Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mortal Joins Mighty Chorus on Piano

Tomorrow morning during the worship service I am playing the hymns on the piano, accompanying the organ.  I am excited and humbled to participate in the music in this way.

It is one of those tasks which I am utterly surprised I ever get asked to do again.  It’s a good thing the organ is a lot louder than the piano. Even if I have enough time to practice, and even if I get all the notes right and play ultra-musically during the week, invariably I mess up on Sunday morning.  To plagiarize Paul: I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not play the good note I want, but the evil note I do not want to play is what I do play.  (See Romans 7:18-19.)

So for me, playing the hymns in church is an exercise in asking forgiveness in advance.  I ask God to redeem the foul notes and turn them into heavenly harmony.

I have extra praying to do for tomorrow morning, because the first hymn, “Make Us One,” does not fit with my classical music training.  It starts in the key of C.  Easy – no sharps or flats!  But right there in the second line, it changes up and tricks my fingers.  The keys I’m supposed to play produce beautiful, if unusual, harmonies.  But the keys my fingers find produce harmonies that are just way too unusual.  And then, just when I had gotten used to it in the key of C, it modulates up a half-step to the key of D-flat, which has five (5), count them, five (5) flats.  This is a challenge which my neuronal connections are not quite ready for.  But the music must go on.  Sing loud, folks!  Don’t listen too closely to see if I play the double-flats correctly.

The last hymn is, by contrast, an old favorite: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”  This arrangement also has a grandiose final-verse finish, with a modulation from G to A-flat, lots of gigantic chords and nifty moving bass lines, but the music director excused me from playing that.  The music director is very wise. 

Playing the hymns this week has been a particular comfort and challenge for me.  My father is very ill.  I am glad to be able to turn to these hymns, both for their lyrics and music.  The challenge of playing them has given me something else to think about besides Dad’s illness and Mom’s despair.  I especially like the 4th verse of “Joyful, Joyful”:

            Mortals, join the mighty chorus
Which the morning stars began;
Love divine is reigning o’er us,
Leading us with mercy’s hand.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife.
Joyful music leads us sunward
In the triumph song of life!

So thanks, Mr. Music Director, all y’all hymn writers, Henry Van Dyke, and Louie Von Beethoven, for letting me play along this week, mistakes and all, struggling to be a victor in the midst of strife.   


Angie said...

Sorry to hear your dad isn't doing well. I'll keep "all y'all" in my prayers.

I do miss the music at Hiland.

Cassi Renee said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. Tough times.

We've been singing a new song in our church: The Colors. I like the song, but it's a Spanish song, and today they made us sing a verse in Spanish, which was quite a challenge. But very pretty.

Common Household Mom said...

Thanks for your kind words and prayers.

Cassie Renee. I wonder if that's the song 'De Colores" - "Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a me."

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'm sorry about your dad. Like you, I find more solace in the words of the old hymns than in the new worship tunes. That has always been a favorite of mine: Mortals join the mighty chorus."
Will pray for you and your dad and mom today.

Cassi Renee said...

Yes --Des Colores is the song. Very pretty song. Can you play it? :-)

Common Household Mom said...

I have the music for "Des Colores" somewhere. Yes, it is a pretty piece. It's probably easier than the piece I played on Sunday! And oops - sorry for adding an extra 'e' to your name.

karen diane said...

This reminds me of when we first moved back to MN. I was asked to fill in on piano for church and after much internal deliberation I quite reluctantly agreed. I was so stressed. I hadn't really played much the entire time we were out in CA and I have only rarely had to play piano for much more than accompanying students, at least in my adult life. A few days before, the director called and told me someone else had agreed to to it. I can't recall the last time I felt such relief. I half thought maybe God was testing my submission to Him and since I had put my trust in Him and said yes, he let me off the hook. I hope your experience was far better than what I am guessing mine would have been! :)

Prayers for your father.