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!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Be Not Confused

In honor of the Americana Honors and Awards:
Artist of the Year: John Prine
And much more!


Just a footnote: This is post 6,600 in the still ongoing blog of these wanderings of a post-modern pilgrim. Still moving and wandering, but remembering that:

not all that glitters is gold,
and not all who wander are lost.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.13- Find Balance in Letting Go

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
-Ajahn Chah

Over the past two weeks I have talked about the three Inner Game Skills of

• Awareness
• Will and
• Trust

Together they form the foundation for our Self 1 and Self 2 to work together. That gets us into a balance that allows us to improve our musicianship and have more fun playing.

Unfortunately it is not as easy as just saying, “Okay. I’ll just be aware, exercise my will, and trust will follow.” Trust may be the last thing we can build and it may also be the one we must often work on. You see, at least in my experience, the rational, controlling, worried Self 1 is always on guard, ready to pounce. In order for the balance between Self 1 and Self 2 to work, Self 1 must “Let go!” But Self 1 has a history of fear and uncertainty, often placing barriers in the way in the form of thoughts of those fears and uncertainties.

Some of the most common of these barriers for me (and for most of us) are:

• Worrying about what others think of me
• Being a failure
• Feeling out of control
• Doubting my abilities.
• Performance anxiety

Fortunately these can be dealt with even though “letting go” can feel risky. Barry Green in The Inner Game of Music even says that we should see the feeling of risk as a good sign. It means we are about to let go and allow Self 2 to take over. Green says:

Self 2 deserves to be trusted because it proves how trustworthy it is over and over again….[and] the more you let Self 2 go through its paces, the clearer it become just how trustworthy and talented Self 2 really is…. But… we’re not trusting blindly- we’re trusting the most capable part of ourselves…. Self 2 is the real musician. (Green, p. 87.)

Green then says that letting go is a lot like falling asleep, especially when Self 1 is active and worrying. There are three phases of falling asleep using awareness as a technique.

• First, you notice what Self 1 is doing, for example keeping you worried, thinking, inner talking as you lie there. So you make a decision to shift your awareness somewhere else.
• Second, you focus on something else, hopefully something simple and natural. Some people count sheep, do breathing exercises, repeat a prayer or mantra. Self 1’s thought begin to fade.
• Third, you actually “let go” and Self 2 takes over. You are asleep.

Green points out that we do not remember the moment we fall asleep, or even the moments before. It just happens. We have trusted Self 2 to take us where we need to be. You can’t “make it happen”. You just do it. (Green, p. 89)

Letting go means being willing to allow life to carry you to a new place, even a deeper more true rendition of self. Holding on means trying to push life into the place of your making or be damned. (Psychology Today, March 12, 2016) To put it into our Inner Game words,
  • Letting go is being willing to allow Self 2 to carry you to an even deeper, more true experience of your music and your ability to make music.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of those Self 1 barriers above and see how we might be able to learn to “let go” in spite of what Self 1 thinks. Or, in a better attitude, how can Self 2 show Self 1 that it is competent and knows what to do? (Marked (TB) from Tiny Buddha-

Barrier #1: Worrying about what others think of me
Change your perception (TB)
Look at it from a different view. If you make a mistake, people understand and usually don’t remember anyway. That also can mean look at wondering what others think can be a blessing- it makes us work more efficiently in order to do a better job.

Remember why you are a musician (Green)
One of the reasons many of us are musicians (paid/unpaid/whatever) is because we like what happens when music is played- and heard. Relax. People like music. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed the music will be, the more will like it. If you have done your practicing and preparing, know that Self 2 wants you to be the best musician you can be.

Barrier #2: Fear of being a failure
Allow yourself to be imperfect
A performance musician once told me that they never get through a show without some mistake. I never heard one in any of the times I heard them perform. (That’s back to #1 above). They also told me that they cannot be perfect. It is a highly unlikely place to go. Give yourself permission to be real and imperfect- but work to be the best you can be. Chances are you are better than you think.

Make a list of your accomplishments—even the small ones. (TB)
Let’s get real with ourselves. Let’s be honest about what we can do, what we have accomplished. Humility does not mean ignoring what you have been able to succeed at. Humility is an honest perception of who you are and what you are able to do. Somedays it is a very big success to practice for a whole hour without throwing the horn out the window. Keep a notebook/journal of what you have been able to do. You will be amazed when you look back at it.

Barrier #3: Feeling out of control
Channel your discontent into an immediate positive action (TB)
Go back and play the basics; notice how you play them now. Do you remember when you couldn’t do that Arban’s exercise at half the speed? Or pick something that you need to work on- and work on it. It can be that simple. Channel your energy into getting better. And really, it is Self 1 that wants to be in control, not you. We really want Self 2 to be in control.

Become part of the music (Green)
This is not unlike what an actor does when doing a movie or state role. They must become the character they are portraying so that we, the audience believe who they are and what they are doing. We are the channel for the music. We are taking the character of the music, interpreting it through our (and the conductor’s) understanding of the music and presenting it for the audience or at times just for ourselves. Practice this by listening to the music, singing it, feeling its pulse and life. We all do that when playing. Make it a study of the music so it is no longer you who are performing, but the music moving through you.

Barrier #4: Doubting my abilities.
Make a list of your accomplishments—even the small ones. (TB)
Just a repeat of above. This can be a surefire way to quiet Self 1. Use it whenever you can!

