Loss

Yesterday, I blogged about the passing of Helen Kemp. She was a giant in children’s choral music. I promise I’m not going morbid on this blog, but there is an actual direction I’m going here.

In the midst of my day, I saw a post on Facebook from one of my dear friends to pray for his mom. I immediately text him and ask what’s going on. He replies, “She just passed away.” I was shocked and stunned. I felt like I was punched in the gut. She had a blood clot that went to her brain. She was in her early 50’s.

Sharon and her husband are dear friends of our family. They treat us like family and love our girls to death. One of the things that I was able to do was to help Sharon learn how to play handbells. She didn’t really consider herself musical, but apparently I was persistent enough. Desperation and needing ringers can do that, I guess. But she tried and tried, and I worked with her and encouraged her, and she was able to ring quite well. It was something that I was quite grateful for.

One of the other things that I am given credit for, but the credit truly goes to God for, is their son Brandon. He is one of my closest friends, and is extremely musically talented. He wasn’t doing much with music, but I chose to get to know him, encourage him and find ways to get him involved. That led to my suggesting his name when a worship leading opportunity came up at another church. He thrived in that opportunity. And I know for Rick and Sharon, that was something they were so happy to see. Brandon just started back to college this month. His first go-round when he was younger didn’t go so well, so now I know that he is going to do great. But I am thankful that Sharon was able to see him get started.

In our ministries and in our churches, we will have loss. That’s pretty much a guarantee as long as we’re living on this earth. Knowing that God is in control, we can rejoice in the knowledge that those who leave us are in heaven with God. And we can ask for God’s peace, that peace that the world cannot give. But it is in those memories and opportunities to make music together that we can find comfort. Making music is only part of what we do in our rehearsals, though. We fellowship with one another. We interact with one another. At least in the groups that I have been blessed to lead, there’s a good amount of fellowshipping going on! But that is a good thing, because it builds those connections to care for one another, to be there when others need it.

While yes, I am sad that Helen Kemp has been called home, and I am sad that my friend Sharon has been called home, I am thankful for the legacies that they have left, and the connection and impact that they have had on my life and the lives of others in so many different ways. I praise God for that, and I find comfort and peace in that. And I pray that when you experience that in your church or your ministries, that you find comfort and peace in those memories as well.

Helen Kemp

Helen Kemp

This is a very challenging post to write, but after I read the news, I knew I had to write it. Helen Kemp passed away. If you’re not involved with children’s choirs, you probably never have heard of her. But to those of us who are involved with children’s choirs or have been throughout the years, Helen had a great influence. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet her or hear her speak, but I have heard from those who learned from her and gained those insights as well as reading her articles. The closest I got was that up until her passing, I was friends with her on Facebook. In her 97 years on this earth, encouraging children to sing and sing well was one of her driving forces. She played a major role in the birth of Choristers’ Guild, a group that advocates for and provides amazing resources for children’s choirs.

In learning about Helen and her teaching, one of the things that was of great encouragement to me was using the whole body in singing and making music.  Her focus was four parts: Body, Mind, Spirit, Voice. This has been very influential for me and other directors as well. And it has been influential to children who have sung in choirs with this philosophy.

The children’s choir world has lost a giant. But the great part is that her influence and legacy will be long lasting. Not only her personally, but for those she has taught and influenced. This is a great thought for me today, as many schools in my area are starting up again for another school year. As choir directors, we have an opportunity to make an impact on so many young lives, not just through music, but through our caring. As children grow, they want to feel like they are capable of doing something well and that they are cared for. In some instances, one of the few times that children may feel that is in our choir rooms. Just like Helen Kemp, we as directors have an opportunity to be influential in the lives of those children, teaching them about music, life and much more. That thought excites me today. So, while I am sad today to hear of Helen Kemp’s passing, I know that the legacy that she has left extends to me and many others.

Rest in peace Helen, and I know that you are making exquisite music in heaven.

Skillfully

I used this as a devotional thought with my adult choir and it is appropriate for all of us who serve as musicians in this church.

Psalm 33:1-5

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

For those of us called to lead in the various musical aspects of the church, we have a lot of responsibilities and duties. Most of the time, the people we are involving in our music ministries are volunteers, many of them have some musical training, and they are all participating because they love God and want to worship Him.

I love these verses because they give a directive and a reminder as to why we do the things we do in worship. One of the things seen is to be joyful. Our worship is a response to God and His actions in our lives and in the world. When we think just for a moment about God’s faithfulness, at it is pointed out in verse 4, that has to give us a feeling of joy. And in verse 5, if we look around at creation and see how the earth is full of His unfailing love, we respond with worship filled with joy.

