reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the organ bench. [k.s. friday]

organ pipes

no one else.  there was literally no one else i knew who took organ lessons.  eight years old and i was the only one.  everyone else i knew took piano lessons.  they went to the new local music store –munro music on larkfield road in east northport – and had lessons in itty studios downstairs and came back upstairs to pick out sheet music from a big wall featuring the latest hits and books of collected artists, written out for various levels of piano-playing ability.  me?  i went to mr. i-never-knew-if-he-even-had-a-first-name sexton’s house (now, think about the torture my peers had with that name) and took organ lessons in the addition adjacent to the garage.  there was no wall of sheet music, were no cool guitars hanging up begging to be purchased, no amplifiers or drums.  just that one organ.  no windy or ode to billie joe or i’m a believer easy piano for me.  it was beautiful dreamer and long, long ago.  and hymns.  lots of hymns.  but i had been asking for lessons since i was five and the little chord organ that was my grandmother’s was moved aside and a ‘real’ organ with two manuals (keyboards) and real pedals and cha-cha button settings was added to the corner of the dining room that was next to the kitchen and the living room.

when i was ten i tearfully played the pipe organ for my brother’s wedding, the processional as my sweet sister-in-law walked down the aisle to my big brother.  yesterday i was talking to john whelan, a master celtic accordionist the exact same age as me, and we talked about the first real gig we did.  his was at 12 and he actually got paid.  mine was this wedding and, for obvious reasons, payment was out of the question.  i got to wear a really pretty peach-colored party dress and white shoulder stole and wept my way through the difficult piece.

after some time, i somehow convinced my parents that they needed both an organ and a piano and they signed me up for piano lessons.  joan ostrander, the very chic music teacher, was my first piano teacher and i adored her.  she pushed me and i adored that too.  i spent long hours practicing on the piano bench with my dog missi sleeping underneath, my dad whistling in the background.

in years to come i studied with the teacher-of-all-teachers alan walker and was convinced that the piano and i were kindred.  i taught more piano lessons on long island (and later florida and even wisconsin) than i can remember, back then driving from one house to another, delighting in each student’s joy playing the piano and progress no matter the pace, hoping to emulate the teaching style of this amazingly kind man.  after lessons we talked life and ham radio and ate open-faced crunchy peanut butter sandwiches.  music is not just about music, you know.

during my undergrad, i studied piano in college with one of the professors but kept bringing in pieces of original music and kept veering off course from assigned large scale pieces, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

as no real surprise, i majored in music composition, the first (?) step toward living as an artist, the first step in a road that leads to here and now.  so much in-between.  the gigging composer music timeline is filled with albums, concerts, performances, cd sales, radio and tv, qvc appearances, barnes & noble and borders, listening wall placement, phone calls, yamaha, traveling, shipping and more shipping, recording labels, carrying boxes, standing in the rain on flatbed trucks playing and singing, driving, driving, driving, press releases, graphic design, writing, recording, supportive family and friends and coworkers and a person named hope hughes.

but that organ.  it has kept on re-appearing.  somehow it is one of the threads that has woven its way through my life.  there aren’t that many of us out here:  people who play the organ, who can finesse a chosen timbre through the pipes and who can actually play lines of bass notes on the pedals.  those lessons from the very beginning somehow set the stage for me to work for three decades already as a minister of music.  conducting choirs and handbells and ukulele bands and worship bands, choosing music for services and performing groups, leading and shaping worship and, yep, playing the organ…it has been a constant.  there are days that i will pull out all the stops and play as loud as the organ pipes will allow.  its bellowing echoes through the sanctuary and i giggle as i think of my ten year old self, sitting on an organ bench in williston park on long island and crying.

what would i have thought if i had known that fifty years later i would still be sitting on an organ bench?

canyon love

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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laugh. [k.s. friday]

creativity is not always a serious thing.  songwriting isn’t always serious.  today we offer you the attempt we made on washington island to record our brilliant and profound song SITTING HERE IN THE SUN.  we understand, with 7 takes, if you can’t bear to watch it all.  and we understand if you are underwhelmed by the song (not to mention the angle of video recording) – when you finally get there.  but right now – at the very beginning of a new year and a new decade – we are thinking maybe the laughter is the most important song of all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jaunt over to DAVID’S blogsite to see if he added anything esoteric to my meanderings

for real recordings, go to iTUNES: kerri sherwood here

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

 


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picky. [k.s. friday]

christmas composing

this is at least the 30th christmas.  the 30th one that i was responsible for making sure that other people – in various congregations through the years – feeeeel it.  the 30th one where i have chosen music to reflect the season, the love, the light…and to be certain that it was all accessible to the people listening, to be certain it touched them, to be certain it made them think and celebrate, to be certain it spoke to their faith.

i am pretty picky.  i don’t like kitschy.  i don’t like trite endings.  i don’t like certain chord progressions.  i don’t like when songs, in an inane effort to be interesting, modulate up in key (the kind of modulation where you expect bubbles to be released into the air).   i don’t like certain kinds of lyrics or songs that are preachy.  i don’t like songs that imply elitism in any way, including any kind of religious denominational dominance.

i have reviewed a zillion cantatas through the years.  (a cantata for a church is a combination of narrative and song, telling a story, embracing a theme, usually anywhere from 30-60 minutes in length.  the more traditional cantatas are oftentimes stunningly beautiful but are difficult for volunteer choirs to sing and, frankly, for congregations to sit through.)  many more recent cantatas are like buying a record album…many of the songs are really good but there’s always one or two that are throwaways.  i have revised every cantata i have ever purchased for a choir.  ask any choir director and she/he will tell you that they are revising and improvising on the fly.  if they aren’t, well, i just don’t even know what to say about that.

