Sunday, October 22, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Post-Season Pic #1: Sports Truism

True last night.
Tonight, it's TV.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Tuning Slide 3.17

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

True enjoyment comes from
activity of the mind and exercise of the body;
the two are ever united.
-Wilhelm von Humboldt

We have been talking about how to become a musician this month- at least in behaviors, actions, and attitudes. At the heart of it is always that priority list:
1. The music
2. Our colleagues
3. The audience
4. Ourselves

Unfortunately, since it puts "ourselves" last, people often use that as an excuse NOT to take care of themselves. We end up pushing ourselves beyond our limits into wearing down of our energy, skills, and careers. The issue of balancing extremes that I talked about last week in relation to our actual playing is just as important when it comes to taking care of ourselves. It can be so easy to mess up our lives by not paying attention to what’s important in how we look after ourselves. We ignore warning signs of extreme fatigue, we think that we will always be able to do everything we have always done, we will not take care of our body, mind, and spirit. Many of us will actually take better care of our instrument than we will of ourselves.

In reality if we don’t take care of ourselves we can easily get into deep trouble physically and emotionally. In the end the music we produce will suffer, the relationships with other musicians will deteriorate, and we might not have an audience to play for. Taking care of ourselves, I am convinced, is the same as cleaning, caring for, and tuning an instrument.

Last summer I explained to Bill Bergren at the workshop what I was hoping to get out of an individual lesson. He took my horn from me, pulled out the tuning slide and looked down the lead pipe.

“When was the last time you cleaned this?” He looked in my mouthpiece, handed the trumpet back to me and just shook his head.

I cleaned it that night- and there was way more of the ugly green gunk than I wanted to see. That green gunk is a metaphor for what happens to me when I don’t take care of me!

So I did some surfing around the Internet and found many good bits of advice as I got ready to write this week’s post. They sum up the different areas of our lives that need self-monitoring on a regular basis. That is the “mindfulness” that I talk about so often. The better we pay attention to ourselves and what is going on around us, the better we will learn to take care of ourselves.

I put the things I found into a series of categories:
✓ Balance
Avoiding extremes
✓ Breathing/Relaxation
Developing tension releasing activities
✓ Commitment
Making self-care non-negotiable. (It has to be part of the daily routine!)
✓ Exercise
Keeping the instrument of self physically tuned
✓ Gratitude
Developing an attitude of humility and grace
✓ Mindfulness
Learning to be self-aware both inwardly and outwardly

First, on the Musician’s Way website, ( Gerald Klickstein had twelve habits of a healthy musician. Here are the ones I felt fit best with this post:

• Manage your workload (Balance)
• Heed warning signs (Mindfulness)
• Minimize tension (Breathing/Relaxation)
• Take charge of anxiety (Breathing/Relaxation)
• Keep fit and strong (Exercise)

On the website Psych Central ( there was an article about how medical clinicians and counselors learn to take care of themselves. Here are some of the tips from there that seems most appropriate.

• Remember that self-care is non-negotiable. (Commitment)
• Put it on your calendar — in ink! (Commitment)
• Know when to say no. (Balance)
• Identify what activities help you feel your best. (Balance)
• Take care of yourself physically. (Exercise)
• Surround yourself with great people. (Mindfulness)
• Meditation (Mindfulness)
• Check in with yourself regularly (Mindfulness)

To be a healthy musician, then, let's put these together:
  • Mindfulness:
    • Check in with yourself regularly
    • Heed warning signs
    • Meditation
  • Gratitude:
    • Surround yourself with great people
  • Balance:
    • Know when to say no
    • Manage your workload
    • Identify the activities for relaxation and renewal that can help you feel your best
  • Commitment:
    • Put your self-care activities on your calendar in ink
    • Remember they need to be non-negotiable
  • Breathing/Relaxation:
    • Minimize sources of tension
    • Take charge of anxiety
  • Exercise:
    • Take care of yourself physically
    • Keep fit and strong
As to that last one, I have been a wannabe exerciser for years. I manage to keep at it for a while, then something changes and I get lazy or off-track. (I have been a certified group trainer, as well.) Yet I have always known and experienced that when I am taking care of myself physically through exercise and better eating, I am better overall, and I am a better musician. There are many places to find ideas about exercise for musicians. I came across one set that was really helpful. The site is Take Lessons ( and they had a wonderful bit of information for musicians. They also had a number of links to helpful videos. Here are seven of their ten ideas, chosen more by my own experience to share:
  • Yoga- Stretching and movement with balance and intention is a great metaphor for musicians. We can learn it well through yoga. The website talked about “power” yoga. Not a necessity in my opinion. Yoga will do it without all the extras added.
  • Core Exercises- The core, the abs, are the supporting foundation for all good health. They provide a way for musicians to be more focused and relaxed because they are well supported. The benefits of a strong core I don’t think can be overstated! Pilates is an excellent way to build this.
  • Posture- We have all heard that having good posture does a lot- we just ignore it. Yet a good posture will support better music. It also has a lot to do with breathing. And efficient use of breath is essential to those of us who are wind musicians!
  • Arm Strength (biceps, triceps, shoulders)- Think about holding the instrument! Need I say more?
  • Cardio- A healthy heart will help get that air moving and increase endurance.
  • Neck & Shoulder stretches
  • Meditation- Yes, this can be an important part of exercise. Next week I will talk more about this in relation to T’ai Chi and Qigong.
I hope I am preaching to the choir in this post. I am a strong supporter of self-care. It is not being selfish. It is taking care of yourself as a way of helping others. It is in line with the instructions you hear on an airplane. If the oxygen mask drops down, put yours on FIRST before helping even a little child put their on. You can’t help if you aren’t safe yourself.

Take care of you. It’s the only you that you will have.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Stuff We Are Made Of

Friday, October 13, 2017

All About Grace- An Audio Version

Last Sunday I posted the text of my sermon from that morning. It was a short story about grace and Jesus. I recorded it on my iPhone and then added some stock and my own photos and posted it on You Tube. If you want to hear me tell the story, just click below.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Tuning Slide 3.16- Avoiding the Extremes

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Happiness is not a matter of intensity
but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.
-Thomas Merton

We’re thinking about musician etiquette this month. Really, it boils down to being a good musician. Remember the four things we are to focus on - in this order…

• The music.
• Other musicians
• The audience
• Ourselves.

"Etiquette" is being a good colleague who displays “musicianship”. That brings all four into play on a regular basis. Last week I looked at how our actions and behaviors in both rehearsals and performances can get in the way of all these things. If we do not practice good musical etiquette in general:

The music will suffer. It won’t have the quality we want it to have.
Our colleagues will suffer. They won’t be able to count on us to be equal members of the group.
The audience will suffer. The performances won’t have the zip and fun that they want to hear.
• In the end we will suffer. We will get fed up with what is happening, especially if we blame it on others, and give up.

Having set that as the foundation of what we are aiming at, here are some of the things that we trumpet players do to others- and to ourselves.

Item #1- and at the top of our list of trumpet player sins.
Wanting to get to that great and wonderful Double High C.

It is the goal, the aim, the end of all being in the great trumpet room in the sky! For most of us it is summed up in one word:

Maynard! (For non-trumpet players, that would be Maynard Ferguson- the trumpet screamer to beat all trumpet screamers.)