Sharpen your skills by using what you know you can do.
What we tend to forget is that as we continue to improve, that means our skills improve and that we can use the skills we have learned to improve some more. It is cumulative. It is not linear. There are times and places when we make great leaps and other times it moves very slowly. That’s okay. Move at the pace you are moving at. To rush it gets in the way. That’s Self 1 being impatient. Let Self 2 enjoy what’s happening.

Barrier #5: Performance anxiety
Visualization meditation
More to come on this one in a future post, but for now, if we work on the first four, this one will become less a barrier and more a reminder of what we are doing and why. In other words, awareness.

This Inner Game work can actually be a lot of fun. It allows us to get in touch with the playful part of ourselves and tells the judge and critic in Self 1 to keep cool and balanced. Self 2 often will naturally trust Self 1 when something needs to be analyzed and worked on. Self 2 knows that Self 1 is hyper about all these things. The more Self 1 can trust Self 2’s abilities and insights, the better balanced we will be. Self 1 is there all the time. We pay attention when we need to. But, believe it or not, Self 2 is in charge more often that we realize. And that is an insight we have only recently begun to understand through advances in brain studies and neurosciences. More on that next week.

Until then- give Self 2 a chance, let go and let the music play.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

For Today- and Every Day

Complete annihilation of any nation is anything but a good Christian value- or a value of any kind. The results of such an action, whether with conventional or nuclear weapons, would be nothing short of one of the greatest war crimes ever carried out.

But all I can do is make this a daily prayer!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (Week 9)

This is the ninth 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. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.

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 Sacred Head Now Wounded- Medieval Latin Hymn, (Passion Chorale, 1680s)

Passion Week is, of course, what we now refer to less powerfully as Holy Week. The Passion of Christ being part of the central action of Christ as Savior. Almost by definition a "passion" hymn should evoke powerful emotional reactions. This hymn, perhaps, even sets the standard in both word and music.

It is, obviously, not a Moravian hymn, but is such a central part of the Moravian tradition, I had to include it here. The original poem was written sometime in the early 13th Century. Although Bernard of Clairvaux was long credited with it, recent attribution is given to a medieval poet, Arnulf of Leuven, who died in 1250. The German translation came in the 1650s from Paul Gerhardt who is considered the greatest Lutheran hymnist. An American Presbyterian minister, James W. Alexander, gave us the most widely used English translation in 1830. (Wikipedia)

The tune for the hymn is almost as important as the words. It is an iconic tune connected with several of Bach's works. According to Wikipedia:
The music for the German and English versions of the hymn is by Hans Leo Hassler, written around 1600 for a secular love song, "Mein G'müt ist mir verwirret (de)", which first appeared in print in the 1601 Lustgarten Neuer Teutscher Gesäng. The tune was appropriated and rhythmically simplified for Gerhardt's German hymn in 1656 by Johann Crüger. Johann Sebastian Bach arranged the melody and used five stanzas of the hymn in the St Matthew Passion. He also used the hymn's text and melody in the second movement of the cantata Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem, BWV 159. Bach used the melody on different words in his Christmas Oratorio, in the first part (no. 5).
Because of its strong connections with Christ's passion, Bach's use would no doubt have touched the average worshiper with a depth of power no matter when it was used.

The words are intended to evoke the great suffering (the Passion) of Jesus death on the cross. While many criticized Mel Gibson's extreme portrayal of violence in his movie, The Passion of the Christ, he does stand in a long tradition in Christian preaching. The general thought was that if any one of us could stand and watch what Jesus went through, and understood the message that he went through this for our salvation, we couldn't help but fall in worship and adoration. I have even heard preachers use this quite graphic approach with late-elementary and early-middle school children.

The original Latin is quite graphic and describes the different parts of Christ's body while hanging on the Cross. There are ten verses in the original versions, although most hymnals now only contain three. You can get some of the feel for that graphic quality behind Alexander's English translation:

O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory,
what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

My Lord, what you did suffer
was all for sinner's gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but yours the deadly pain.
So here I kneel, my Savior,
for I deserve your place;
look on me with thy favor
and save me by your grace.

For me, the last verse brings it all home in what may be among the greatest verses in English hymnody, expressing hope and faith from the center of the singer's soul:

What language shall I borrow
to thank you, dearest Friend,
for this, your dying sorrow,
your pity without end?
Lord, make me yours forever,
a loyal servant true,
and let me never, never
outlive my love to you.

Great Hymns of the Church
What Wondrous Love- Anonymous American Folk Hymn (1811)
"What Wondrous Love Is This" is a Christian folk hymn, sometimes described as a "white spiritual", from the American South. Its text was first published in 1811, during the Second Great Awakening, and its melody derived from a popular English ballad.... Most sources attribute the hymn's melody to the 1701 English song "The Ballad of Captain Kidd", which describes the exploits of pirate William Kidd. The melody itself predates the Kidd usage, however, possibly by more than a century. (In addition, at least a dozen popular songs were set to the same melody after 1701.) (Wikipedia)
The use of popular secular tunes for hymns may seem sacrilegious to many, but it has a rich history including the tunes for such hymns as "A Mighty Fortress." Church camps in the midst of the Great Awakening clearly did this. This tradition still continues. At many church camps I directed and was part of we would sing the table grace to such widely varied tunes as Hernando's Hideaway and the Gillette razor commercial. We also have to remember that until more contemporary times, the music for the hymns was not included in the pew hymnals and many hymns used the same meter of the verses. That can, of course, change the feel for the hymn, making for some interesting results. For example, try singing Amazing Grace to the tune for "House of the Rising Sun"!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM -
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

As has often been the case, the last verse, building powerfully on the previous one, takes the theme to an ongoing life, here and eternally, in the praise of God.

