Four very simple lines of music heard this morning very powerfully brought my former wife to mind.
This little bit was played on the piano with a simple broken chord figure in the bass. It is used in my church as “travelling music” before and after the children’s sermon, while children come to sit with the preacher and then return to their seats. Very quiet, very background; just a few measures to cover the silence.
The powerful reminder of Stephanie -who is a very fine pianist and piano teacher – is that I couldn’t help contrasting the rather mechanical “music-box” version I heard with the way Stephanie would play it. I mean no disrespect to our organist, who is a fine musician (although not primarily a pianist). Also, the electronic instrument she was playing is hardly capable of capturing the subtle expressiveness available in an natural piano.
But Stephanie has a particular gift, passion, drive and ability for lyric expressiveness. She can take the simplest phrase, like the ones I quoted at the start, and make it sing. I instantly heard what she would have done, and the difference it would make.
Now when I said it was a gift, I didn’t really mean the ability was a gift to her, she worked hard for it. It is a gift to everyone who hears her.
Contemplating this returned another memory, dating all the way back to High School Choir, where we sang a LOT of Bach chorales. Everyone should. But a frequent feature of that sort of music is that the tenor line (that’s me) will often find a note on which to park, and will pretty much stay there for the rest of the piece. “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded” comes to mind.
One of the points drilled into us was that if this line sounds boring, that is our own fault. Perhaps it is that we want to be singers, when we should be learning to be musicians.
Our job was to take that one note, and find all the music in it that could be found, and bring that to the surface. Do it right, and that repeated one note will almost stand as a solo. Then having found the music in that note, sing that song in a way that serves the entire piece.
The problem is not the note. It is my job to find and reveal the music. I have discovered that as one of the great joys of singing “inner voices” in choral harmony.
And since “music is life,” this must relate to the rest of what I do.
My job, in all the mundane “single repeated note” lines of life, is to find the Music in that line, and proclaim it. Not to demand a more complicated part, where my lack of a musician’s heart can be hidden behind a composer’s many notes, but to find and express the song in THIS line. It’s there.
Find the music. Sing your song.