To be a great trumpet player we all think we have to play high and loud. Like Maynard. Our hero!

Which of course means that if we can’t play the way-up-in-the-stratosphere register, there is something wrong with us as trumpet players. Many of us have fought that internal self-esteem killer most of our lives. Then we work- and overwork- our embouchure to reach those rare heights and we end up playing hurt, which only makes it worse. I have a hunch that is why, in the end for many of us, our true icon of trumpet playing is Miles Davis who personified for many years the good solid sound of a trumpet- and even played with a Harmon mute! It was almost like he was saying to the world:

I can play loud; I choose not to.

One of the great solos of his was the solo on the classic cut- “So What”. It doesn’t go anywhere near the stratosphere; it has a solid, almost reserved sound. Looking at a transcription of it you might say, “What’s so hard about that?”

Until you try to play it. Most of us could spend a lifetime practicing that and still not get it as solid as Davis does.

Herb Alpert is in the same field as Davis. Davis was once quoted as saying that all he had to hear was a couple notes and he could tell it was Alpert. Which brings me to the lesson for all of us in trumpet- and musical- etiquette. It was one of the items on the Trumpet Camp reflection list. One of our goals is to

Have the same “sound” for everything I play

Davis, Alpert, Chet Baker, Lee Morgan, and any of the greats always have the same “sound”, the same quality and tone no matter what they play. It is their sound. And they don’t have to scream to make it heard. But for my money, the greatest at doing that today - and for most of the past 60+ years - is Doc Severinsen. Here is one of his best examples of not screaming yet managing the complete range of the horn. He plays in that stratosphere as if it were just your every day middle of the staff music.

Item # 2: Equipment
Trumpet players always seem to be playing around with equipment, looking for the perfect piece that will make us into the next great star. Usually it starts with the mouthpiece itself. Get two trumpet players together and they will have at least six opinions on mouthpieces, the advantages and disadvantages, why they use- or don’t use this one or that one. Not that there aren’t differences and different ones allow you to do different things. Not to mention that each of us has a slightly different physiology which may mean that certain mouthpieces work differently.

But in general my research seems to show that most people start with a “beginner” mouthpiece that usually comes with the horn. Eventually most move to the good, old, reliable Bach 3C (or equivalent) and stay with that for the rest of their lives or careers, whichever comes first. Should we look at other mouthpieces? I guess. But the thought that comes to mind is “If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”

That doesn’t mean that a change won’t work well at times. I had that happen starting about a year and a half ago. I tried one of the new Bach Commercial mouthpieces at a workshop. It was a modified “v” cup. It seemed to allow me some freedom at the upper register and an extended endurance. The problem was all they had was a “5mv” and I was nervous about moving from the “3” size. So I didn’t get it. Earlier this year I had a chance to try the “3 MV”. I gave it quite a workout. It was as good, or better than the “5 MV” I had tried earlier. I bought it.

This new mouthpiece has allowed greater dynamic and sound range, higher register, and endurance. Was it a mouthpiece version of the “placebo” effect? I don’t think so- for two reasons. When I first played it for my wife she heard the difference in tone and dynamic immediately. Then, a few months later I accidentally pulled the “3C” out of the bag without noticing. Since the rim size was the same I didn’t feel the difference- until I realized my range and dynamic was off. At first I thought it was because I had been playing too much and was just tired. Then I realized it wasn’t the new mouthpiece. I switched and all the things that felt off went away.

But that alone isn’t what did it or allowed me to do it. What does it is another from the Trumpet Workshop list:

Learning to hear

By allowing me to hear a cleaner sound with greater dynamic and range I began to know what those notes should sound like. I like the sound of the “3MV” for me. I like hearing it and how it feels on my lip. It did not solve my “problems” and perhaps it gave me some new ones. (See next item.) But it did improve my ability to hear and that will always bring about an improvement in musicianship! The equipment we use is there to help us, it won’t do it for us.

The final item of trumpet sinful activities for this post:
Item #3: Balance.

Actually it’s the lack of balance that plagues us. It’s wanting to be a screamer the first time we pick up the horn. It’s wanting to be able to sound like Miles, or Maynard, or Doc without the years of practice. It’s wanting to be able to play loud for hours on end and getting pissed when we get tired- or worse- hurt. It’s wanting the equipment to save us or take us someplace we are still unable to go. Sure, if your valves don’t work smoothly you may never be able to play some of those amazing arpeggios. But a new horn may not be the problem- your present horn may be too dirty, your valves clogged, springs not working right.

Take the time to take care of the equipment and it will probably do what you need it to do. Sure, if you move into a new level of musicianship and career building you may need to upgrade the horn. But probably not. You are the musician that produces the sound. The horn or the valves or whatever doesn’t do it for you. Learn to balance your sound and work.

From our workshop list, this brings up:

Being efficient in playing

Efficiency is balance. If you strain and push constantly, you are not in balance and something will happen to your playing. If you want everything to happen yesterday, it won’t come tomorrow. Balance is taking care of your instrument so it doesn’t get so gunked up that its sound is compromised. Ignoring the basics of say the Arban’s first couple sections will put us out of balance with the whole range of what we want to do. Again, back to the video from Doc (above) the ability to play equally across the whole range of the horn is the result of balance.

Next week I’ll talk about personal balance and self care as it is part of our musicianship. That will get us into the greater aspects of what we can learn from being a “compleat musician”.

Until then, look for the balance, don’t only push to the extremes, but build the solid foundation and middle in order to support the greater sounds and range. Be efficient in order to be effective. Finally, nothing can do it for you.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

All About Grace- A Story

I preached this morning, something I don't get to do as much any more. I was in the mood to write a short story. The scriptures pointed me to the ideal of grace. Here it is for your reading.


I have always enjoyed novels and stories. They are a way to listen, share, and learn. They can sneak in the back door with truth. Jesus told stories, but we call them "parables." They share truth even through stories of things that never happened. For many years I wrote a story every Christmas for the candlelight service. As I prepared for today a theme came up on the Internet on one of those idea seeds and I said- yep! The theme was a historical story in a woodworking shop with a scale.

As I started to write I saw this woodworking area that was part of the courtyard of an ancient house. It would be wrong to call it a “shop” as it was just a wide area on the side of the house. It was well arranged and, like the house, it had a good roof, as much for a place to sleep outside in summer as to keep out the sun and the winter rains.

Various tools of the time were scattered. We might recognize some of them- and wonder how anyone could do such fine work with such primitive tools. But have no fear, years of training, apprenticeship, and then hard work do work miracles. There was no workbench. That came much later in history. The Craftsman, and his sons, worked on the ground, bending, kneeling or sitting. Different projects at different stages of progress stood against the wall of the house or leaned against one of the poles that held up the roof. For one, the plow from their neighbor Avram had hit a stone too big to pass by. He would be repairing its gash. Door frames for the new doors for the synagogue were curing in the sun.

But what caught everyone’s attention when they stopped by was the smell of the fine cedar wood The Craftsman was using for his most important task in months. He was to build a new box for the synagogue. It was to be the place where the Torah scrolls were housed between the Sabbaths. In a couple hundred years these boxes would be known as “Arks” after the Holy of Holies at the Temple. In those days, though, the great Temple in Jerusalem was still the center of religious life and no one would even consider using that name for a mere local synagogue. Synagogues were not for worship as we know it- and as Jerusalem described it. The regular pilgrimages to the Temple provided the central rituals of sacrificial worship. Jerusalem was for true worship. Synagogues were more like schools. They were places to hear the Torah read and explained. At that time in history they were not much more than large rooms, maybe 30 feet by 30 feet. Benches sat along the walls with the local copy of the Torah- the five books of Moses- kept safely in a wooden box- brought out on the Sabbath when the community came together to hear and learn.