The style of this hymn is another powerful example of "folk" hymnody coming from the heart of the people. 

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.

Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
This Little Light of Mine- African-American Spiritual

This song has been made famous by many artists over the years. The authorship is debatable. Even the traditional "Negro Spiritual" tag is questioned since there seems to be no evidence of the song in any collection of 19th Century plantation songs. It was first collected by ethnomusicologist John Lomax in 1939. Credit is sometimes given to Harry D. Loes who wrote several gospel songs.

It has been used as a Civil Rights anthem, a children's song, and by Odetta and the Boys Choir of Harlem on David Letterman's show the first night broadcasting following the 9/11 attacks. (Wikipedia)

It is a fun song that takes its message to heart. It can be a great instrumental as well as hymn of promise and praise.

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine;
this little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine;
this little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine;
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Everywhere I go,
I'm gonna let it shine;
everywhere I go,
I'm gonna let it shine;
everywhere I go,
I'm gonna let it shine;
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Friday, September 15, 2017

On This Date in 1974...

I was ordained into the ministry of the Moravian Church by Bishop Ed Kortz. Quite a journey it's been. Especially after I realized I didn't know what I was doing and started looking around for God.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

In The Soul

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.12- Inner Game Skills- Will and Trust

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Never let the thoughts of self-unworthiness re-arrange your prepared passion for failure. You can do it even if others say you can't. But you cannot do it if you tell yourself you can't.
― Israelmore Ayivor

Last week I wrote about awareness, the first of what Barry Green and Tim Gallwey call the “skills” of the Inner Game of music. I wrote:
Non-judgmental awareness moves us into a place where we aren’t fighting what’s happening, analyzing it, trying to “fix” it. We are simply letting it be…
There are two skills which build on top of this awareness- will and trust that I want to look at this week. These are all skills that help us grow toward a healthy balance of Self One trying to analyze and fix and Self Two working on what’s natural. Let’s start with “will.” From Google:
• The faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action.
⁃ synonyms: determination, willpower, strength of character, resolution, resolve, resoluteness, single-mindedness, purposefulness, drive, commitment, dedication, doggedness, tenacity, tenaciousness, staying power - "the will to succeed"

• Control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one's own impulses.
⁃ synonyms: desire, wish, preference, inclination, intention, intent, volition
The first thought is obvious- we seem to be talking about willpower and doing what you want to do. In and of itself, that is true. But there is more than just “the will” to do something. One of the things research has shown over the past number of years is that, believe it or not, “willpower” has limits- you can “use it up.” If you go through a whole day having to exert choices and willpower to do- or not do- something, your ability to resist temptation at the end of the day is greatly reduced. You don’t have as much “willpower” left. So, let’s dig in a little and see if we can find some directions in this.

Will is both a decision- drive, purpose, dedication- and the exertion to do (or not do) something. It depends on what you discover through the skill of “awareness to refine and develop what it is you are intending to do and accomplish. From Gallwey and Green as I said last week:

• Will can be described as the direction and intensity of our intentions. It sets the goals, keeps us on course, works through trial and error to keep us on course.

Will does start with some exertion of willpower, but that’s not what it’s about. It is about goals and making decisions to move toward those goals. Goals, Green says

• are the direction finders for our will and the major “will skill” that we need to learn is goal clarity… When we have clear goals and are focused on them, our concentration can be sustained. (Green, p. 53)

In other words if we know what we desire (learned through awareness) and have set clear goals, it becomes easier to stay focused and aware. Again, to Green

• When we are clear about our musical goals, we find that … reserves of strength and energy become available to us. On the other hand, when we are uncertain about our goals, it is hard to bring our will to bear on them and easy for our concentration to wander. (Green, p. 53)

We can reach a point- call it force of habit or whatever- where you don’t need to exert as much will to do something. Now Self Two is beginning to step more clearly into the picture. Self Two has taken over some of the work of the will because I enjoy what I’m doing. The awareness, built in Self One has relaxed about these concerns. I don’t worry about some of the technical issues around these concerns. I now pick up the horn to practice every day- and usually at least twice on most days- even if I have a gig or rehearsal later in the day- because it is what I do. It is natural. It is relaxed. It is fun.

Which brings me to the third of the Inner Game skills- trust. Let’s go back to what I said based on Green last week:

• Trust allows the simple awareness to take place without self-criticism, it lets you go through trial and error without giving up, and it lets you be open to tapping your inner resources to perform your best.

In other words Self One knows that Self Two is actually more competent than once thought. Self Two can step aside on those issues and relax while maintaining the awareness of what needs to happen next. But it does that with less self-criticism than it used to. It can now criticize what is happening without adding negative judgements. It knows that I and Self Two are listening and will do something about it. Again, to Green, this is not:

• Blind trust but the trust that comes after hard work, and the trust the comes from knowing there is music inside you…. We have seen that our awareness and will “skills” are powerful tools that can help us solve problems and give intensity and direction to our music. In order to achieve our ultimate goal and enter the state of relaxed concentration where we are one with the music, there is one more skill we need. We need to trust ourselves.

