Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quick Update

So, I haven't been as good about my blog recently, but really exciting and fun things are happening here. Most recently, we got to spend an evening with harpsichordist and Handel expert Susan Ferre and members of the Texas Baroque ensemble. We spent the evening learning about 18th-century performance practices and conducting excerpts from Handel's Messiah. It was like karaoke for sacred music majors. We had a great time – everybody did a wonderful job conducting singers and live musicians, and coping with singing the normally familiar music of the oratorio at lowered pitch. The fact that the music is placed just that much differently in your voice really makes a difference! I was groping for notes that I normally am pretty solid on. It was lots of fun. One MSM did particularly well conducting a recitativo accompagnato for which Dr. Hawn was supplying the tenor part – and pugnaciously over-ornamenting the line in an (unsuccessful!) attempt to throw the student conductor off. Our classes are like a concert and a comedy act rolled into one.

I got my first chance to get up in front of the Chancel Choir at First Pres this past week, starting to prepare them to sing Eleanor Daley's arrangement of the Huron Carol for Christmas Eve. They seemed to like it! I'm really looking forward to combining them and my Youth Choir for the piece. In other news, I had my youth sopranos and altos holding a major 2nd last practice – woo hoo!

I'm doing lots of assignments and writing papers and tests, and getting the same back with favourable results, which feels great! Please pray for me as I navigate the upcoming weeks, with many things coming due around the same time and a trip to Oklahoma thrown in for good measure.

But wait - it's a VIDEO update! Here are two clips from the World Communion chapel service. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I will share your joy and sorrow 'til we've seen this journey through

This weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving in the Deep South! That's right; no one knew what I was talking about when I wished them a Happy Thanksgiving, and the grocer raised his eyebrow when I asked him where the stuffing (dressing) was, but who cares! We had a tasty dinner of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and the perennial cabbage salad. My first-ever try at making a feast like this! I think it was a success.

This year, Thanksgiving weekend coincided with our first wedding anniversary. :) :) :) We did a lot of remembering, and went back over all the gifts of friendship we were shown during our wedding time. We essentially concluded that our wedding kicked butt.

The first anniversary is the paper anniversary – don't be impressed; I googled that one. Apparently David had googled it too, because he made me an anniversary card out of leftover paper from our wedding invitations. I made apple pastries for breakfast. I had a whole clever joke worked out about how it's the paper anniversary but I got it wrong and thought it was the pastry anniversary.... but then when the time came I forgot to actually make the joke. Maybe that's for the better.

We both agreed we're glad to be on this adventure together, and are looking forward to year 2!

Holy Kevin Bacon, Batman!

Okay, so, I had a midterm in Interpretation of the Old Testament last week, and I was studying the various readings we'd covered since the end of August. I was re-reading a chapter from Jacques Berlinerblau's book "The Secular Bible" (an interesting if a little incendiary read) and a paragraph on page 37 went like so:

[Biblical scholar Michael] Fishbane's analysis often – but not in every case – points to small, modest intrusions performed by the scribes in question [while redacting the Hebrew Bible]. It was his student, Bernard Levinson, who conceptualized larger, more aggressive interventions. In his study of Deuteronomy, Levinson pointed to the radically "transformative" work of those who wrote the fifth book of the Pentateuch. Their textual reworkings of earlier biblical texts were conscious, "creative, active, revisionist, and tendentious." These scribes had a specific political and theological agenda that they sought to implement by rewriting and in essence reformulating existing works such as the Covenant Code of Exodus (20:23-23:33). Here we are asked to envision biblical scribes who are writing in dialogue with – or perhaps better yet, shouting in opposition to – other parts of the Bible.

Okay, so he's making a good point, blah blah blah – did you catch the name?? Bernard Levinson – Bernie – was my Dad's best friend growing up in South Porcupine, Ontario. They were the Jew and Gentile dynamic duo. He is now a Hebrew Bible scholar (specializing in Deuteronomy) and teaches at the University of Michigan; that quotation is from his doctoral thesis. I was totally amazed! I had even read the chapter already and hadn't caught the significance of the name the first time around.

