Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where Style and Substance Meet

This week marks another birthday. I'm not really on borrowed time yet, though the length of departed high school chums gets longer. Staying up to date is pretty much a losing cause, but I can concentrate on not saying or writing anything that's patently stupid. Something could go wrong with the body, though, so it's still a good idea to get on the courts as often as possible. Exercise is great when you can also give yourself a chance to put up the "W" for the day.

I just don't think I can get my hands around the force set loose in Japan last week. Energy from that disaster traveled by water to create damage here, thousands of miles away, at a tsunami-plagued town up the coast. According to a local paper, 16 boats were sunk and 47 more were damaged. I read that the total energy released was 1.000 times greater than the quake centered in Northridge, CA a few years ago. Do we need more evidence that things done in one part of the world can have an effect in another?

So, now to our title subject, before I break the "stupid" rule I just set above. Our congregation, for complicated reasons, has no choir these days. I was asked just a few weeks ago to gather a group of men to sing in one of our Sunday meetings. I had thought I had seven lined up, but one had to stay home with a sick little brother, so we performed with six.
It's surprising all the things that have to go right in order to achieve the desired effect for something like this. We had a song, but had to change the key and print the words larger. I had to compose and print an introduction, which was slightly botched by the man conducting the service. I had to decide who would handle each of five short solos, though deciding on who wouldn't get a solo was pretty easy - a guy with severely challenged musicality. I let him pretend to sing bass.
We had several short practices, with just one or two including all the members of the group. I also had the delicate task of telling the accompanist to back off the tempo. The delicate part is that it was the Mrs., who was patient with me. We had to also decide whether or not solos would be accompanied, where to stand and in what order. Lots of potential things to foul up.
The song's message was that serving one's fellow man is important in life - not a new message. My thought was to match our performance to the slightly folky nature of the music, while letting the words stand out. The final ensemble included a teenager, a man in his eighties, the teenager's father and a tennis playing friend now in his seventies. We may have created some musical keys which don't occur in nature, but got through the four verses (skipping three others) without dissolving into either laughter or tears. A few people said they liked the performance, and the ones who hated it were kind enough not to say so out loud.
Perhaps all this indicates is that my high school days spent in the not-so-manly art of speech and debate might have been better spent in the choir, which met at the same hour. I can't change that, but can say I enjoyed debate, but also look forward to the next chance to sing, though perhaps in a more supporting role. Let's hope future style meets the substance of religious music in a way that makes everyone happy they attended.


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