It wasn’t a large town. It sat on a hillside about 12 miles from the nearby Sea and surrounded by farming land. The 400 or so inhabitants were more like an extended family than a modern village. Humble, poor- and proud of their heritage, the new box for the scroll was a noteworthy addition after the old one had finally fallen apart. They had raised enough support to import this fine cedar wood from Lebanon. The Craftsman, the local woodworker, was chosen to make it instead of going to a nearby city where the care and respect wouldn’t have the same value attached to it.

The Craftsman’s two boys were most interested in that Torah chest. The expensive cedar showed that it was important- and holy. It was connected with the one God. The Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One”, was the first creed of their faith; and those mighty words were on that scroll.

Abba,” said the older son as he ran his fingers along the fine piece of cedar wood. “I know the Torah is from Moses; and Adonai, the Lord God, blessed be His Name, gave Moses the Aseret ha-D’varim.” (That’s the phrase the Torah uses to refer to what we call the Ten Commandments.)

“Yes, my son,” the father smiled. He enjoyed it when his sons showed interest in the Torah. They would grow into fine men of the faith. “As we heard from the Psalm last Sabbath, the words of ‘Adonai are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb…’ ”
“Why, then, Abba, are they called simply the ten d’varim and not the ten mitzvoth?” (In English d’vrim is translated “sayings” or “words”. Mitzvoth are “commandments.”)

“Are these ten, then, NOT mitzvoth, ten requirements like all the other 600 mitzvoth?”

The Craftsman paused a moment and walked over to the piece of wood his son was admiring and touched it gently. “You are wise, my son, to have figured that out. It is an important piece of wisdom.”

The boy beamed- as any child would when given such praise by their father.

“Does that mean they are not mitzvoth and we don’t have to obey them?” the younger boy asked. “Obeying them makes us righteous, doesn’t it, father?”

The Craftsman glanced beyond the courtyard to the hills outside the city. He was remembering one of his neighbors when he and their son were young.

“You know Miriam who lives up the hill over there,” he pointed. She and Yosef, may his memory be blessed, had a son my age. Yeshua. We spent a lot of time together. There was this one Passover when we all traveled to Jerusalem. On the way home we couldn’t find Yeshua. It turned out that he had simply been sitting in the Temple listening to the elders.” The Craftsman smiles and shakes his head remembering. “No one wanted to rebuke him for something as holy as that. All saw Yeshua’s joy at having spent that time there.”

The Craftsman’s son nodded, no doubt thinking, "Yes, Abba. Get on with it." He had heard the story many times. It was part of the folklore of their town.

“Yeshua was quiet at first as we finally headed home,” the Craftsman continued.

“About a day from home we passed by Samaria. I made some kind of childish comment about the Samaritans not being righteous people because they have a different Torah, not the real one like we do.

“Yeshua stopped and pulled me aside. ‘Oh, Baruch,’ he said, shaking his head sadly. ‘We are all part of the same people in the heart of Adonai, blessed be his name. The Torah is words. They give us a way to know what Abba Adonai wants us to do. But righteousness is not following laws. It is living and being open to the ways of the Lord God- in spirit more even than in word.’

“I was upset at what Yeshua was saying. I looked around to make sure that none of the adults heard him. ‘But how will Adonai know we are his people if we don’t follow his mitzvoth?’ I asked. ‘How can the people of God stay together if we lie to each other, steal from each other, are envious of what others have?’ ”

“Just then a young boy came running at us from the village we were passing. He was a little older than us- and was obviously a Samaritan- our people didn’t live near there. We could hear him crying for help. One of his sheep had strayed and was caught in a thicket. ‘Help me,’ he kept yelling. ‘My family needs that lamb.’ Yeshua started toward the boy. I called to him, urging him to stay away. ‘He is unclean, Yeshua. Our parents will be angry. We can’t go near him.’

“Yeshua ignored me. I was afraid- I didn’t want to become unclean. I stood there and watched as Yeshua went with the boy toward a bunch of branches. Together they worked and got the lamb out of the thicket. It was a little ragged, but it survived its ordeal.

“All I did was stand there,” said the Craftsman. “I stood and was afraid of Adonai because Yeshua had just broken a command. How would he be punished?” Baruch stopped talking and rubbed his hand gently across the cedar wood. He turned to see both his sons looking puzzled. They had never heard this part of the story before.

“What happened, Abba? Did Yeshua get punished?”

Baruch smiled. “No, my sons. We never told anyone. As I watched him that day I knew Yeshua was right- the joy on the Samaritan boy’s face was enough to convince me. Yeshua never questioned what he should do. He just went and did it., I learned that day that to be righteous is not in words or reciting mitzvoth. To be a righteous one is to do what is right to help another.”

“But Abba, some say Yeshua is not a righteous one. They say he leads people away from the Torah with wrong teachings. Remember last year when people chased him from town?”

The Craftsman did remember that painful Sabbath. “I don’t know about those things, my son, though I, too have heard people say that. Many do not like to have their beliefs tested or challenged. Especially about things like the Torah. I learned much from Yeshua when we were growing up. He was a good friend and showed great compassion. I even learned to love the words of the Torah even more because of him. He showed me that they are alive.

His sons gave another confused look.

“Someday you will understand what that means,” the Craftsman smiled. “These words are priceless. When we say them out loud how many shekels could you pay to get them?”

“You can’t weigh them," the one son responded. "They are just, well, words”

“Correct. They are air and my scale over there couldn’t ever weigh them. There’s nothing there. But they are alive and real when we as the people of Adonai live them. To make them into dead laws kills them. They are far more important than that. They won’t get us into heaven, only the Holy One, blessed be his name, can do that. But he gave Moses these words so we can find the way.”

The Craftsman rubbed his hand across the cedar and smiled then held it out to the boys. “Smell this, my sons. One day soon this will be the fine smell of our Torah, absorbed into it and always there to smell. Then, when you smell cedar it will remind you to breathe in the wonder of these holy words.”

“I smell fresh bread. When’s lunch, Abba,” the younger boy piped in. “I’m tired and hot.”

The Craftsman laughed as he put his arms around the boys. “That, too, is a holy smell from the house. Let’s eat!”

[Note: I recorded the sermon on audio. I may put it together as a You Tube presentation. Will post it if I do.] 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Sometimes It's NOT Enough

Saw a note on FB that simply said that in these types of situations

Your Prayers are not enough.
It was referring, of course, to the Standard Response (TM) to mass shootings and other things that cause people incredible distress.
I am praying for you.
Now, not to be one who denigrates prayer since I believe it is an important spiritual action we all need, I understand what the first statement means.
  • Prayers are not enough
  • If that is all you plan to do!
Too often we all use that as a way to cope with our sense of powerlessness in the face of overwhelming problems, issues, disasters, and the like. We feel so damn powerless- and we don't like it! So we pray.

In and of itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it may be the best thing we can do first.

But what then?