Here's the crazy thing – in class, ages ago, we were talking about how in Jewish culture there is much more of a culture of asking questions and having discussions of the Bible than we are used to as Christians. They are taught to ask good questions and engage the Bible in a way we don't. During this class discussion, I told an anecdote my Dad told me ages ago about his friend Bernie, who Dad noticed "always had his hand up in class." Well, weeks later there he was, in my class reading! I told the class all about it, how they were best friends and did a project on Simon and Garfunkel in Grade 13. My prof thought it was great – she started referring to "Bernie" during the lecture. "Well, maybe we'd have to ask Bernie and he would disagree with that statement."


I tried to work him into my midterm exam but didn't quite manage it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fair Fare

Next week, David and I are going to our first-ever state fair. That's right, we'll be taking in the Texas State Fair in all its glory, complete with the however-many-feet-high mascot, Big Tex. There's an agricultural fair, a garden, a midway - I could not be more excited about this.

Most of all, there's food. Specifically, food of the fried variety. The Fair is famous for having a new fried concoction every year. Legend has it that last year's treat was deep fried Coke. This year, it's chicken-fried bacon. (For those of you who don't speak Texas yet, that's not bacon and chicken or chicken wrapped in bacon, or bacon fried by a coward. It's bacon that's been battered and deep fried. Consequently, I've also heard of such delicacies as chicken-fried steak, chicken-fried Mars bars, and...chicken-fried chicken).

I am very much looking forward to sampling some of the deep-fried treats. However, since my heart and stomach can only take so much, I'd like you to vote for what I should try from the following list. (These were my favourites, but if you'd like to see the full list be my guest!)

Chicken Fried Bacon – Thick and peppery Farm Pac® bacon is seasoned, double-dipped in a special batter and breading and deep-fried. Served with a creamy side of ranch or honey mustard sauce. Winner of Best Taste in the Big Tex Choice Awards competition.

Fried Banana Split – A mixture of banana and honey peanut butter is rolled in balls, battered and deep-fried and topped with assorted, delicious fixings, including powdered sugar, caramel and chocolate syrups, chopped peanuts, whipped cream and banana split flavored ice cream bites then fittingly crowned with the traditional cherry. Served at the Auto Grill inside the Automobile Building. Winner of Most Creative in the Big Tex Choice Awards competition.

Fernie’s All-American Fried Grilled Cheese Sandwich – An American classic with a State Fair twist. Two slices of white bread filled with a blend of American and cheddar cheeses, dipped in an egg and milk batter and lightly coated with panko bread crumbs for extra crispness. Served with a side of shoestring potato sticks, a pickle spear and tomato soup dipping sauce. The All American Meal! Finalist in the Big Tex Choice Awards competition.

Texas Fried Jelly Belly Beans – Jelly Belly Beans are rolled in funnel cake batter and fried to a crunch. People can share the treat with friends and try to guess the flavors before biting down. Finalist in the Big Tex Choice Awards competition.

Fire & Ice – A pineapple ring is battered and deep-fried, then topped with banana-flavored whipped cream that’s been frozen in liquid nitrogen. The smoking concoction is ladled with strawberries and syrup. Fire & Ice is served by Abel Gonzales at the family-run stand on Nimitz Drive. Finalist in the Big Tex Choice Awards competition.

Fried Pop Rocks Fundae Blast - Ignite your senses with this explosion of Tastes. Fried Ice Cream covered in Hershey’s Syrup and Pop Rocks. Your fuse is a Twizzler rolled in Pop Rocks. While you disarm it, you’ll find an Atomic Fireball inside . . .“Fire in the Bowl”!

Crispy Fried Cantaloupe Pie – Diced cantaloupe seasoned with brown sugar, cinnamon and coconut milk, rolled in a flaky pie pastry, and then deep fried. Topped with powdered sugar and whip cream.

P.S. I was going to put a picture of a deep-fried Mars bar with this post, but... it was too ugly. I couldn't do it.