There are barriers to trust that we have to work on. Some of the most common for me are
• Worrying about what others think of me
• Being a failure
• Feeling out of control
• Doubting my abilities.
• Performance anxiety

Fortunately these can be dealt with and I will do so in more depth next week. Dealing with them takes the openness to an awareness of what’s going on within you, including a personal inventory of what you CAN do and what skills you can being to bear on them. It then takes the will to set clear goals and move toward them. But more on that next time.

The barriers can all describe where I was when I attended that Big Band Weekend at Shell Lake Arts Center in June 2015. I felt overwhelmed, outplayed, out of control and exhibited a lack of skill and a lot of performance anxiety. But I also loved what was happening. So I then attended the week-long Trumpet Workshop and found some direction. As a result, I started this expanded trumpet journey. But I had no real goal other than in some way or another to become the best damn trumpet player I can become at my age. I was excited and determined. But I had no idea how to do that. So I started simple- just pick up the horn and practice. As often as possible. Simple goal- aim at playing every day for at least an hour.

Over the next year I averaged between 60% and 80% of days and increased to about an hour and a quarter a day. I managed three months of daily practice! In the middle of the second year I reached the daily practice level- now going on six months without missing a day and have reached anywhere up to two and a quarter hours a day.

I didn’t do that through willpower alone. Yes, it started that way, but the I knew that the simple goal I set was the way to become a better player. I used the same method of goals to learn the 12 major scales around the Circle of Fourths. I then sought to improve my embouchure and stretch my range through some specific exercises. Both of those have been working. These all started with an awareness that I needed to do something. I then set goals, simple, achievable goals to move in that direction. I have been able to sustain and improve my concentration which moved it beyond just exerting my will to pick up the trumpet and play.

I actually trust myself today! I am discovering the music within me like never before in over 50 years of being a trumpet player.

The journey is worth it. Set your goals and move.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Never Forget

My video from a couple years ago. Continue to remember, not just those who died, but the way the country came together and we supported each other no matter our heritage, religion, language, or skin color.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (Week 8)

This is the eighth 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. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.

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
The Savior's Blood and Righteousness- Nicholas von Zinzendorf (1739)
Zinzendorf insisted that the truest language for heart religion is song.... For Zinzendorf and the Brüdergemeine... the truths of the Christian religion are best communicated in poetry and song, not in systematic theology and polemics. (Craig Atwood,
"The Savior’s Blood and Righteousness” is perhaps “the one hymn most representative of his theology.” The count wrote the 33 stanzas of this hymn in 1739 on his voyage home after visiting Moravian mission work in the West Indies. (Christianity Today
(He had gone to the islands to boost the position of the missionaries there who were not welcomed by the landowners since the aim of the mission work was the slaves. He later traveled to Pennsylvania and helped establish Bethlehem on Christmas 1741.)

Theology was not, for Zinzendorf or the 18th Century Moravians an academic pursuit. It was the language of the heart. Again and again the mystical language of union with God in Jesus through the Spirit comes through.

The Savior’s blood and righteousness
My beauty is, my glorious dress;
Thus well arrayed, I need not fear,
When in His presence I appear.

The holy, spotless, Lamb of God,
Who freely gave His life and blood
For all my numerous sins to atone,
I for my Lord and Savior own.

Therefore my Savior’s blood and death
Are here the substance of my faith;
And shall remain, when I’m called hence,
My only hope and confidence.

Lord Jesus Christ, all praise to Thee,
That Thou didst deign a man to be,
And for each soul which Thou hast made
Hast an eternal ransom paid.

This hymn, in the original German and in alternative translations can be found in a number of different denominational hymnals. I could not find a version in either English or German that used the same tune as the American hymnals. Here is one, in German, however, with a more contemporary tone. If you know German, you can see the way translations can vary.

Great Hymns of the Church
Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand- Henry Alford (1867)
Henry Alford (1810 – 1871) was an English churchman, theologian, textual critic, scholar, poet, hymnodist, and writer. (Link)  Among his best known hymns are "Come, Ye Thankful People Come" and "Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand."

This hymn, according to is found in over 380 hymnals. It is, for me, one of the truly great hymns of the church. It's language and message reminds us of what is often called the "Church Triumphant," i.e. those who have died and gone on to the immediate presence of our Lord. The joy and wonder of the hymn almost jump off the page. The first time I remember hearing it was at a memorial service held at the 1974 Moravian Northern Provincial Synod in Bethlehem. The service was to remember the pastors who had died in the four years since the previous Synod. It was just about ten years since my father had died when I was 16 and nearly thirteen years since my mother had died. We came to what was then the 3rd verse and I was overwhelmed by the words and sentiment. Here- from the 1969 hymnal:
O then what raptured greetings
On Canaan's happy shore;
What knitting severed friendships up,
Where partings are no more!
Then eyes with joy shall sparkle,
That brimmed with tears of late;
Orphans no longer fatherless,
Nor widows desolate.
I could not sing the last verse. I was moved in ways I have never forgotten. Read the words as words of incredible praise and wonder at the grace of God!

Sadly, in the revision made for the more recent Moravian Book of Worship, the original words were changed to:
no orphans left without a home, nor mourners desolate.
While I appreciate and support the desire to be inclusive, personally I am glad those were not the words in 1974.

