Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teaching Essentials

After an adult lifetime of teaching children how to sing, I must say that rhythm instruments, Orff instruments, even a piano can be useful items, but the main essentials still remain a good teacher, a blackboard and a fair sized room.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fear and Love

[The Lord] fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love him. Psalm 145:19-20.

C’mon, C’mon, C’mon. Go away, Go away, Go away. Most of us have watched children react when they see a clown, or some other potentially scary object by covering their eyes, but peering through their fingers. They really want to look, but they have a reserve about it.

Scripture tells us that we should fear God, but also love him. What characteristic causes these reactions? God is holy and we are not. As James Montgomery Boice writes, “Holiness intrigues us, as the unknown always does. We are drawn to it. But at the same time we are in danger of being undone, and fear being undone by the confrontation.” Yet if our love for God does not contain this fear, we haven’t really seen God as he is.

In my estimation, too many people don’t experience the “fear of God.” Some refer to him as “the man upstairs” or the “Big Daddy.” This kind of familiarity does not show that the person has really experienced the presence of the Holy One. Franz Delitzsch, a German Lutheran theologian of the 19th Century wrote, “Fear and love belong inseparable together. For fear without love is an unfree, servile disposition, and love without fear, bold-faced familiarity; the one dishonors the all-gracious One, and the other the all-exalted One.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Damper Pedal

What one thing can reveal an accomplished pianist from an amateur? Something hardly noticeable, but absolutely essential to good playing—the damper pedal that helps connect one note to the next, warm up the tone of the phrase, and generally nuance the music. However, pedaling should never steal the show by blurring a passage and ruining the clarity of the sound. An accomplished pianist knows the amount of pedaling to use based on the style of the piece and the acoustics of the room in which he or she plays. Harmonic pedaling is good for hymns and chorales. Flutter pedaling works in baroque and classical pieces, and sonorous pedaling (a kind of sophisticated blurring) in impressionistic pieces.

Did you think pedaling mattered so much? Unless you particularly notice, that part of the playing rarely will catch your attention. Next time you watch a good pianist, take note of the ways in which he or she plays the pedals.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Indelible Engraving

Our senior church choir is working on a piece of music set to the this wonderful text.

Write thy blessed name, O Lord, upon my heart, there to remain so indelibly engraven, that no prosperity, no adversity shall ever move me from thy love. Be thou to me a strong tower of defense, a conforter in tribulation, a deliverer in distress, a very present help in trouble, and a guide to heaven through the many temptations and dangers of this life. Amen.

Thomas a Kempis