Strange as it seems, there's been a run of crazy dreams

I had a dream:

I was the youth music leader at a large, busy church and we were putting on a production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat." Due to time restraints, we were performing the musical without ever having rehearsed it. Actually, I had taught the choral parts to the kids (if you haven't seen the show, there is a children's chorus throughout; at least my crazy dreams are accurate) but we hadn't staged any of it. Shawn Dell was playing Joseph. The auditorium had "orchestra" seats and a balcony, and for some reason we had the kids sitting in the first several rows of the orchestra; they were singing facing away from the audience. The stage, on the other hand, had several tiers, and I somehow ended up trying to conduct from something like the fourth or fifth tier, where nobody could see me.

Just before the performance started, the music leader of the church let me know he had hired an orchestra for the event. The orchestra leader was standing on another tier of the auditorium (not sure why we both needed to conduct?) and was following me by means of a mirror, but the mirror was tiny and several thick posts made the triangulation very difficult. When I finally got so she could see me in the mirror, it meant that I was standing under an air vent which was blowing so hard on my hand that I couldn't do my beat pattern. I finally gave the sign for the opening of the show, and the orchestra processed in very dramatically from the back while playing (I hadn't seen this before – like I said, no rehearsals – and in the dream I thought, "hey, that's cool!") In the dream I really did hear the opening of the show; lifted from my Canadian cast recording circa 1992 starring Donny Osmond.

As the show progressed, we ran into some difficulties in that someone had pasted English madrigals into the score at various places where they apparently felt Lloyd Webber's music was inadequate, and a few numbers in I realized I was also supposed to be playing the Narrator, but like I said I was four tiers up and no one could see me.

I won't try and interpret the dream (partly to protect the guilty!) but I'll offer some context of what's going on in my life. In Joseph's words à la Tim Rice:
Tell me of your dreams my friends
and I will tell you what they show.
Though I cannot guarantee
to get it right, I'll have a go.

1. The First Presbyterian Church Youth Choir will be performing in church for the first time with me a week from Sunday, after just two rehearsals on their song.
2. On Tuesday I'll be conducting in front of my class for the first time, leading them in a cold read of a Daniel Pinkham piece with constantly shifting time signatures.
3. Ken Cooper at First Pres just realized that the organ can't be used one Sunday near Christmas because of the set for "Amahl and the Night Visitors"; he's going to have to call in an orchestra.
4. We are studying the Patriarchal stories of Genesis in Old Testament class right now (Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.... Joseph)
5. "Youth music leader at a large, busy church with tiered seating"... hmm....
6. "Any Dream Will Do" came on my iPod the other day and it was the best moment of my week.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

World Communion Chapel, led by Perkins International Students

For this service, Dr. Hawn put together a liturgy using elements taken from our various countries – and of course, music! I got to conduct the American debut of Dad and Richard Leach's "This Banquet Has No Walls" – the Seminary Singers sang it really well.
During the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving, Chali alternated the liturgy between Shona, Bemba (I think), French (for me!) and English. The display above was lacking an authentic pair of Dory Dan Newfoundland Spoons....

World Communion Celebration
October 1, 2008
11:30 a.m.
Perkins Chapel

Processional Mweya Mutsvene Uyai Pano Traditional Shona (Zimbabwe)

Mweya M’tsvene
Mweya M’tsvene
Mweya M’tsvene
Uyai pano. Holy Spirit,
Holy Spirit,
Holy Spirit
Come by here.

Call to Worship Caribbean Conferences of Churches, adpt.

Thank you, O Lord our God, for all that you have done to sustain us.
In the Caribbean there are so many things that give us pleasure:
beaches, mountains, valleys, trees, fruits and flowers.
Indeed, all nature celebrates you in this part of your creation.

The heavens are telling the glory of God:
and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

Thank you for the people who dwell in our territories,
that in them we see a reflection of all the races of the world.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands. (Psalm 100:1)

Thank you for your beloved Son Jesus Christ:
for his life, his mission, his teachings,
his sufferings, his death and resurrection;
and that this Jesus who is our Saviour, lives today.

Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving,
and God’s courts with praise!
Give thanks and bless God’s name. (Psalm 100:4)

Song of Praise Enter Into Jerusalem Fr. Richard Ho Lung (Jamaica) / Andrew
Please see the music at the end of the program.
Join the choir on the chorus.