One more reason for sadness, this time for every other denomination who uses this hymn. No one else has the same tune that is in the Moravian hymnal. The tune, Eastham, is only found in our hymnal. 

At the 1976 Moravian Music Festival in Bethlehem, band director, Jeffrey Reynolds, then principal trombone of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, commented that the Eastham tune paired with this hymn may be the single best example of perfect melding of words and music. I agree. I wish others could have experienced this amazing hymn the way we have in the Moravian Church. 

Ten thousand times ten thousand
in sparkling raiment bright,
the armies of the ransomed saints
throng up the steeps of light!
'Tis finished, all is finished,
their fight with death and sin.
Fling open wide the golden gates
and let the victors in!

What rush of halleluias
fills all the earth and sky!
What ringing of a thousand harps
bespeaks the triumph nigh!
O day, for which creation
and all its tribes were made!
O joy, for all its former woes
a thousand fold repaid!

O then what raptured greetings
on Canaan's happy shore;
what knitting severed friendships up,
where partings are no more!
Then eyes with joy shall sparkle
that brimmed with tears of late,
no orphans left without a home,
nor mourners desolate.

Bring near your great salvation,
O Lamb for sinners slain;
fill up the roll of your elect,
then take your pow'r and reign!
Appear, Desire of nations,
your exiles long for home;
show in the heav'n your promised sign;
then, Prince and Savior, come.

Needless to say, I could not find a video of the hymn with this tune. So I made one using a recording from the Moravian Music Foundation. Most of the pictures are from God's Acre in Bethlehem, two are from Berea/Our Savior's Churches Easter Dawn, and two are from Costa Rica. It is the more recent revision of the words, but it captures the majesty and wonder in all its fullness. I never tire of this hymn!

Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
Precious Lord, Take My Hand- Thomas A. Dorsey (1938)

Thomas Andrew Dorsey (1899 – 1993) was known as "the father of black gospel music" and was at one time so closely associated with the field that songs written in the new style were sometimes known as "dorseys". Earlier in his life he was a leading blues pianist known as Georgia Tom. (Not the big band leader!)

As formulated by Dorsey, gospel music combines Christian praise with the rhythms of jazz and the blues. His conception also deviates from what had been, to that time, standard hymnal practice by referring explicitly to the self and its relation to faith and God, rather than the individual subsumed into the group via belief. Dorsey wrote "Precious Lord" in response to his inconsolable bereavement at the death of his wife, Nettie Harper, in childbirth, and his infant son in August 1932.

This video begins with Dorsey giving his testimony about its composition. Truly a powerful witness in word and song!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Wise Words

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.11- Inner Game- Self One and Self Two

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

First, a welcome to any new readers of this, especially those of you who were introduced to The Tuning Slide at this year’s Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop. This is the third year of this blog. The first two years are available in a book, The Tuning Slide: Reflections on Life and Music. This year I will continue to develop the ideas and reflections that formed the foundation for the first two years while going deeper and broader on the ideas.

Where did the title come from? Well, as both a musician and a counselor/therapist my interest has always been in unifying life and keeping from compartmentalizing things. As I have said a number of times- and will say many time because it is essential- how we do anything is how we do everything. Here is how I describe the tuning slide idea:

On a trumpet, the tuning slide is the curved “C”-shaped tube at the opposite end of the lead pipe from the mouthpiece. (To the right in the trumpet above.) The slide is to be used to bring the trumpet into tune with the other instruments.
When your instrument is in tune:
• The music flows much more smoothly.
• You tend to get into sync with the other musicians.
• You don’t get as tired while playing since you are not constantly trying to “lip” the notes into tune.

When your life is in tune:
• Your days flow much more smoothly.
• You tend to get into sync with others and the world around you.
• You don’t get as tired as you can go with the flow and not be constantly fighting or reacting.

In short, the tuning slide keeps us moving more smoothly in the right direction. That is what I hope comes from this website, the blog posts and my other writings- ways that even non-trumpet players and non-musicians can discover how to keep life more “in tune.”
Life is not logic. Life is not philosophy.
Life is a dance, a song, a celebration.
It is more like love and less like logic.
-Osho Rajneesh

One thing I am going to try this year is to do a month of posts on a topic, looking at different aspects of it. I will be using the ideas from Trumpet Workshop to do that. This month, then, I want to talk about one of the fundamentals of what I have been learning and experiencing over the past two years. It is “easy” to get caught in the “technical” trap of techniques, methods, and “how-to” ideas. I have spent (okay- I still spend) hours and hours surfing the Internet for the latest techniques that will improve my playing and style. A quick Google search of “How do I…..?” will yield thousands of potential web pages and You Tube videos. Each one can give you the impression that they have THE answer you have been looking for.

This is my “Self One” hard at work. Self one works hard. Sometimes too hard. Self one wants to learn the tricks that will make my playing perfect. It is terrified of failure. It has often been the inner critic of my writings, the stubborn listener to my lectures, the unsatisfied musical connoisseur of my playing. It is always sitting on the edge of its seat to jump on something wrong. It is always tense and restless.

Then there’s “Self Two” sitting on the sidelines telling Self one, “Cool your jets, man. We know what we’re doing- if only you’d shut up once in a while and let us do it!” (Self one insists that I add a disclaimer- what I have just written in these two paragraphs is a gross oversimplification and exaggeration. For more in-depth stuff, go to the right sidebar and click the “Inner Game” category to get all the posts from the past two years on the topic. There, I hope I have taken care of him for the rest of this post.)

