope as I practiced.  The piece was really beyond my ability.  But I practiced every day–our church is unlocked every morning for Early Morning Seminary, so I would practice during that time rather than have to pester someone about borrowing a key to the building.

Because I am homeschooling, it was possible to do this.  My 11 and 12 year olds could take care of the babies if they woke up while I was gone practicing.  

I did borrow a key over Thanksgiving break.  Those days I practiced more hours.  Pumpkin Pie practiced with me, pushing the stops and working the crescendo pedal because my feet were both busy with the pedal pedals.  I have to admit that from Thanksgiving up to the concert day, our homeschool routine suffered some (a lot) because this organ piece pulled so much of my mental energy.  I said lots of prayers along the lines of, “please let me make no horrible song stopping mistakes.”  “Please let me play it during the concert the way I just ran through it this last time.”  I did not pray for zero mistakes because I felt like that was asking too much. I know that my performance on piano or organ is never quite as good at the concerts as what I can can do practicing.  Seriously, it’s like I go blind from stress.  Music that I have perfected to auto pilot so that my fingers can just do their thing independently of my brain, that’s what I can do for the performance.  Everything else flies out the window.  Pretty much my mind abandons me under high musical anxiety. This anxiety is always highest when I am accompanying because: 

    A-if I mess up, I could mess up everyone.

     B-I have to keep up with the choir, no wiggle room to slow down if I need to.  No going back to fix a mistake.

     C- The accompaniment is the support, not the star.  If I make too big of a deal out of my part, then I’m hogging the glory that rightfully belongs to the main performer(s). Sadly, reminding myself of my relative unimportance doesn’t lessen my anxiety because I know that good support is important, bad support can be devastating, and I start worrying about worrying too much.  Yeah.  Mad. 

The concert day arrived much too quickly.  My three oldest sang with me.  My sister babysat the babies so that my husband could come enjoy the concert.  

As a choir, we sang the best we had ever sung the music. (That can happen with singing, it can be better than practice because of synergy and energy and sudden unity that hasn’t happened before.)

The final number came and Pumpkin Pie and I scuttled over to the organ.  The singing was strong.  I made many many mistakes, even on bits that were easy, but none of them were awful showstoppers.  The final bars were not as good as I had hoped and much below what I knew was possible.  Someday I hope that all the yoga I’m doing will help me to find a way to calm my mind when I’m under stress so that I don’t freeze up so badly.

All the audience were so kind.  So many people said how good it was and how incredible the organ sounded.

I am full of relief and pleased that everyone sincerely enjoyed the concert and especially commented how awesome my organ work was.

At the same time, I am embarrassed by so much praise of my playing, especially when I made so many mistakes, and especially when I was the accompaniment–that whole supposed to be awesome yet invisible support thing.

And I’m really worried that people have an exaggerated idea of my abilities now– they seem to think I can just sit down and play anything because I could play one piece that I spent weeks and weeks working on.  

I loved the practices.  I loved making more time for myself and music in my life.  I loved preparing for Christmas in a way that kept my joy in what Christ did for me In the forefront of my mind.  

And I am really glad that the concert is done and over with!!

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Ring, Ring. Destiny? I’ve been expecting your call.

19 Feb

Once in your life, a clown walks in and casually hands you the music you’ve been waiting for since the day you were born.  It’s the soundtrack that was missing from my epic life.

How perfect that it is from Iceland.

Les un-Miserables

2 Jan
Look Down

Saturday night, my mom and 2 of my sisters and I ran away to see Les Miserables.  I intended to leave the Dear Husband with happy children who had already eaten dinner.  Instead, when I dashed out the door, dinner was smoking on the stove, 2 children were howling their heads off, and there were a couple extra kids in the house that we don’t even own.

We all giggled like school girls as we watched the previews and stuffed our faces with popcorn (so we could get a refill before the movie actually started.)

I mentioned in a post before that I have past emotional scars connected to the story of Les Miserables.  Anytime anybody would mention “Les Mis”  I would growl in my head and be like, “Stupid Movie, we hates it.”  It was Susan Boyle whose heartfelt rendition of I Dreamed a Dream on Brittain’s Got Talent (2009) finally broke through to me and I heard the beauty of the music for the first time.  Thanks, Susan.  Music makes everything better.

The movie was glorious.  Eddie Redmayne made us all cry.  Amanda denies that she cried, but we all know better.

Look at all those delectible freckles!  It’s about time we had a hero with freckles.  It’s pretty great that a red-head has the last name of red mane, also.  And I haven’t even told you about his voice yet.  swoon.  His singing tore the tears right out of our eyes. In a featurette about singing live during the filming, Eddie talks about hearing Anne singing: “That song which I thought I knew pretty well, suddenly I listened to the lyrics for the first time, afresh.”  This is exactly how I felt about Eddie’s singing.  No one has ever brought out the unspeakable grief like he did.