Scripture Mark 6:14-29

Sermon Who is Herod? And Who are You?

Prayers of the People written by Dr. Ezra Chitando (Zimbabwe)

Preparation Zviro Zvacho Zvanyanya Patrick Matsikenyiri (Zimbabwe)

Come, Holy Spirit, help us build a better world.
Come, Holy Spirit, Help us all unite as one.

God of liberation and justice,
defender of the poor and marginalized,
we seek your guidance.
Give us vision and confidence to become prophets
when resources are looted.

Singing: Come, Holy Spirit, help us build a better world.
Come, Holy Spirit, Help us all unite as one.

Let us hear the cry of the widows.
Let us feed the orphans.
Let us denounce injustice by the powerful.
May we demand drugs for the sick.
May we demand care for the abandoned.
May we denounce wastefulness by the affluent.

Singing: Come, Holy Spirit, help us build a better world.
Come, Holy Spirit, Help us all unite as one.

Forgive our silence.
Forgive our complicity.
In your mercy, forgive our condemnation of people living with HIV.
Forgive us when we deal lightly with the wounds of your people.
Forgive the times when we have offered artificial solutions.

Singing: Come, Holy Spirit, help us build a better world.
Come, Holy Spirit, Help us all unite as one.

Empower us to tackle corrupt systems.
Make is instruments of your peace.
Make us agents of transformation.
In Jesus’ name we pray.

Singing: Come, Holy Spirit, help us build a better world.
Come, Holy Spirit, Help us all unite as one.

Passing the Peace

Procession of the Sacrament
Le lo le lo lay lo William Loperena, O.P. (Puerto Rico)

*This is where Ulston and I danced the communion elements down the aisle*

Great Thanksgiving

The Great Amen Masithi S.C. Molefe: Xhosa, South Africa

Amen, siyakudumisa Amen, we praise your name O Lord
Amen, siyakudumisa Amen, we praise your name O Lord
Amen, Bawo; Amen, Bawo Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, siyakudumisa Amen, we praise your name O Lord

And now with the confidence of children of God, let us pray as Christ taught us in our own language: Our Father . . .

Sharing the Bread and Cup

Music during communion
This Banquet Has No Walls Andrew Donaldson (Canada)
Seminary Singers

This banquet has no walls, O God
for as we break the bread we find
the powers that take and limit life
are near to us, not far away.
Yet they have no say,
at your banquet without walls.

This banquet has no walls, O God,
for as we break we find the ones
the world would shun and scorn
are welcomed in, not kept away.
We will sit on day
at your banquet without walls.

The banquet has an end, O God,
for as we rise to leave we find
the table where the feast goes on
is near to us, not far away.
We will sit one day
at your banquet without walls.
Text: Richard Leach (USA), 1996 © 2005 Selah Publishing Co., Inc.
Reprinted by permission under #A-705453
*Ulston providing the groove for Dad's song. We were told to dress as we would for church at home - he looked sharp! Note that this was taken later, as he of course paid attention to the conductor during the song rather than mugging for the camera.*

UMH 620 One Bread, One Body John Foley (USA)
All are invited to sing.

Parting Hymn The Right Hand of God Noel Dexter (Jamaica)
See music at the end of the order of worship.

Blessing (In Unison) Lois Wilson (Toronto)
*I read this, and said a bit about Rev. Wilson first*
The blessing of the God of Sarah and Hagar, as of Abraham,
the blessing of the Son, born of Mary,
the blessing of the Holy Spirit who broods over us
as a mother over her children, be with you all. Amen.

