First Church Choir - Palm Sunday 2010
Last night, my wonderful church choir rehearsed for the final time this season. Despite a slow start (I know for me it was tough finding the energy to sit in a room for an hour and a half when it was so gorgeous outside!), some hard work was done, some beautiful and exciting music was made, and we even attained some new heights in our general ability to find more meaning in the music.
To me, the weekly rehearsal is a more powerful community experience even than what we do on Sunday morning: the voices raise together as one, and even though we are preparing to sing “in public”, we are singing just for each other – a safe circle of friends. Summertime is a necessary and welcome break from the planning and scheduling, but I will miss that time together each week.
It has been said that singing is the single best thing you can do to take care of yourself and improve your life (see this study conducted last year by Chorus America). I have seen that in action and have been part of it; it is truly humbling to lead such an important yet intangible part of life!
One of the challenges of writing music is finding time to “make it happen.” This is actually a misnomer (at least for me), because I truly feel I have very little control over when and how it happens. So, it is more accurately finding time to “let it happen.”
Just before lunchtime yesterday, things with my web business freed up enough that I could sit at the piano for awhile, and yes, a piece I had started months ago actually developed into a page and a half of new stuff. Momentum was great, I was having fun, my son was hanging out and listening… and then the phone rang. After a half hour on a necessary business call, I went back to the piano and only seemed to be able to play the same two chords over and over!
The irony, of course, is that the music I write is so clearly about relaxation, focus, meditation, centering, contentment, quiet… It seems I’m much better at preparing that space for others than for myself.
Mary McCleary (1984)
I visited a very dear friend yesterday, Mary McCleary. If you are into handbells at all, her name is very familiar to you, as she was a very prolific handbell composer in years past, and a tireless advocate for that instrument(s). Mary is my sort of “adopted grandmother” – I followed her as music director in two churches in CT, and we have always been mutual admirers and good friends. She’ll be 90 in August, and now lives in Elim Park, a retirement community in Cheshire, where she has gotten a total new lease on life as a musician, helping them to put a pipe organ in their chapel, leading a group of elder singers in a weekly sing-along (she says, “Can you believe I’ve finally learned to play by ear?!”), and being part of a very close-knit community after many years of living alone.
My favorite story about Mary is that she played her first organ recital in Connecticut on THE Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941! She always mentions that of course they had no idea the attack happened until days later.
The differences we make in people’s lives as musicians are immeasurable. I have always been humbled by the sheer number of people that have had their lives enriched by Mary’s gifts and joy in sharing them, for so many years. My young son was along for the visit, and was taken in by her immediately – perhaps McCleary Fan No. 3000?