Samantha Barks & Anne Hathaway were heartbreaking.  We all agreed that Fantine should have had long hair when she came back as an angel.  Duh! Angels get to be beautiful.  They do not have shaved heads.

My only complaint about the movie was that Hugh Jackman sounded like he was singing through his nose the whole time.  It was awful.

Sunday afternoon while I was working on Primary stuffs, I listened to all the other men who have been prisoner 24601 on youtube.  My favorite is Alfie Boe.

I also like John Owen Jones.  He’s almost as good as Alfie.  Colm Wilkinson is maybe a little too Broadway for me. (Or maybe a little too grey for me, Ah Snap.)  He is the bishop in the new movie, so that’s a fun nod to the original Broadway cast.   However, after listening to 4 or 5 different professional Broadway singers, I went back to Amazon and listened to Hugh again.  Wow! He can’t be beat for raw, real feeling coming through the song.  Now I’m repenting of all the complaining I did.  Mary was right.  He was good.  I think for enjoying the purity of the music, I’d pick Alfie Boe, but Hugh Jackman was right for the movie, though like Amanda, I’m wondering how our phantom would have been as Jean Valjean.  (John Owen Jones has played the phantom as well.  So it’s a completely logical idea.)

All in all, I think I will be getting the soundtrack from the movie because of Eddie and probably another soundtrack so I can have Alfie, too.  I probably won’t get a copy of the movie because definitely PG-big people and my kids will want to see it if we have it.

P.S.  Dear Dad:  If you are reading this, all of the red words in my posts are links.  So if you want to hear Colm Wilkinson singing, or watch the featurette I was talking about, click on the blue words and the magical thing that is the internet will take you there.  Perhaps you’ve already figured this out, but just in case….because I know technology is not your native language….

Music and Spring

15 Mar

I grew up listening to Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. I think it was my dad’s goal to make sure we kids knew what good music was. I never really paid attention to exactly what we were listening to, I just listened to it. What I mean is, at the time, I couldn’t have told you whether I was listening to Mozart or Beethoven. I just knew I liked it. I do know that my favorite album he had was a collection of famous waltzes from ballets. I’ve searched for that collection for several years and not been able to find it. However, this post is not about that collection. This post is about a moment in my life and the power of music and how grateful I am.

So you, my faithful readers, may not know that I was in the National Guard for 8 years. Which means that I went to basic training for 10 weeks (they told me 8, but there was a week zero, plus a few extra days on the end) and then Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for 5 weeks. I was 19 and had never been away from my family for even half that amount of time. I plunged into an environment where swear words and anger were the majority of what I heard and saw. I was pushed well beyond what I had believed were the limits of my physical endurance. During the weeks of basic training, I learned to escape the anger and cussing by singing children’s songs from church in my head. On my own during KP duty, I dared to whisper the words under my breath.

When I got to AIT, things were a little different. We had more freedom and we were allowed to listen to walkmans in our free time. (Yes, this was before iPods.) Three of the four other girls who slept in my room had walkmans and their favorite music to listen to was this rap star, Tupok. I guess I’m lucky they didn’t let us have boomboxes, or I’d have had to actually listen to him too–as it was, I had to listen to them singing (does one sing rap?), and those girls did not edit his songs for cussing, maybe because they would have had to skip 2 out of every 3 words.

I was feeling more and more down all the time. I was missing my family and surrounded by all the anger and cussing and yuck. Also, because of training schedules and misinformation and bad luck, I hadn’t been able to attend church for 4 weeks. I was really getting desperate. One Saturday, we were allowed to go to the big Post Exchange. As I wandered around, I saw a stack of CD’s on sale. Right in front was one that read
Antonio Vivaldi
The Four Seasons

Across my mind flashed an image of a cassette tape with the words “The Four Seasons” printed on it. I knew this was music my dad owned. I knew I had listened to it before. The CD was on sale for $3.00. I am sure now it was there for me, at a price I would pay. (I rarely ever spent money back then. I didn’t even know how to use the debit card my credit union had sent me and most vendors don’t take checks from WAY out of state.) I bought that CD (they took my check), not even knowing what it would sound like. I think maybe I had a vague idea that “The Four Seasons” were like “The Mammas & The Papas.” I just knew my dad owned it and I needed something from home. I went back to the barracks, borrowed someone’s walkman, and snapped the CD in. It turns out I knew the music well; I just hadn’t known its name.

The first chord was as familiar to me as my own bones and my whole soul sang along with that beautiful music. It lifted me right out of the dark pit I had sunk into and gave me the strength to keep on. The next morning, I was finally able to catch the right bus at the right time and attend Sacrament Meeting. It was a miracle –two miracles sent just for me.

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. D&C 25:12

The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation. Psalms 118:14

Mindy Gledhill – Anchor

11 Sep

Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I am loving this song. I am also loving her red lipsick. Maybe I should go blonde….