One of the goals of learning about this is to get the two “selfs” to work together in harmony and acceptance. There are three basic Inner Game skills that must come into balance.
  • Awareness- simple awareness, without judgement, that fosters natural learning.
  • Will- it can be described as the direction and intensity of our intentions. It sets the goals, keeps us on course, works through trial and error to keep us on course.
  • Trust- Trust allows the simple awareness to take place without self-criticism, it lets you go through trial and error without giving up, and it lets you be open to tapping your inner resources to perform your best.
These three then help us achieve what Barry Green and Timothy Gallwey call the “master skill”- relaxed concentration. (Inner Game of Music, p. 28-29)

What does this mean in practice? How can we turn this into reality? Here are some ideas related to the skill of “awareness” that can help us on a regular basis.

Awareness: In order to know what’s happening or not, we need to be able to focus. Awareness is the ability to discover those things and then plan on them. Sometimes, the Inner Game tells us, just being aware is enough. Instead of focusing, say, on the fact that “I just can’t get that right!” focus on when and how you get caught by it. Pay attention to what you are doing, non-judgmenally, and that will begin to shift your attention to solutions instead of problems. Green says that helps something different to happen. “[W]e listen more closely, and this gives our body clues which allow it to adjust at a level below our conscious awareness, without physical or mental interference.” (Green, p. 46)

The other part of this is that awareness moves us from “trying” to playing. Green notes, “When we are trying, our awareness is taken away from the music and focused on our ‘running commentary.’ It turns out that it’s very difficult to focus on both at the same time.”

I have been working on a difficult passage in one of our big band numbers. Too many accidentals, too fast a tempo, unusually difficult fingering changes. (So says Self One.) I have done all the usual tricks- metronome, slow practice, breaking it into bites. Nothing has worked over the past couple years. Self one is way too involved. So I listened to a recording of our group playing it and discovered which part seems to be the one that is throwing me off. I then played it with some attention and awareness. Much to my surprise it was not the section with the accidentals and fingering that tripped up the sound. It was what happens right after that. That has given me a different focus and direction. I’m still not Self Two comfortable with it, but I am not as bummed by it.

Non-judgmental awareness moves us into a place where we aren’t fighting what’s happening, analyzing it, trying to “fix” it. We are simply letting it be, which in the end gives us helpful and positive feedback. Acceptance is part of what awareness can lead us into. “It is what it is” can be difficult mantra or a movement into aware acceptance. After becoming aware we then just allow it to be. There are many other things that can better utilize your focus- how the music sounds, for example, or the rhythm. If the problem is the one you are trying to fix, don’t focus on it. Focus on other things to help make the music more musical.

Next week I will look at the other two basic skills of the Inner Game- will and trust. For this week be aware and accepting. Don’t try so hard- just let the music be itself. The result can be a more relaxed attitude which will then allow Self Two to do its thing.

Oh- and try this with things other than music. Be aware of what is happening around you. Notice what is working and how it helps on a daily basis. It does not mean ignore problems, but interestingly enough the more you focus on them, the bigger they become and the less likely we are to find a solution. Shift your focus, discover what is right, and chances are that somewhere in what is going right is part of the answer you have been looking for.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Not a Time to be Silent

Link to find out more about this declaration and to sign it.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Read This Book!

Every month I check the Amazon Best Books of the Month list. I look for ones that sound interesting. This one, When the English Fall, seemed to stand out. Perhaps because it was about the Amish in Pennsylvania, a place I have known well. Perhaps it was the intriguing description of it being a story about how the “Plain Flok” fare when a cosmic disaster strikes and knocks out cars, electricity and technology. I was not expecting to be hit up the side of the head by a 2x4!

It is an amazing book, told in the form of the diary of one of the Amish. It is the struggle he and his community face over a three-month period. It is about faith and trust, doubt and peace. I could not put it down as Jacob raises many things to think about. If you wonder about faith and daily life, read this book! Have an open mind- but a caution- it is far greater than what it seems!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (Week 7)

This is the seventh 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. I hope you are both inspired by these words and learn a little about my own denomination's rich musical heritage.

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
Most Holy Lord and God- Notker Balbulus (9th C.)

Notker the Stammerer (Latin: Notcerus Balbulus c. 840 – 912), was a musician, author, poet, and Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Saint Gall in modern Switzerland.The translation into German was by Count Zinzendorf.

Many of you may have never heard this hymn before. According to both the text and the tune, which is a Moravian update on a 15th C. German hymn, are only found in Moravian hymnals. The chant-style, the simple melody line with little adornment makes it a quiet, deep song for spiritual meditation.

Most Holy Lord and God,
Holy, Almighty God,
Holy and most merciful Savior,
Thou eternal God!
Grant that we may never
Lose the comforts from Thy death
Have mercy, O Lord.

Most Holy Lord and God,
Holy, Almighty God,
Holy and most merciful Savior,
Thou eternal God!
Bless Thy Congregation
Through Thy sufferings, death, and blood.
Have mercy, O Lord.