Sure, there are times when there is nothing else to do. But I have the feeling that we often stop right there with the prayer and move on. We have done our "duty" and prayed.

I feel better about myself. I am a good person. I have turned to God. I no longer feel powerless- or guilty for not being in the midst of all that. I go about my business.

Again, in and of itself, that is okay.

But what else can I do?

There may be more than I think.

But if I stop at the praying, I may never know what it is the God I am praying to WANTS me to do.

The Twelve-Step programs are clear there is more to prayer than praying. Step 11:
  • Sought through prayer and meditation 
    • to improve our conscious contact with God, 
    • praying only for 
      • the knowledge of God's will for us and 
      • the power to carry it out.
 Prayer is often NOT all there is for me to do.

Thank God!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Tuning Slide 3.15- Etiquette for Real Musicians

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

You should play with real musicians;
the best music comes from real people
interacting with each other.
-John Fogerty

I thought about calling this month’s topic How to Be a Real Trumpet Player. We all know that trumpet players have certain reputations that we tend to dislike but perpetuate because, well, we are trumpet players. I have a hunch, though, that we don’t have a lock on those reputations. They are human traits. So, if we learn a better way to do it, we may also end up being better people. Just a thought.

In time honored tradition then, I will call this month’s topic:
Being the Compleat Musician.

You will never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
-Will Rogers

I am going to start somewhere other than where we might expect. Let me call this week's post: Etiquette. In other words, it's about how we behave when we interact with other musicians in rehearsal, on stage, or just about anywhere. As I looked at the list of items in the summary from this year’s workshop, I found these six could apply to this topic:

◆ First impressions mean a lot
◆ Never put out someone else’s light to make your light shine brighter
◆ Just have fun! It will happen faster
◆ Hear it, study it, make it become natural
◆ Be efficient
◆ Be on time

So I Googled “musician etiquette” and came up with two interesting websites. The first was from an oboe player and was titled Oboe Insight ( The second was on the website of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra and their page on rehearsal etiquette ( All of the thoughts and insights in italics come from these two websites. My thoughts are added in normal type.

Let me begin with one of the sayings from Trumpet Workshop that will get us started on etiquette:
• If you are on time- you’re late.

◆ Be on time

That gets us off on the right foot according to those in the know:
• Arrive early—at least 15 minutes early, or with enough time to both get your instrument out and warm up….If you are late (it happens), try to avoid taking your seat while the musicians are playing; if you can, wait for an appropriate break in the action to slip in.

Okay, we all can be late at one time or another. We get stuck in traffic, at work, or just plain lost track of time. But there are those who think when the schedule says the rehearsal starts at 1:00, that's the time you should get there. Again, it doesn’t always work out, but we need to do our best. For those of us who are not paid musicians- we do have jobs that can get in the way. We need to figure out how to work through these things so the other musicians are not being put out.

• Come prepared. This means two things:
⁃ Come having thoroughly practiced your music. Nothing is more frustrating to conductors than to waste time rehearsing passages that the orchestra members didn’t practice ahead of time.
⁃ Before you head to rehearsal, double check that you have your music, instrument, and any necessary accessories. Be sure to note whether or not you need to bring your own stand to rehearsal. You might consider keeping a wire stand in your car (like a spare tire) just in case!

• Bring a pencil. This one gets its own paragraph. Attending rehearsal without a pencil is like sitting through a university lecture without a taking notes. Even if you think you’ll be able to remember every direction the conductor gives, every dynamic change, every cut, and every ritardando, really, you probably won’t. Keep a couple pencils in your instrument case so they’re always on hand.

Practice, have everything you need, bring a pencil. Pretty much sums up what you do before you leave home for the rehearsal. I would also add have your music handy and ready to play. Again, circumstances happen, but not on a every-rehearsal-basis. The therapist in me wants to call that "passive-aggressive" behavior. It doesn't feel good to those around us when we do it.

• TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Enough said.
That includes looking at text messages or the latest football scores on your phone in a concert. I have seen it happen! IN A CONCERT, when a musician pulled out their phone when it buzzed with a text. I want to make an exception for rehearsals when the conductor is working with another section, but that may be because I regularly do that myself. Hmmmm. Have to think more about that one.

Several issues on being polite came up, although they weren’t listed that way. They were called “rude.”

• If you are sitting second, never play the principal’s solos while warming up! It’s just not done. Even at the rehearsals. Don’t play other instruments’ solos either. Rude.
• Leave your arrogance at home. Members of the orchestra are all equal; everyone is contributing. Don’t gloat if you have a solo, and don’t bust out personal solo concertos and performances pieces just to show off. Everyone will be more annoyed than impressed.

◆ First impressions mean a lot

I found this on Pinterest- not so comic relief?
Be part of the group, not above it. All members of the group are equal (We are all "friggin' gods!) is one of those simple profound statements that we easily forget. Trumpet players have the reputation of being the arrogant ones and sadly it is deserved sometimes. From my observations we do tend to talk, joke, interact, and react more than many other band members. (Guilty as charged!) Rude? Yep. I keep working on it and I am getting better. It continues in the next two items as well.
• When the concertmaster tunes the orchestra, stop playing and be quiet. (Unless, of course, you’re playing first — then tune the orchestra!)
Being quiet is mentioned twice- and it says it all…
• Be quiet. (I can’t tell you how many times I hear orchestra members yakking … sometimes even during performances!)

The next three are things that many of us do in one way or another. These usually happen in rehearsals more so than performances. They are ways that we sometimes use to learn how our parts fit in the bigger picture. Yet, these etiquette concerns do make sense:
• Don’t conduct from your seat. That’s not your job!

Many times I do that in order to keep my own spot in the music, note where in the count we are, etc. In concert or performance I try to keep it to a minimum and subtle. But even then I realize that it can be distracting.

• Don’t count out loud … and I would even suggest don’t mouth the numbers
• Don’t tap your feet. The conductor is there to keep you in rhythm, and the tapping creates unnecessary noise. Please tap toes. I’ve attended concerts where a number of feet are tapping away — and they aren’t even in unison! Go figure!

We forget- or never paid attention to how we are viewed from the audience. If by the time we get to the performance we still have to be counting aloud, we have probably missed a rehearsal or two. I watched a performance on You Tube once and noticed the same thing about how the musicians were not tapping their feet in unison. As I watched I couldn’t figure out what timing some of them were tapping to- it wasn’t the time signature or a specific rhythm of the music. This is when I realized how distracting it would be for the audience to watch this. I remember my college band director forbidding!! us to tap our feet or toes so it could be seen. Tapping toes inside the shoe is the best alternative. I still fail regularly.

Another rudeness that is difficult to keep from doing in one way or another:
• DON’T ever look over at someone after he or she has made a mistake! That is so incredibly rude it’s inexcusable. We feel bad enough when we make mistakes. We don’t need to know you know! Don’t grimace, laugh, shake your head, or anything else either. In other words: DON’T REACT!

This “Don’t React!” advice is not just when someone else makes a mistake. It includes when you make a mistake. After a church performance one morning years ago one of the congregation came up to me and mentioned the mistake I made- not because they heard it, they didn't, but they saw my face when I made it. In other words, no matter who makes the mistake in performance (or rehearsal when it isn’t you): Don’t react!