Processional Le lo le lo lay lo

Worship Leaders—Perkins International Students:
We welcome our celebrant, Rev. Kalaba Chali, MTS ’07,
(United Methodist, Zambia)
Pastor of Heart of Africa Fellowship & Prison Ministry,
Lovers Lane United Methodist Church

Preacher: Christinah Kwaramba, MTS 2 (United Methodist, Zimbabwe)

Organist: Ulston Algernon Smith, MSM 1
(Moravian Church Eastern West Indies Province, Antigua/Barbuda)

Choral Director: Hilary Seraph Donaldson, MSM 1
(Presbyterian Church in Canada)

Unable to be present today: Christian Kakez-A-Kapend, MTS 1
(Methodist, Democratic Republic of Congo)

Seminary Singers, C. Michael Hawn, Director
Chelsea Stern and Laura Bertwell, Assistant Directors;
Ulston Smith, Accompanist
Neeki Bey, Percussion

Ulston Smith is a first-year M.S.M. student from Antigua/Barbuda. He is a graduate of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and The United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica.
Ulston’s wife, Jovanca Smith is a final year civil engineering student at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Ulston is preparing to minister in the Moravian church as pastor and minister of music.
When you think of the Caribbean, please pray for the witness of the church, that she remain a voice of hope, love and restoration. Pray for the leaders both political and spiritual; that they may live exemplary lives worthy of the vocation to which they have been called.

Christinah Kwaramba, a second-year M.T.S. student, is from Harare and her people are the Shona. She is a graduate of Africa University in Mutare.
Christinah is preparing to minister in the United Methodist Church and teach in a seminary in Zimbabwe
When you think of Zimbabwe, Christinah would like for you to pray for the socio-economic & political situation in her country. Shops are empty and food is very expensive. Pray for the families who lost their beloved ones during the 2008 elections and pray for my church conferences in Zimbabwe.

Christian Kakez-A-Kapend is a first-year M.T.S. student from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is a graduate of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
Christian is preparing to enter a PhD program in homiletics so that he can teach in UM institutions in African continent.
Christian would like for you to pray for peace to totally prevail in the Congo.

Hilary Donaldson is a first-year M.S.M. student from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her husband David Kopulos is an artist and graphic designer. She is a graduate of Concordia University in Montréal, Québec.
Hilary is preparing to be a worship leader and choral conductor in Canada.
Hilary asks that you pray for her church, Trafalgar Presbyterian in Oakville, Ontario, and for its continuing ministry in the villages of Masooli and Kitettika in Uganda.

*These little blurbs had a map of each of our countries with it... mine was a map of Ontario*

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Snow had fallen, snow on snow

Our Church Music Colloquium is organized according to the calendar of the church year, and this term we are examining music for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany – fitting since we will experience this part of the year in real life even as we study it. We each prepared a study of the lyrics of one Advent hymn for our last class, discussing the poetic devices used, where we would place it in Advent (I looked up the PCC lectionary for this, you'll be glad to know) and where it fits with other hymnody of the same period.

One of my classmates was assigned "In the Bleak Midwinter." I love this hymn. To me it sums up just about everything Christmas stands for, not to mention the realities of winter. On top of that, I heart Bob Chilcott's arrangement (not to mention the classic Singers and Players recording). As soon as we got talking about it in class, though, Darnell (who was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) said "I never connected with this hymn singing it as a kid. It was never cold at Christmas." We all laughed and talked about this, and Megan (who grew up in Iowa) and I chimed in that where we come from, it resonates emphatically. Dr. Hawn pointed out that they really don't go for this one much in Australia. Joking aside, Darnell's comment really set off a light for me. Here is a hymn text that has deep significance for me, by virtue of where I come from and what my life experience is, which I share with the lyricist. In Old Testament class we have discussed the importance of "social location"; how the biases of a writer or our biases as readers, based on our status and position in the scheme of things, impacts our interpretation of a text. Here in Colloquium class was almost a step simpler than that – textual impact based on geographical location!

I'm also fascinated to be learning that Advent is not intended to only be about waiting for the Christ-child, but is a time for us to reflect on the end of time and the return of Christ (eschatology, in seminary-speak). That's part of the neat mystery of our faith: welcome to the beginning of the Church year; let's think about the End. Knowing this is making some hymns I thought I knew take on really exciting new significance. It gave me a little thrill to discover places where the lyrics of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" really resemble the cautionary text of "Wachet auf".

During that discussion, it also hit me that there will be no bleak midwinter for me to sing about this year. That gave me a little pang.