Great Hymns of the Church
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty- Joachim Neander (1680?); tr. Catherine Winkworth (1863); Tune: Lobe den Herrn

Neander was a German Reformed (Calvinist) Church teacher, theologian and hymn writer whose hymns were quickly adopted by the German Lutherans as well. Translator Catherine Winkworth maybe the best known of translators of German hymns into English. The tune is most likely based on a German folk tune. Together they form one of the truly great hymns of praise in the English language.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is your health and salvation!
Come, all who hear; now to his temple draw near,
join me in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, above all things so wondrously reigning;
sheltering you under his wings, and so gently sustaining!
Have you not seen all that is needful has been
sent by his gracious ordaining?

As with many hymns, the last verse brings the prayer to a spiritual call to greater praise.

Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen sound from his people again;
gladly forever adore him.

Gospel-type Hymns and Songs
Just as I Am- Charlotte Elliott (1835)
Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871), as noted in was a person of "deep spiritual-mindedness which is so prominent in her hymns. Though weak and feeble in body, she possessed a strong imagination, and a well-cultured and intellectual mind. Her love of poetry and music was great, and is reflected in her verse. Her hymns number about 150, a large percentage of which are in common use." The hymn of course, may be mos famous for its use by Billy Graham in his Crusades.  While it can be as syrupy sweet as hymns of this type can get, its power lies in the simple words repeated at the beginning and end of each verse:
Just as I am...
O Lamb of God, I Come.
I still remember the morning in church as we were singing this hymn and I turned to the back of the hymnal to see what it had to say about Elliott. The last five words jumped off the page giving new meaning to her words and her faith. Her short bio ended simply with, "She was a lifelong invalid." Hard to forget!

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidd'st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Tuning Slide: 3.10- Seeing Differently- Lessons from the Eclipse

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

What you see in a total eclipse is entirely different from what you know.
-Annie Dillard

I have often commented here about the need to connect our music and our lives. What we learn in one area can and should make a difference in the other. We have talked about that at Trumpet Workshop a number of times. Most of us are not going to be full-time professional musicians. We are going to be full-time something, however. The skills we use at one can be applied to the others.

It was with that in mind that I realized that there was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reflect on a total solar eclipse and figure out what I could learn from it. So I did the following:
  • Planning
    • Check dates, clear calendar, coordinate with family
  • Waiting
    • In between decision and the event, there will always be waiting. You can’t avoid it so how do you best utilize the time?
  • Researching
    • Find the path, find a city, find a motel,
  • Finalize plans and equipment
    • What kind of filters will I need for photography, what might I want to make sure I have ready,
    • What plans can I make for a Plan B?
  • Practicing
    • Take the cameras out with the filters, get pictures and video, work on how different settings will impact the final product.
Here, then, in a slightly longer than usual post is the result.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It is the day- August 21, 2017. We have come to Kansas City, just on the southern edge of totality. We get up early to get to where we plan to watch the eclipse, Lathrop, a small town in western Missouri where the local Baptist church (among many others) has set up parking. We plan on getting there between the early rush and the later one to give us time to relax and be ready. Here, with later additions, is what I wrote during the next four and a half hours:

  • 9:00 E(clipse)-2h 40m Sitting watching the clouds. Heat and humidity in the morning sun. But oh—oh that solid cloud deck! Weather Channel app on my phone says it is cloudy now but should clear. People from Oklahoma, Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin around us. Sixteen cars to a row, maybe 10 rows of cars in a field at the local Baptist Church’s north campus. Cameras on tripods, fancy reflecting telescopes, folding chairs, here and there a tent or canopy. I set up my cameras and take a couple of pictures to show the sky and the full sun.
  • 10:00 E-1h 40m Took a walk around the grounds. One of the attendants told me some people wanted to be here early to get a good viewing spot! “I don’t want anything in my way.” “But lady,” he added, “just look up.” “But can we leave when its done?” since some places are having all kinds of other activities. The attendant pulled up the yellow plastic tape they used to mark off the parking area. “Just tear it,” he said as he shook his head in disbelief.
  • 10:18 E-1h 20m
    Rain and thunder for about ten minutes. Now what? Looks like it could clear to the west.
  • 10:41 E-1h Still overcast and sprinkling with thunder. Storms popping up. Will it or won't it? Looking less hopeful. I want to cry.
  • 11:09 T(otality)-2h Not looking hopeful. But keeping the feeling of hope alive. This can still happen if only for part of the Eclipse. Washington Post just said it is starting in Oregon. Bring the sunshine with you, please. Should I try to figure out a Plan B or just stick with what I have planned?
  • 11:25 E-15m Dare I say that it looks like some possible clearing to the west? I would hate to jinx it. It is still not out of the question?!?! Just don't say it out loud. A field full of eclipse watchers holds our collective breath.
  • 11:30 E-10m The rain has stopped!? Sky brightening. Walked over and bought us a lunch. Now we will see if we have anything to see.
  • 11:54 E+15m My first chance to see the eclipse.
    The clouds clear. I zoom the cameras, take my first pictures, start the video. It is happening.
  • 12:45 We’ve had a relatively good run of clear skies. Almost a full hour of variable clouds and sun. I have paid attention to the advice from a photographer I read during my research: “Take your eye away from the viewfinder and watch the eclipse itself. You may never see anything like it again and you would hate to miss it.” I took five short videos totaling about 25 minutes of different points in the eclipse. It is amazing to watch it. I have seen a number of lunar eclipses but this is different. This is the sun being blocked. It is a “crescent sun.” I have also been watching the clouds to the west and southwest. They are the real thing. My heart sinks as I come to realize that they are moving faster than the moon. They will be the eclipse I see.
  • 12:52 T-15 Clouds finally move in.
    I take my last picture before totality. It will be the last regular picture I take. I hold my camera at ready. I take the filters off both cameras- just in case. We will have to see what we can see here. There is no Plan B.
  • 1:09 Totality- and clouds. We watched it get darker and cooler. People were quiet, still, perhaps sharing a moment of sadness or grief along with the amazement. Many of us have traveled to see this and now we won’t. I watched the clouds get darker. It begins to look like a tornado storm, but it is the shadow of the moon crossing the earth, approaching us. It is not like sunset- it moves much faster than that. It gets dark quickly.
  • 1:09 - 1:13-
    I start the video camera to get shots of the horizon in its odd colors where the clouds have broken. As promised it is a 360 degree sunset in a purplish hue. I start a video pan to catch what I can. Then, just as I was about to turn it off and start packing up, a small break in the clouds. Third contact (the moving of the moon from the sun) has past; totality is over. The darkness on the other side of the clouds has moved southeast. For a moment there is the sliver of the sun. [Looking at the video later I am amazed at watching the darkness move across the clouds, more visible in a speeded up video. I will be putting a video together in the next week of the experience.]
  • 1:20
    Heading back to our motel in bumper to bumper traffic. Making as much as 12 mph (mostly less) for over half of the trip. It took 2 1/2 hours to make the 40 miles we had done in 45 minutes that morning.
We were home by Thursday and I was coping with sadness and depression. The long-awaited and dreamed of event was over. I was still bummed. I had done all the right things to get ready:

• Planning
• Waiting
• Researching
• Practicing

And it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. It was out of my hands. I did my part to be at the right place at the right time, but that’s as far as I could go. So it goes. Powerless!

On Thursday evening I watched a cloudy sunset and realized how different it was from what I saw on Monday. New reflections began to ease the sadness. I began to explain to others what I saw and heard. Their amazement at what had happened that they didn’t get a chance to see touched me. I began to understand that I did get to see a good deal of the eclipse, my experience of the eclipse.

In other words, by Thursday I had to come to grips with what this event was going to mean for me. I decided, by action and intuition that I had to have my story to tell about the eclipse since I was there. A solar eclipse IS a big deal. But I had two choices:

1) Be a whiner, live in sadness and despair and depression that here was this incredible chance and it passed me by. Poor me! or
2) Reflect on what I DID experience in this rare opportunity. The eclipse did not pass me by. I saw the moon moving across the sun. I was with all those people locked in a common purpose and event. I was right there in the middle of totality as it happened. The world darkened; the temperature dropped; birds returned to their nests; humans stood in awe. It truly was something that felt out of this world.

As asked by the wondrous book and movie, Life of Pi, "which is the better story?" Which story includes hope and belief, wonder and meaning? That’s a no-brainer!

Now, a week later, I am excited by what I have experienced. The more I have talked about it, looked at some of my video, and listened to other people’s experiences, the truth of Annie Dillard’s words at the top of this post sink in. What I saw in this eclipse was different from everything I have ever known, even to the point of not seeing the totality but being impacted by it.
  • What happens in an eclipse is this-
    • Our normal way of seeing things is blocked.
    • The sun is gone, covered by the moon.
All that we think we know about the world shifts, if only for the few minutes of totality. We are forced to react and respond differently, even if we know what is happening. It is not hard to imagine what people without the scientific and technological resources would think about a total solar eclipse. It can feel like the world is coming to an end.

Here then are my initial thoughts and learnings:

• Do the necessary footwork!
• Be open for the surprises that are there, even when they aren’t what you expected. Which in reality is most of the time.
• Let the moment be real and allow it to soak in to your own psyche.
• Be aware of your story and know that you can choose how you respond to what is happening.
• Choose the better story, the one that will stand the test of time and that you will be telling into the future.
• In the end I was forced by the clouds to take my eye away from the camera and watch the eclipse- and I am better for it.

Let’s translate that to our musicianship.

The Footwork:
Do the day in and day out work to become the musician (or whatever) you want to become. How many times can I play an opening exercise of long tones or those early Arban’s exercises? One more time than I already have! I will never reach the end. It will always be “one more.” Listen to music; read about it; learn the ins and outs of it.

The Surprises:
I will never know that solo or song or ensemble piece perfectly. I need to be open at each moment for the music itself to tell me what I need to know. That’s where Self Two can begin to take over and allow me to feel, hear, and internalize the music.

The Moment:
Which moment is the most important? The one you are in right now. Is it practicing? Make it good practice. Is it performance preparation? Mindfulness. Being in the moment and letting it happen. I played in a concert last Friday evening. I allowed the music to be present within me. I heard parts of the pieces that I had never heard before since we were outside, in a different venue. Those were the surprises. So was how I felt I was playing. Self Two was definitely as work. What a moment!

Your Story-The Better Story:
This happens after The Moment. This is the reflection on what has happened. Call it debriefing or evaluation, or awareness, this is where you make sense of what has happened and place it into its proper context. It may be that your solo went better than you hoped- or not as good as you wanted. What do you learn from that? Will it stop you from another solo or will you see that it can be different next time?

Take your eye away:
That eye is often Self One ready and willing to criticize us, tell us we can do it better- or that we can never do it right. Take your eye away from the technical and just play. Just do it. Relax and “play” in all the broad meanings of that wonderful word.

Enjoy. If you have done the footwork and practice and research, it will happen.