While verses 1, 4 and 5 deal with the why we worship and praise God, I want to spend a bit of time diving into verses 2 and 3. Verse 2 speaks of instruments. The harp and the ten stringed lyre. I am guessing that when you walk into most churches on a Sunday morning, you more than likely will not see a harp and a lyre ready to lead worship. And that is alright. Those were the instruments of the day used in worship. Today, we use the organ, piano, and maybe even a worship band. While the instrumentation may be different, and the songs themselves may be different, the reason for worshiping and the heart behind that worship does not change.

Then we get to verse 3. One of the biggest complaints in the church regarding music and worship, at least that I have received over the years, is too many new hymns and songs. While that has been sometimes an intentional choice on my part, one of the things that I have found relating to people is that we know what we like and we like what we know. I recently had an article shared with me that was written by Billy Graham. It specifically spoke to the complaint of a feeling of too many new songs being sung in worship. Dr. Graham’s response was “Ask God to help you be grateful for all music, new or old, which points you to God….Remember: the old hymns you like were once new, and someone didn’t like them either!” What a great response! So, yes, while Scripture repeatedly tells us to sing a new song, we must be mindful in how many new songs we sing. But then this command to play skillfully comes up. “Practice makes perfect” the old saying goes. Actually, it doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes better. For those of us who are called to be in charge and responsible for leading and directing music ministries, this task is great. While some involved in our music ministries have musical background and training, there are many levels of abilities. So how does that lead to skillful playing and music making? Well, that’s your role. You must set an expectation and guide those you serve and work with to that level.

But then there’s the balance. You may skip right over it when you read verse 3. Play skillfully  and shout for joy. In the midst of our skillfulness, there has to be……joy!! And this is one of the hardest things to do. I have heard many musicians who are technically precise and flawless in their music making…..but it is boring to listen to. Why? There is no passion, no joy. Just a focus on technical accuracy and precision. In the church, we take music, connect it to the power of words, connect it even deep er with the power of God’s Word and in the midst of that, we must have skillful musicianship balanced with joy. This task is not easy, but it can be done.

As we worship, we are reminded that worship is about God, not us. When we make music, we are using the gifts of time and talents that God has given us, and we return it to Him in worship. When we prepare, we must focus on skillful musicianship balanced with exuberant joy. I believe this is most easily accomplished by preparing well musically, and while preparing well, focusing on God and His Word, and allowing the words that we sing and the music we play come from our souls and flow through our entire body.

Noisetrade finds August 22

One of my favorite websites that I have come across is www.noisetrade.com. You can find books and music there and connect to musicians and authors. You can “tip”, which I highly recommend, but it’s a great way to find out about new music and books. Every Saturday, I’ll be highlighting some of the music I’ve found.

 

Summer’s Not Over– Free Sampler

This is full of some great musicians and some super awesome songs. The first one, “Beautiful Life”, you’ll find your toes tapping with the music very quickly! If you listen to Christian radio, “The One I’m Running To” is probably one you may have heard. Citizens and Saints is one of my favorite bands out there. They have a great song on this sampler. Shuree is a singer my 6 year old really likes, and her sound is very poppy and upbeat. Rapture Ruckus is a band that I’ve seen in concert a few times and I love them! Their song “Volcano” is great! Again, if you’ve listened to Christian radio, you’ve probably heard this song.

Overall, I think you’ll find something on this sampler you’ll like. It’s a summer sampler, so you’re going to find a lot of upbeat songs.

 

Sawyer– Shut Up and Dance with Somebody

I’m a sucker for covers and mashups. This takes the currently popular earworm “Shut Up and Dance” with the classic Whitney Houston song “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. Instrumentally, it’s stripped down, and of course, the biggest difference is, it’s 2 females singing. Awesome harmonies, awesome sound. If you’re a sucker for these kinds of songs like I am, you’ll love it!

 

 

John Mark McMillan– I Dreamed there Was a Fountain

One of the things that musicians use Noisetrade for is fundraising for charitable needs. And that’s exactly what this does. You can read more about Hydrating Humanity. I absolutely love John Mark McMillan’s music. He’s got such a unique voice and songwriting knack. If you’ve never heard of him, you’ve probably sung one of his songs. “How He Loves” which was made popular by The David Crowder Band is his song. I’ve had the privilege to see him in concert a couple of times, and he’s a fantastic musician. Check out his music and support a great cause in the process!

 

 

So, there you go. 3 for you to check out on Noisetrade. Have fun checking out the site and exploring what is there. You’ll get lost, especially because you can preview the tracks.