Which flows into the next one that needs no explanation.
• If you don’t say anything negative about a colleague you will never be caught saying anything negative about a colleague. Think about it. Musicians are notorious gossipers .

◆ Never put out someone else’s light to make your light shine brighter

A lot of what I have talked about here on the Tuning Slide fits into the last three etiquette concerns.

• Having a good attitude can get you through a lot of rough times.
• Remember that while we strive to be “perfect” our true goal should be to make great music. No one is going to shoot you if you make a mistake! (Aside from maybe being shot with “anger daggers” from the conductor!)

Remember why you play music in the first place. That is the attitude piece.

Remember why you practice music- so you can get closer and closer to the goal of making great music. Take that into the rehearsal and on stage for the performance. One of my joys is to be sitting in the group when a great passage is coming from another section and I’m not playing. The chills up the spine, the joy of music becomes real. That’s why I practice and play and why I am still striving at age 69 to improve.

◆ Hear it, study it, make it become natural
◆ Be efficient

• Lastly, enjoy the music! Don’t take rehearsal so seriously that you lose your connection with the piece or with your instrument. Playing music in an ensemble is a real treat; don’t forget that you’re taking part in a meaningful cultural tradition that will edify your audience.
◆ Just have fun! It will happen faster

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Unveiled in Eden

It started with this quote from online friend, Bob Holmes:

Do you worship God under
the veil of your soul,
or do you worship unveiled,
spirit to Spirit,
center to center?

I was hit up the side of the spiritual head by it. What a wondrous insight. What a scary challenge.

I thought of Adam and Eve cowering in fear as they knew they were unveiled in Eden.

I thought of those moments of my own fear when I stood in the presence of my Lord and God and realized how poor and powerless I am by myself. Unveiled in my own garden of good and evil.

I could only describe it as being spirit naked.
I can no longer hide behind
my soul or
my humanness or
my sinfulness or
my imperfection.

All those melt away in the cleansing light of
God's Spirit meeting my spirit.

I am
Meeting God,
no longer veiled by my soul, but
spirit to Spirit.

Open and free

Running on empty, seeking, yet
nowhere to run
averting my eyes,
like a child on Christmas.

Open and vulnerable
in need of

Monday, October 02, 2017

Never the Right Time

Again, we are told that this is not a time to be political. We should honor the dead by not getting into the arguments.

We are told that guns don't kill people; people do. [But certain guns allow more people to be murdered by killers like this one.]

We will be told that we need to make sure there are enough guns on the ground to protect us when guns are around. [There were plenty of guns on the ground in Las Vegas last night.]

We will be pushed and shoved and brow-beat by Second Amendment fanatics who will insist that guns are our only answer. That's what the Founding Fathers wanted. [That is a very risky idea considering how different the world was- and is.]

Therefore nothing will be done.

Oh, wait a minute, we can pray.

Well I for one will pray.

  • I will pray for the victims and their families.
  • I will pray for the brave men and women who helped in a moment of chaos and crisis.
  • I will pray for the police and investigators who will be sorting through this mess.
  • I will pray that our nation, supposedly "under God" will see the error of its ways in defending weapons of mass killing. This is following Christ?
  • I will pray that the NRA lose its iron-grip on the nation's lawmakers.
  • I will pray that Congress will see the incredible insanity of allowing silencers as legal on these kind of weapons. The carnage last night would have been even more horrific if the killer had used silencers.
  • I will pray that the Second Amendment fanatics will understand the importance of people's lives and see the EQUAL importance of other parts of the Constitution that preserve rights to free speech, to vote, a free press, freedom of religion.
 We do not need to ban all guns. I accept the right to "bear arms." Banning all guns isn't the answer. We do need to be more realistic about the constant pressure toward complete deregulation of all kinds of guns. We do need to understand that rampant gun ownership will not make us safer and may even make us more susceptible to mass acts of violence. We do need have a real(!) dialogue without name calling and bullying.

So yes, I will pray and pray fervently for all these things.
- and I invite anyone reading this who is fed up with the carnage that is the gun insanity of the United States to join me in those prayers.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (11) - In a Class All Their Own!

For the past ten weeks I have been posting on hymns that move me, great hymns of the church, Gospel songs and hymns, and specifically Moravian hymns. I posted them in alphabetical order so that I didn't have to choose "the best" ones. One of the reasons I did this was to introduce people to some of the hymns of my rich Moravian tradition. Christianity Today/Christian History has an online article about us and the music. There is also a good Wikipedia article on Moravian Church Music.

Here are some of what they have to say about its power and insight:
  • They are based upon biblical or hymn texts, often the Daily Text assigned for the day of the first presentation of the work.
  • The voice parts tend to move all together so that the words can be understood rather than any imitative writing such as Bach would do. In this way the Moravians resemble Handel more than Bach.
  • They often have elaborate instrumental introductions and interludes, but the instrumental parts provide support when the voices are singing rather than drawing attention away from the text.
  • Thus they are straightforward, well-crafted works like other Moravian arts and crafts.
There were two Moravian hymns that were not included in the previous list, two hymns that we in the American Moravian Church consider our "national anthems!" They are truly in a class all their own. Let me introduce you to them.

Moravian Hymns- The Anthems!

    Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice- Henrietta Louise van Hayn (1776)

    According to, Henrietta Louise van Hayn (1724-1782) "was a gifted hymnwriter. A fervent love to Christ pervades her productions; and they are remarkably free from the unpleasant sentimentalism and that dwelling on the physical details of our Lord's Passion which mars so many of the Moravian hymns of that period." The hymn, of which this is the traditional and most commonly used English translation, was a children's hymn. I am told that at least some of our German Brethren find it interesting that we Americans have such a fondness to a children's hymn. I think it is because of this translation which moved from the children's hymn to a more adult wording. It captures the simplicity and wonder of following Jesus. As we become like little children in awe and joy, the better we can follow Him.

    Jesus makes my heart rejoice,
    I’m his sheep, and know his voice;
    he’s a Shepherd, kind and gracious,
    And his pastures are delicious;
    constant love to me he shows,
    yea, my very name he knows.

    Trusting his mild staff always,
    I go in and out in peace;
    he will feed me with treasure
    of his grace in richest measure;
    when athirst to him I cry,
    Living water he’ll supply.

    Some like to refer to this as "the leaping song." Somewhere along the line at church camps and retreats, and I may have even been among the guilty parties, we would literally "leap" at the end of the last verse's first line. Even in church many of us will rise onto our toes in a subtle leap. Being a Christian should have a sense of joy. It's quite childlike.

    Should not I for gladness leap,
    led by Jesus as his sheep?
    For when these blessed days are over
    to the arms of my dear Savior
    I shall be conveyed to rest.
    Amen, yea, my lot is blessed.

    Sing Hallelujah Praise the Lord- John Swertner (1789)

    The hymnwriter, John Swertner (1746-1813) was a Moravian minister born in Holland and served various places in England and Ireland. He was the editor for the 1789 British Moravian hymnal, perhaps where this song was first published.

    The composer of the song's tune, John Christian Bechler (1784-1857 was educated at the Moravian College and Theological Seminary in Germany, came to the United States in 1806. When the American Moravian Theological Seminary was founded, he was appointed one of its first professors. He had charge of various churches in Pennsylvania and on Staten Island and was consecrated a Bishop at Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1835. He was a gifted musician and wrote many varied pieces while in the United States.

