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Posts Tagged ‘singing’

For nearly a year, I’ve been spending an hour on Tuesday nights at Jeremiah’s house, with seven or eight of my friends, “practicing” for Come As You Are chapel on Thursdays. Practice actually entails some singing, random stories about our weeks, a prayer time at the end, making fun of Jeremiah (and each other, but he usually gets it the worst), and laughter that I’m sure can be heard down the street. There are some particular nights where it’s the Nate and Jake Comedy Show (they’re brothers), or when Charity and I get the giggles, or when Mandy and Olivia canNOT stop making sarcastic comments under their breaths. Last night was all of those…as well as a lesson in what happens when you put people in front of a video camera.

Jeremiah, bless his heart, had the idea of making a DVD as a going-away gift for us, and also for anyone who wants to know more about our ministry. So he wanted to tape part of last night’s rehearsal, as well as taping Thursday’s chapel, and also interview everyone for a couple of minutes about what Come As You Are has meant to them. We sang first (fortunately), with the usual mix of hilarity and music and anecdotes out of nowhere (which included, among other things, Jake’s car getting broken into, Nate’s frustrating past two days, several blonde moments from Charity, and Brett’s classic laconic attitude when asked about GATA formal: “It was GATA formal”).

Then Jeremiah took out the camera, and started explaining to everyone that he wanted them to talk for a minute or two about their favorite Come As You Are moments and what it has meant to them. Jake (our amazing freshman tenor) got put in the hot seat first, and started in with “I’ve really enjoyed Come As You Are this year, and as the youngest person in the group, it’s been so great to be invited in…” At which point Nate lunged forward and grabbed Jake as if to choke him (hey, they are brothers), and we had to go to take 2.

That was only the beginning…we could NOT stop laughing for the rest of the night. Wooden and metal swords were brandished (Olivia: “I’m about to be attacked by the Lollars, and I don’t know what level of heaven that will put me in, but I bet it’s pretty high!”). Threats were made (Nate, tapping a sword in his hand: “We really like it when Jeff shows up to Come As You Are. We wish he would come more often!”). Of course, Charity got all teary-eyed, and I tried to keep it short and sweet (and sort of to the point), and Mandy was cool as a cucumber, even while the boys were reenacting Braveheart from either side of her. Of course, poor Jeremiah HATES to be on camera – but we told him he had to be interviewed, and fifty-seven takes later (actually only about eight), we had a good segment from him.

The last bit of the night was funny and touching all at once – we convinced April, fiance of Jeremiah’s roommate Ben, to come and tape our last song (“Blessed Be Your Name,” which is sort of our theme song). In order to get a cool angle, we had her lie down on the floor in the middle of all of us, with the camera pointing upward – slightly intimidating for her, but fun!

These people have helped teach me what “Blessed Be Your Name” means, and the meanings of all the other songs we’ve sung, like “All the Heavens,” “Shout Hallelujah,” “In Christ Alone,” “Love One Another” and “Great in Power.” They’ve helped teach me what it means to have a life that praises God, even when things are dark or frustrating or out of control or just plain mundane.

Maybe we had an advantage from the beginning. Most of us were friends already. Jake and Nate are brothers. Charity is my soul-sister. Jeremiah and Brett have been singing together for two years. And, of course, Jeremiah holds a very special place in my heart. 🙂 But I think the worship times we’ve shared together have been the main thing that’s formed us. We are not only friends any more, nor are we simply family in Christ. We are a community. Honest, funny, authentic and open. And we love each other. More, I think, than even we know.

Chapel on the Hill. Thursday, 11 a.m. And then Sunday at Highland, 7:30 a.m. (to rehearse for two services). Two last times to lift it up to God together. Until we get to heaven, that is. Or until a Come As You Are reunion in five or ten years.

Blessed be His Name…

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you have to show it

Yesterday I received a challenge – a surprisingly apt challenge, from someone who has only known me a few weeks. I’m used to receiving encouragement and challenges from people who know what I’m capable of, i.e. my parents, my boss and my close friends. But I guess I’m more transparent than I thought I was. Either that, or my new voice teacher, Mr. Cook, is a very discerning man.

During our first few lessons together, we’ve mainly been working on taking deep breaths and opening the mouth wide enough to let some sound out. He keeps pushing me to give more. And yesterday he made me sing waaay higher and louder (and longer) than I wanted to – and finally asked, “Are you scared of your sound?” And then, “Do you feel any emotion when you sing?”

Well, what a stupid question. Of course I feel when I sing – I’ve spent years of my life singing to and about God, or singing love songs, or (at ACU) singing pieces from operas, which require a big dose of emotion. Singing is a huge part of my life. Of course it elicits an emotional response.

Here’s what I learned yesterday, though: If I’m feeling emotion when I sing, it does no one (including me) any good unless I show it. Sometimes that may feel like exaggeration; it will almost always feel dangerous. Mr. Cook explained that my voice is a gift, a gift I give my audience when I sing – even if my audience is only him listening to me doing screechy vocalises.

Something else clicked as I listened to him: I realized that I can’t keep being afraid to give the gift. I have to trust my audience enough, and care about them enough, to give them my voice even when I’m not sure what they’ll do with it. I can’t simply detach myself from caring what they think, because when you give a gift (especially of yourself), you do care deeply what the recipient thinks. I can’t choose the safe way of objective detachment from my audience. I have to choose the more honest, more dangerous – and ultimately more rewarding – way of confidence born out of compassion, and a longing to give.

My assigment this week is to show some emotion when I sing, and I’m going to try to make that true everywhere (church, choir, Come As You Are, chapel, Sing Song). Maybe I won’t move Mr. Cook to tears next week when I sing for him, but I hope he’ll at least be able to tell that my heart is in it. Even if I’m shaking with every note.

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Things that make me happy today:

1. Having my 1:30 class canceled
2. Wearing the softest pink skirt in the world (and being told I looked beautiful)
3. Hanging out with an AWESOME group of freshmen in the U100 class for which I’m peer leading
4. Dove chocolate…enough said
5. Reading Mike Cope’s poignant birthday-letter blog to his deceased daughter, Megan
6. Reading Judith Pella’s Written on the Wind, a tale of three sisters who are caught up in all kinds of crazy situations as World War II intensifies. From a journalist’s life in Russia to Japanese-American tensions at home, she covers all the bases…in a delightful, captivating writing style.
7. Renee Fleming’s luscious, velvety Haunted Heart CD
8. Looking forward to singing at Praise Chapel tomorrow!
9. Lunch at the Fatted Cafe with good friends
10. Poetry (my own and other people’s)
11. Specifically, this lovely little bit from “Katrina’s Sundial” by Henry Van Dyke:

Hours fly,
Flowers die.
New days,
New ways,
Pass by.
Love stays.

That’s all for now.

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