Simple Song from Mass

Most of my musical energy has been focused on church music lately, as I continue with the pipe organ and choir. The dulcimer will again be part of our late Christmas Eve mass, with one or two solos and two songs accompanying the choir.

Meanwhile, our choir director Mary Pat had invited me to sing this Leonard Bernstein song, which I hadn’t heard before. The more I’ve worked on it, the more I’ve come to like it both musically and lyrically. With thanks to Mary Pat for her accompaniment and help preparing the song, and to Pat Pearish for recording:


While our choir director is out of town, I have had the privilege of leading our choir in a few anthems. One of our parishioners got a partial video of today’s song — his wife beautifully accompanied us on piano.

Dulcimer in worship

In the absence of our organist and choir director, I am helping to lead music lately. Sometimes fellow parishioner Michael and I play guitars. Sometimes I use the dulcimer. Another parishioner, Adam, recorded a few of Sunday’s hymns on his iPhone.

During communion, Jesus, our mighty Lord (478, Hymnal 1982)

Post-communion hymn, Fairest Lord Jesus (383)

Recessional hymn, Lord, you give the great commission (528)

Compañeros de Cristo

The Compañeros de Cristo (Companions of Christ) group in our diocese (Northern Indiana) is planning a trip to our companion diocese of Honduras in late January; I hope to go. (Postponed — possibly to summer.)

I have been playing guitar and singing for our parish’s Spanish-language mass since Easter 2013. I sometimes also serve as a lay reader. Many of the folks connected with this mass are from Honduras. My Spanish is perhaps at a second- or third-year level; I can understand a lot of what I read, my pronunciation is pretty good, conversation is challenging, and so is listening.

From now until mid-January, any proceeds from CD sales or other musical endeavors will go toward my travel costs.

I also have handmade jeans bags for sale. All are made from thrifted jeans, lined with other fabric scraps, with inner and outer pocket(s). If you’re not local, you can buy them on Ebay.

Light for Winter video

Couldn’t make the performance? Or just want to see it again? Here it is in the form of a YouTube playlist.


The Storm / One Wintry Night (Jerry Read Smith)
Drive the Cold Winter Away (trad) / Carolan’s Welcome (O’Carolan)
Winter East and Kensington (Marcy Prochaska)
Come Before Winter (Jim Taylor)

Verso (Zipoli)
Now all the woods are sleeping (Bach)
Kyrie (Frescobaldi)
Hyfrydol, aka Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus (Prichard)

Dulcimer and horn*
Two preludes (Bach) (just dulcimer)
Arioso (Bach)
Bourree (Bach)
Tres Libre (Barboteu) (just horn)

Chtíc, Aby Spal (Michna)
Hard to Get (Rich Mullins)
Sanctus and Agnus Dei (Marcy Prochaska)

Easter Thursday (trad) (with horn)
Third Street Market (Marcy Prochaska)
What Child Is This? (trad) / Menuet (Quantz)

*Olivia Martinez
**Xénia Czifrík; Mary Pat Glaub, Michael Wraight, John Sherck

Light for Winter

7 pm Saturday, November 14, 2015
St Thomas Episcopal Church
412 N Center St, Plymouth IN 46563

As winter approaches, pause to be refreshed with the light of music’s beauty.

This recital marks my fifteenth year of playing the hammered dulcimer. I will also include some pieces on the church’s marvelous pipe organ, two a cappella songs, and two songs on the guitar. Joining me are special guests Olivia Martinez on French horn, alto Mary Pat Glaub, tenor John Sherck, baritone Michael Wraight, and alto Xenia Czifrik.

Reception following.

Church organ

So yesterday I had my first official lesson on our church organ. It is a tracker organ — all mechanical connections from the keys to the various pipes. Two manuals, I think 16 stops? and oh, two and a half octaves of pedals?

Our former organist retired last November, and starting in the new year we have Cindy Boener playing once a month. On the off weeks, I have been leading hymns on hammered dulcimer or guitar (with Michael Wraight) when I’ve been able. Cindy agreed to teach me organ, got me started with some beginning tips and a book and shoes to borrow — one needs a flexible thin sole and a substantial heel. I have exercises, a hymn, and a prelude to be working on. It is very challenging — it has been a long time since I have played any kind of keyboard, and the church organ literature is pretty different from anything else I have played, and there are new techniques, and so on.

Take a look at this historic picture of our organ; you can also see a bit of it in this recent picture from our last summer’s Vacation Bible School.

In praise of live accompaniment

When I was in college, I took modern dance every semester I could. I had done a very very short session of ballet once when I was little, but when my feet cramped I was confused and quit. Dance counted for the physical education requirement at my college, which is why I got started in it, and I loved it so much I continued. Embodied music and art, creative expression, grace and beauty and truth and stretching, opening the heart, the parallelism of bodily systems and mental / emotional ones. Amazing stuff.

We had a piano in the studio, and a thin young man named Blanton would accompany our classes. The teacher would explain and demonstrate the combination or the exercise we were to do, and he would immediately have the most fitting music for it. Tribal sounds for moving across the floor with wide legs and arched arms. “Ashokan Farewell” for a seated stretching sequence. Always just perfectly matched to the kind of movement we were doing. And, of course, his timing matched ours — an intro to prepare us, and an ending as we finished. At the end of every class we all applauded our thanks to him.

Now my daughter takes dance, and there is no piano in her studio. Her ballet teacher uses recorded piano and orchestral music, which means she has to pause her instruction to go start it and stop it, and the piece rarely takes the same amount of time as the movement, and often enough doesn’t quite match the mood very well. Her modern teacher uses some recorded music but occasionally also uses a hand drum, which I like a lot.

We went to her grade’s spring music program, and the whole thing was done to recorded music. There’s no flexibility for adjusting the tempo to the students’ abilities or for recovering from mistakes. The recorded music just goes — it runs the show — the students simply have to keep up and go along with it.

In high school I sometimes did “special music” in church — in the beginning it was wonderful because our worship band was able and willing to take the time to learn the pieces and practice with me. After a while though they required soloists to use recorded tracks.

I don’t think it’s simply an ego thing — wanting to be supported by or in control of the music instead of feeling like one has to follow or keep up with the recording. I think it’s more about synergy — collaboration — mutuality. It’s being part of something larger, something communal, relational, human, instead of standing alone in front of a recorded background.

I wish I could play the piano, well enough to improvise and select wisely like Blanton, so that I could offer to accompany my daughter’s dance class and school programs.