    The hymn itself is, for us, priceless. It is the song that ends the liturgy used at the regular worship on Easter (as differentiated from the Easter Dawn service.) It is a moving, soaring hymn. It should not drag, no, in my opinion, should it ever be played too fast. A majestic allegro is how I personally would describe it. Until the last two lines of the song. As the directions in the Moravian Book of Worship indicates, it should be "broadened to a hold on the word 'slain' and continuing to a climax on 'Amen'."

    Sing hallelujah, praise the Lord!
    Sing with a cheerful voice;
    exalt our God with one accord,
    and in His Name rejoice.
    Ne’er cease to sing, O ransomed host,
    praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
    until in realms of endless light
    your praises shall unite.

    There we to all eternity
    shall join th'angelic lays
    and sing in perfect harmony
    to God our Savior’s praise;
    He has redeemed us by His blood,
    and made us kings and priests to God;
    for us, for us, the Lamb was slain!
    Praise ye the Lord! Amen.

    So this eleven-part series comes to an end. Thirty-two hymns and songs that have moved me- and continue to feed my spiritual life. Just putting this series together was a weekly spiritual experience. I hope it has been for you.

    I will do this again from Thanksgiving through Epiphany with hymns of the seasons.

    Saturday, September 30, 2017

    What I Am Thinking

    As many of you who know me already are aware, I am a flag-waving, liberal-radical patriot who loves this country and what we have stood for over these 240+ years. I take off my hat and stand for the National Anthem and Stars and Stripes Forever sends chills up my spine. I follow the sentiment of the one-time Watertown, WI, Republican and Civil War veteran, Carl Schurz in
    “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”
    (Yes, this is about to be a post on the NFL protests and tempest in a teapot.)

    My first reaction can be stated simply, but not without a little length:
    • No one protests or threatens to turn off the NFL when it is about
      • Domestic abusers and batterers getting a simple slap on the wrist;
      • An NFL superstar bumping and pushing an officer with his car in the Twin Cities;
      • A history of concussions and intentional "illegal" hits and tackles;
    This doesn't even take into account the exorbitant ticket costs and millionaire players being paid by billionaire owners. That is simply American business practices.

    But the past week or so the whole issue of players protesting
    • systematic racism
    has exploded into a huge controversy threatening
    • boycotts, 
    • lower ticket sales, 
    • attacks on the right of free speech, 
    • threats of getting fired in NASCAR, and 
    • the President of the United States turning it into a firestorm by calling the protestors "sons of bitches" when he couldn't say anything about Nazi organizers but that they had some "good people."
    One would think that the very foundation of our nation is being attacked.

    And it is, but not by the protestors.

    Suddenly it is claimed the protests are disgraceful behavior, disrespecting veterans, contempt for the flag, and an insult to the National Anthem. As if waving the confederate battle flag isn't disrespecting my great-uncle who died at the Battle of the Wilderness as a Union (United States) soldier., that's heritage.

    Meanwhile the results of three hurricanes are causing suffering and illness to millions in three different parts of the USA and our people.

    Meanwhile most of us white Americans have great difficulty seeing how our privilege, based on our color, doesn't allow for the growth opportunities for many who are not.

    Meanwhile we are closing our borders and our minds to the freedom of religion, calling hateful actions by Nazis "free speech", and Colin Kaepernick's and the NFL's peaceful protests anti-American.
    • How have we managed to go so far downhill away from our values and promises? 
    • How have we managed to allow ourselves to be sold a bill of goods that being American is to be white and European only? 
    • How have we permitted attacks on racism to become attacks on the country?
    • How have many who call themselves Christian been lulled into thinking that hatred and prejudice and discrimination are answers to that question, "What would Jesus do?"
     I keep waiting to wake up and find it is all a nightmare or some dystopian vision of an American that could be, but isn't. I keep praying that it is not too late.

    I stand for the Anthem. But as I do so I am standing for what the Anthem and the flag are all about: Freedom!

    Friday, September 29, 2017

    Easy to Find

    Thursday, September 28, 2017

    Just as Great a Generation

    For any one of a number of reasons I have not been watching the Ken Burns/PBS series on Vietnam. I may very well catch it later in bits and pieces, but its very presence on TV has got me to thinking (again!) about that divisive and nation-changing time. So much of what appears to divide us today has its roots in that era.

    I am not a veteran of that, or any, war. I did not serve in the Armed Forces. I was a conscientious objector and did my alternative service from 1970 1972. I was, and still am, a pacifist. I am the son of a WW II veteran who served as a non-combatant- medic- with the 10th Armored Division at, among other battles, the Battle of the Bulge. I still get chills when I play- or hear- the Star Spangled Banner. I remove my hat when the flag passes. I am patriotic and proud to be an American.

    And, no, this is NOT another post about the NFL and such protests. This is about Vietnam and Vietnam-era vets who have never received the care and support they deserve for what they did. They didn't get it in Vietnam from the "powers-that-be", from any of the Presidents they served for, and many have consistently mis-understood them and the war they fought in.

    A number of years ago Tom Brokaw gave the World War 2 military members the title of "The Greatest Generation." They were remarkable in what they did. I have done considerable study on my Dad's service and see what  those incredible men and women did in, I believe, literally saving western civilization, democracy, and life as we know it.

    But it is time to see that the Vietnam Era Veterans are just as great a generation.

    The ones I knew then and have come to know since were caught in the middle of some of the greatest difficulties an armed forces can endure- split leadership, poor leadership, poor assumptions, poor political understanding, corrupt governments they were sent to give support to, then undermined, again, by their own military and political leaders lack of willingness to admit an error. Robert McNamara finally admitted in the documentary Fog of War in 2003 that the war was an error. Sorry, sir, that was 40 years too late for the men and women whose names are on that wall in Washington, D.C.

    Many of them knew it at that time. They were the ones on the ground seeing the insanity and facing an enemy that was often invisible and had far greater numbers than the Pentagon was willing to accept as reality. Too many leaders were still living in the warm glow of World War 2 while ignoring important lessons from the Korean War. We destroyed North Korea at that time, what some wanted us to do with North Vietnam, and still were unable to bring the war to a peaceful conclusion. We never saw it coming in Vietnam.

    But, again, the troops on the ground knew it. They fought, and fought hard, even with that knowledge. Many knew it to be a losing battle with atrocities and the "fog of war" keeping things even worse than we saw on TV. They fought as hard as the World War 2 vets in a completely different type of war. They were brave and scared to death at the same time. As any soldier in any war would be. Many came home wounded in soul and took many years to heal. Some never have.

    I hope they are being recognized today. They never received the "Welcome home!" they deserved. We should have embraced them and listened to their stories without judging or calling them names. Many of them joined the protests against the war; many did not. All were heroes.

    Maybe the current Ken Burns series will cast some new light on that war and those who served. Maybe we can set aside our preconceptions and leftover animosities to come together and say "Thank you!" to them for what they did. Maybe we can have a dialogue about service and patriotism and leadership that we have long ignored having.

    Maybe we can turn a corner in the political divisiveness and insanity that we have been experiencing and finally move on before the Vietnam-era generation is gone, and with them lessons we have yet to learn.

