Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beginner Again

My daughter talked me into participating in the U of I summer band this year. I haven't played in a band for 32 years, so there is an element of madness here, but I took the bait because it might be the only time that I could play in an organization with both my daughter and my father. So, it was all about the three generation thing.
There is family tradition here. My dad played tuba in the U of I bands when he was a student. I played French Horn there when I was a student. And now my daughter is a trumpet performance major there, and plays in the wonderful Wind Symphony.
The summer band allows community members to join in the fun. There are two concerts each summer, performed outdoors on the Quad. It is the typical "band in the park" fair-Sousa marches, medleys from Broadway musicals, old warhorses like Vaughn-Williams folksong suites.

However, I think you are supposed to have some competence on your instrument.

This is where I run into problems. I used to be an adequate Horn player, even though I was a vocal-choral person. Now, I stink. It's incredibly embarrassing. But I'm learning some interesting things by blatting away at the end of the section.

First, this isn't high school, and people are actually kind enough to tolerate my incompetence, instead of whispering behind my back. In fact, they are very nice.

Second, for a long time I've been in a situation where I was probably the best, or one of the best, musicians available, and playing in the band helps me remember what it is like to be the person struggling to keep up. I hope that doesn't sound prideful in any way; it's just the way things are. I think this probably happens to a lot of well -trained musicians that are serving in church settings. You get to be a big fish in a small pond. Not healthy.

Lastly, next time I try to recruit someone to choir and they say "Well, I don't know.. it's been a long time since I've done that" I'll be able to reassure them. "Look", I'll say, "it's fun. The people are really nice. And it will come back to you, if you stick it out. Trust me, I know."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Independence Day

I love the Fourth of July! My family groans a bit about the local parade-too long, too few marching bands, too many random local businesses represented by decorated cars, too many embarrassing political protesters. I really don't mind any of that. It isn't "The Music Man" or Disney World, it's just my hometown being themselves. I always stand for the flag. I always clap and tear up for the veterans. And it's a great way to get a sunburn!
Then we have the evening fireworks, which we really do up right. I especially like the ones that make my chest rattle, the more deafening the better! And, again, tearing up for the ones that go with "I'm Proud to Be an American" because, well, I AM proud to be an American.
But I have a little struggle when it comes to patriotic displays in church.
I know many people will disagree with me on this one, especially the members of the Greatest Generation. While there is certainly a place for hymns like "Eternal Father, Strong to Save", "God of Our Fathers", and "America the Beautiful", because they are prayers for our nation and recognition of God's Sovereignty, there seems to be a struggle to keep the worship service a worship service and not a nationalistic program such as one might see on the Washington, D.C. mall. Planning for this service is a delicate operation! I don't think it is the place for a color guard presentation, for instance. Some one usually wants that. I don't think we need red, white and blue decorations. The Sanctuary is very pretty as is, and we might forget to look at the Cross.
Thanks for freedom of worship, humble prayers for safety, peace, wisdom for leaders, openness to God's leading as we lead our lives as citizens-these are what I think are most appropriate for Christian citizens to offer to God on the Sunday closest to July 4th. If a foreign student is in attendance, this is what I dream they would see. I think they would feel nothing but admiration for Americans, and respect for the system that allows us to honor God this way.
Have a fun, safe, blessed Independence Day!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

About that last post...

It's unlikely that I will ever post three times in one day again, but I wanted to thank my son Grant for inviting himself on to my blog and sharing that great picture he created to illustrate the prophet Ezekiel eating the Word and and finding that it tasted like honey. Grant is working on his Master's Degree in Art Education, and finding that his class assignments give him an opportunity to express his faith and generate conversation with his classmates. Now, that's using the arts to engage in conversation with the culture!

I would also like to explain the name of my blog, Tallgrassworship. No, I don't worship tall grass! But I am a lifelong native of a part of the world that was once covered in tall-grass prairie, which once grew so high that a man on horseback could get lost in it. There is very little of it left, I'm afraid, here, where the saying is "Beans and corn, corn and beans...variety is the spice of life!" But I claim this place on the prairie as my special corner of the world, where I have deep roots, just like that grass. And I worship and minister in this particular place. So, it just seemed to fit.

My son's fabulous artwork

Hey this is a picture from my son Grant's art class. I really dig it.

Making the Leap

After three-and-a-half years serving in music ministry, I am still amazed at the interesting places this job has taken me! If you had asked me when I accepted the job if I would one day be blogging you would have gotten quite a chuckle out of me. But here I am, preparing to share my thoughts, prayers, and vision for worship ministry with anyone who stumbles across this site, and it is both an exciting and humbling experience.
My family will chuckle,too. After all, only a couple of years ago I was asking them to limit their dinner table discussions to things I could also discuss, and the world of technology was not one of those subjects! But standing still, both literally and figuatively, is not healthy for anyone. Over the last five years, as I have struggled to learn to use current technology, I have continually reminded myself that the culture is not going to "stay put" for me, and if I don't move with it, I will soon be a dinosaur!
I believe we are experiencing some of that same tension in the world of sacred music. Being open to new things (like technology) doesn't mean that I don't still use the written word to communicate my thoughts about the theology of worship, but it does allow me into the conversation that is necessary to remain in a relationship with our culture. And, in the church, being open to what might be useful for communicating the Gospel through music, while requiring the exploration of new forms, doesn't mean I will be "throwing the baby out with the bathwater", either. While I struggle to learn, grow, and discern God's desires for our particular congregation, I hope to express my thoughts about the process here. Perhaps others will also share their reflections. Let's have a discussion!