    Wednesday, September 27, 2017

    The Tuning Slide: 3.14- The Inner Game- Why It Works

    Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
    Practice like you've never won;
    Perform like you've never lost.
    -various sources

    When Tim Gallwey started the “Inner Game” teachings and Barry Green applied them to music, we didn’t know a lot about the brain. People like Gallwey went a lot on intuition and personal experience. As a tennis player himself and later a practitioner of meditation, he developed the principles based on seeing results from his ideas.

    In those years neuroscience was often done blind since it was hard to watch the brain at work. They really had no idea how the brain functioned. As science progressed with all kinds of ways of scanning the brain a revolution began. It should come as no surprise that many of the old, traditional ideas of how the brain works were disproved. But it also should come as no surprise that many ideas that people like Tim Gallwey developed were right on target, though in slightly different ways. Scientists began to see that the brain was far more complex than they had even imagined. They learned how the two hemispheres of the brain had more to do with each other than had been thought. And it is in that interplay between the two hemispheres that the secrets of the Inner Game and mindfulness meditation were beginning to be unlocked.

    The results of all this research and technological advancements is far more than I can even begin to understand in depth, let alone share in this post. But in short, much of it has given some scientific, research-based support for what Gallwey and Green have worked on with the Inner Game.

    For me, one of them is how balancing Self 1 and Self 2 can have such an impact. Let’s sum it up as I interpret it:
    • Self 1 is the logical, task-oriented, perfectionist who can be easily frustrated when things aren’t going right.
    • Self 1 kicks your butt when you make a mistake.
    • Self 1 is the one who tells me I am too old to become the type of trumpet player I have always wanted to be.
    • Self 1 will hook on to all kinds of things to keep me from succeeding in order to prove my incompetence.
    It sounds like Self 1 is out to sabotage me, but it isn’t. Self 1 has some real advantages. Self 1 is the one who can figure out problems utilizing information. Self 1 is the one who will tell me why, for example, Arban’s basic exercises are so important to maintaining my skill. Self 1 will then tell me, time to push yourself, Barry. Try something a little more difficult. Then, as soon as I try, and don’t do it perfectly, Self 1 can say, “Well, I guess we shouldn’t have done that.”
    • Meanwhile Self 2 is standing in the background saying, “Hey, here I am. Yes, I can do that. Give me a chance.”
    • Why? Because Self 2 had been doing just that for years. Self 2 has taken the ideas and work and pushing of Self 1 and turned them into my ability to move from simple to more complex music. The simpler stuff has become “natural” and Self 1 just lets Self 2 go ahead with it.
    • Self 1 knows when I make a mistake. Self 2 says, “Yep. Let me correct it.”
    There are many ways of describing this whole process. One of them we have often used is “Muscle Memory.” If I keep practicing that particularly difficult lick, it will become natural and I will intuitively remember it when I get to it. What neuroscience has discovered is that this “muscle memory” is, in reality, physical, in the brain- and real. As we develop our skills at the more complex tasks, the brain makes adjustments, shortcuts, to do them. The brain actually uses fewer neurons and less of our brain to do these complex tasks, leaving the brain more available for the things we haven’t learned yet.

    In other words, our brains become more efficient at processing what we already know how to do, no matter how complicated. The brain has physically changed to do them. This is known as brain “plasticity”. The brain has the amazing ability to be continually changing throughout life, reorganizing itself, finding or making new pathways that are more efficient.

    How do we utilize that efficiency more effectively? In how we practice. Deliberate practice, focus, awareness, mindfulness, listening, planning, openness to change, letting go. This will come up again and again as we think about and work toward greater skill. Deliberate practice says that the best way is not just to pick up the horn and play any old thing. It won’t get us to new levels of skill without being challenged.

    In the last few weeks I have noticed a sloppiness setting in to some of my practice routine, especially with working on Clarke #1. I wasn’t hitting the notes as cleanly as I had been. My fingering dexterity had become uncertain. I was even missing the very basic chromatic scale we all come to know intuitively. So I changed my focus to be a little more deliberate. I decided to really listen to what I was doing. I slowed down the tempo of the exercise, paying attention to what I was doing.

    Self 1 was in logical heaven. Not only was I working in ways that made the logical Self happy, Self 1 was loving it that I wasn’t doing as well as I had. “See. You are too old for this.” But Self 2 came to my rescue. Self 2 reminded me that I can do this. In fact, Self 2 was actually enjoying the fun of finding musicality in something as basic as chromatic scales.

    Things are improving.

    I went back and looked at the list of items from this year’s trumpet workshop and noticed three in particular, other than the ones on the Inner Game, that apply here.

    • Hear it, study it, make it become natural
    That’s really what we are about in all this. Using the brain’s plasticity to increase efficiency by making new circuits and pathways for action.

    • If you panic you will die
    Panic is Self 1 taking over and pulling the emergency brakes, bringing everything to a complete stop. It actually sabotages its own skills of investigation. Self 1 is basically lazy and doesn’t do well at thinking in new ways. It has to be pushed. Sometimes you have to tell it to stop so it can actually work with Self 2 at finding new ways.

    • Just have fun! It will happen faster.
    Let Self 2 have fun- and things will usually happen more effectively and in ways you may never have dreamed.

    This is not just about music. All this applies to many other aspects of our lives. Remember that the Inner Game started out as a coaching method for tennis and has been turned into coaching for golf and business success as well. Learning how to utilize these skills with music will give you a step ahead in applying the same skills to whatever occupation or vocation or even hobby you pursue.

    One of my “day jobs” for the past 25 years has been as an addictions counselor. In the disease of addiction the brain has been hijacked and its natural wiring has been short-circuited. Without brain plasticity my job would have been hopeless, recovery would have been impossible. Yet these advances in neuroscience have given me and the addiction treatment field new and exciting tools.

    Much to my initial surprise the skills and tasks developed by Gallwey and Green in the Inner Game are at the heart of these tools. They also work in my career, my daily life, my relationships. We are all “pliable” in emotion, in attitude, and skill. We can build new wiring, shorten brain pathways for certain activities and therefore make them more efficient, use awareness and mindfulness to improve who we are and make life even more fun.

    It’s an Inner Game and it’s worth playing.

    Tuesday, September 26, 2017

    The Power of Stories

    Just finished reading an amazing trilogy of speculative fiction and fantasy that ranks in the top 5 along with Lord of the Rings. The Broken Earth Series by N. K. Jemisin is powerful, relevant, well-written and can change your perspective. (I will write a separate post on the series at a later date. One of the quotes I found compelling is about one who wants to be a "lorist", the caste that captures history and events in order to pass them down to the future. Here is what was said about them:

    Lorists were warriors, storytellers, nobility. They told their truths in books and song and through their art… Not all fighters use knives, after all. [Emphasis in original.]
    N. K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky
    The last phrase sums up the work of writers. Whether they write fiction or non-fiction, essays or stories, poetry or prose, they are essential to making sure people learn and are informed. It is no wonder that dictatorial regimes seek to control the press and the writing of stories.

    Nor is it a surprise that in our present political turmoil the charge of "fake news" is the new one aimed at political opponents, or that fake stories make headlines as if they are true. We have been in a period of attacks on the sacred American institution of a free press. That can be but a first phase of an attack on writers and storytellers with who the powers that be disagree. Censorship is a "four-letter word" in the United States so it will be far more subtle than that.

    We must keep our eyes and ears open; we must maintain that freedom of storytelling, the telling of stories that contain the values and truth of who we are. These people with pens, pencils and paper- or computers and tablets- are essential. They are on the front lines of freedom at home.

    Not all fighters use knives, after all.

    Monday, September 25, 2017

    Why I Stand

    Personally, I always stand for the National Anthem. It is in honor of men and women, like my Dad. He served to stop a white supremacist ideology. He served, though he was almost too old to go overseas in 1944 (age 39). He served as a non-combatant medic to use his training for the greater good.

    He served to help protect our freedom to kneel during the National Anthem without fear of reprisal.

    He served because our freedoms were- and are- essential to our nation!

    Sunday, September 24, 2017

    Hymns That Move Me (Week 10)

    This is the tenth in my series looking at thirty amazing hymns and songs of the Christian faith. I made three lists, one of my top 10 from the Moravian Church's tradition, one of my top 10 of the great classic hymns, and a top 10 of more "Gospel-type" hymns and songs. I am doing it alphabetically to be fair to all the songs.

    When choosing videos to accompany the hymns I try to choose ones that best capture the spirit of the song as it has been important to me. I try to stick to the traditional and best known tunes in the case where alternate tunes might be used.
    Moravian Hymns
    O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing- Charles Wesley (1739)

    I know this is not a "Moravian" hymn, as such. The Wesley brothers were, of course the founders of the Methodist Church in England. But I like to think that if it hadn't been for the Moravians the Methodists might never come into being. Since I am a Moravian, I have two stories since we have a difficult time discussing theological subjects without a story.

    First, with excerpts from an article from Christianity Today's web site on "The Moravians and John Wesley", a couple events leading to his conversion at Aldersgate in 1738.:
    On Sunday, January 25, 1736, John Wesley is on board a ship bound for America and observes the Moravians in the midst of life-threatening storms. He writes in his journal,
    “I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behaviour. Of their humility they had given a continual proof, by performing those servile offices for the other passengers, which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired, and would receive no pay…”
    He goes on:
    "In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, 'Was you not afraid?' He answered, 'I thank God, no.' I asked, 'But were not your women and children afraid?' He replied, mildly, 'No; our women and children are not afraid to die.'"
    Second, as a follow up to this encounter, the Wesley's sought out the Moravians when they returned to England. A little more than two years later, prior to his conversion and in the midst of one of his own crises of faith he went to see his brother at Oxford. Moravian Peter Boehler was with him. Again from Wesley's journal:
    Immediately it struck into my mind, “Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?” I asked Boehler, whether he thought I should leave it off or not.

    He answered “By no means.” I asked, “But what can I preach?”

    He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
    Not long after that the Wesleys had their conversions and the Methodist Church was born. A year later, in 1739 for the first anniversary of his conversion, Charles Wesley, the great hymn writer put together a long hymn (18 verses!) to celebrate. Several of the verses of that hymn became this amazing hymn. Wesley took the title phrase of this text from that same Peter Boehler who said to Wesley, "If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ with them all."

    So, while it isn't a Moravian hymn, it certainly captures who the Moravians were- and are. As a singing people, the idea of using a thousand tongues to sing praise God would not have been out of place.

    O for a thousand tongues to sing
    my great Redeemer's praise,
    the glories of my God and King,
    the triumphs of his grace!

    My gracious Master and my God,
    assist me to proclaim,
    to spread thro' all the earth abroad
    the honors of your name.

    Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
    that bids our sorrows cease,
    'tis music in the sinner's ears,
    'tis life and health and peace.

    He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
    he sets the prisoner free;
    his blood can make the foulest clean;
    his blood availed for me.

    The final benediction and doxology verse sums it up.

    To God all glory, praise, and love
    be now and ever given
    by saints below and saints above,
    the Church in earth and heaven.

    Great Hymns of the Church
    When I Survey the Wondrous Cross- Isaac Watts (1707)

    Again in England, this time in the early part of the 18th Century, the greatest single English hymn writer, Isaac Watts, revolutionized worship forever. Wikipedia, referencing scholars of hymnody says:
    Watts led [English hymnody into new areas] by including new poetry for "original songs of Christian experience" to be used in worship. The older tradition was based on the poetry of the Bible, notably the Psalms.... Watts was not the first Protestant to promote the singing of hymns; however, his prolific hymn writing helped usher in a new era of English worship as many other poets followed in his path. -Link
    It is hard to say which of Watts's hymns may be the greatest. This one would certainly be at the top for many of us. It is the summation of the Christian message in timeless poetry. What else can I say?

    When I survey the wondrous cross
    on which the Prince of glory died,
    my richest gain I count but loss,
    and pour contempt on all my pride.

    Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
    save in the death of Christ, my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them through his blood.

    See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
    sorrow and love flow mingled down.
    Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
    or thorns compose so rich a crown?

    As I have noted before, closing verses often contain some of the most powerful words of the whole hymn. This one is no different. I can never sing it without being humbled by how profound it is with an amazing simplicity of thought and word.

    Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    that were a present far too small.
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    demands my soul, my life, my all.

    Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
    Will the Circle Be Unbroken- Original by Ada Habershon (1907)

    Ada Ruth Habershon (1861-1918) was an English Christian hymnist, who was in the circle of several great preachers of her era including Charles Spurgeon and Dwight L. Moody. She was asked at one point to write some hymns for a preaching series being held in England, eventually sending the preacher over 200 songs. This one has entered popular and spiritual culture and become a classic.

    Her original song's chorus has been adapted and brought into a couple of songs including the famous Carter Family song, "Daddy Sang Bass." Wikipedia also reports:
    A reworked version of the song, intended as a funeral hymn, was written by A. P. Carter and released in 1935 by the Carter Family. The Carter version, titled "Can the Circle be Unbroken", uses the same music and the same verse structure but with different verse lyrics and a modified chorus. That version has often been recorded as "Will the Circle be Unbroken", including the 1972 performance by Mother Maybelle Carter and ensemble on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album of the same title. -Link
    The song is most often covered in country, bluegrass, and Gospel music, but you can find versions in almost any popular music genre. (I love to play it in jazz-style trumpet!) In 1998, the popular Carter Family version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

    As great as any of the others and filled with hope and good news!

    I was standing by the window
    On one cold and cloudy day
    And I saw the hearse come rolling
    For to carry my mother away

    Chorus: Can the circle be unbroken
    Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye
    There's a better home a-waiting
    In the sky, Lord, in the sky

    Lord, I told the undertaker
    Undertaker, please drive slow
    For this body you are hauling Lord
    I hate to see her go

    I followed close behind her
    Tried to hold up and be brave
    But I could not hide my sorrow
    When they laid her in the grave

    Went back home
    Lord, my home was lonesome
    Miss my mother she was gone
    All my brothers, sisters crying
    What a home so sad and lone

    Chorus: Can the circle be unbroken
    Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye
    There's a better home a-waiting
    In the sky, Lord, in the sky
    We sang the songs of childhood 
    Songs of faith that made us strong 
    Ones that Mother Maybelle taught us 
    Hear the angels sing along.
     There is one more post left in this series of thirty (plus two) hymns. Next week I will talk about the two Moravian hymns that are our Moravian Anthems and stand in a class all their own. After that I will do another series for Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany of hymns for those seasons. I know a number of you have enjoyed this series. I hope these hymns have moved you- and even discovered some new ones to bless your personal worship!