one year, in particular, back in the late 90’s, i was particularly displeased with the cantata samples i had been sent.  so i sat down one night and started writing my own.  it was the beginning of november and, because we published the actual faxes that went back and forth between me and my producer, you can see that i composed all hours of the day and night and he arranged all hours of the day and night.  i had the choir working on drafts that were printed out in the wee hours of the morning, as we continued arranging and re-arranging.  the pieces pretty much dropped out of the universe to my hands and i loved conducting this cantata THE LIGHT IS HERE! that year and a few more times through the years since, honing the narration and revisiting the language in an attempt to keep it contemporary.  after all, surprisingly, the late 90’s were two decades ago now.

a few nights ago at band practice we were running through the pieces i had selected for this year’s special music schmear (my word instead of ‘cantata’ which is sorely outdated and makes people stay away.)  one song, though well-intended, was just plain wrong.  so i pulled it out.

the next day i reached for paper and a pencil and wrote a new song for that slot.  it’s a solo so at least the choir and the ukulele band don’t have to learn it at this late date (although they are used to having to go-with-the-flow).

in my position as a minister of music, it’s not my job to just play any old thing or direct any old piece, dis-regarding how it speaks to the listener, ignoring whether it is accessible, whether its message is relevant or timely, whether it invites someone in.  instead, it’s my job – as i see it – to open listeners’ minds and hearts, to wrap them in music and lyric that resonates, that challenges, that reassures.

someday i will no longer be a minister of music.  i will sit on a mountaintop or at the edge of a lake or on a riverbed and i will listen to the sounds of this beautiful earth in celebration of every season.  i will not be responsible for making sure others feeeeel it.  i will just sit quietly, all the music i could ever need surrounding me.

in the meanwhile, i will be picky.  it’s a curse.  and i guess a blessing, as they say.  picky.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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waiting. and waiting. [k.s. friday]

waitingsongbox.jpg

on an unusual foray into facebook-scrolling, i came across a post by a friend that quoted tom petty.  “the waiting is the hardest part,” it read.  yes.  the hardest part.

i remember d telling me that arnie’s mom had an addition to the adage that when one door closes, another one will surely open.  she said, “it’s the waiting in the hall that’s hell.”

i feel like i am waiting.  just like this sunrise, there is a division of light and dark – a line you can see.  the hall.  it’s not still dark.  it’s not quite light.  it’s the in-between zone of co-existence.

i suppose we can co-exist with waiting.  we can co-exist with not-knowing.  not-knowing about tomorrow.  not-knowing where it goes.  not-knowing what will happen.  not-knowing if dark will linger or if light will overtake the dark.  not-knowing how the story turns out.

questions on the keys.  answers somewhere in-between the notes.  quarter tones of ambiguity.  i stand an arm’s length from creating.  i wait.  there is no sign, there is no clear indicator of any return-on-my-creative-investment.  the hall doesn’t provide a reason to write.  it is not a door.  it is full of question.  it is a gathering storm of hope.  it is a waiting place.

the hall is just for me.  jumbled and clear, both.  a stew of hearing all the old notes floating – thousands of them – and seeking the new ones.  lyric snatches appear on scraps of paper, waiting.  melodic gestures fall from my hands as yearning to keep-on-keeping-on falls from my eyes.

i’m trying to be patient in it.  to reconcile all the other mysteries and issues and complexities before i step closer.  to do the ‘other work’ first.  to be solvent and steady.  for the time on the bench to be worthy.

why does a composer compose?  why does a composer wait?

download WAITING on iTunes or CDBaby

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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WAITING from JOY ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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out there. [k.s. friday]

moab.k. out there.

out there

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kerri sherwood on iTUNES

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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out there ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood


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before and after. galena. [k.s. friday]

galena songbox

your toes curl.  your breathing is shallow.  adrenaline rushes.  your legs are a little shaky. your hands feel tingly.  butterflies in your belly.  you are on the edge.  in that tiny place between before and after.

i gingerly walked to the edge of the canyon, my daughter encouraging me.  at the moment i stood there, feet firmly planted, no guardrail, nothing between me and canyon wall, my heart slowed down and i breathed in both the enormity of the moment and the taste of both before and after.  my girl and i laughed, loudly, the sound echoing across the vast canyon.  and then, it was after.

i sat at the piano, ready to record this first piece GALENA of the first album, 24 years ago, savoring the safety of before but ready for after.  at the edge of the put-it-all-out-there canyon, i walked onto the stage, brand new cds in the lobby, ready, with quivering knees and boots that gave me confidence.  and then, in what felt like a minute, it was after.

now, many album and stage edges later, many life and love moments later, many work and play split-seconds later, i wonder what the next after will be.  i can feel the edges; i can see them.  i’m aware of my toes curling.  my breathing is shallow and adrenaline rushes.  my legs are a little shaky and my hands feel tingly, butterflies in my belly.  there is a canyon beckoning.

moab edge locator

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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GALENA from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

 


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what is home? [k.s. friday]

the way home songbox 2.jpg

on this very day, at this very time, i do not feel at home.  and i believe i take home with me, so this is truly a statement of much discontent.

what is home to you?

how important is it to you to be surrounded by people who, with consciousness of others, support you?  how important is it to you to be amongst those who are kind, who are magnanimous, who are respectful to all, who are collaborative?  how important is to you to be around people who lead with goodness, who work together, who do not embrace divisiveness?

how important is the place?  does an idyllic location exempt bitter disputes and argumentative people?  does it matter if the sun rises and sets in dramatic color if the timbre of the place is ugly, combative, rift-producing, breach-exacerbating?  what flowers override belligerence, competition and antagonistic voices?  what soaring birds and graceful wildlife eclipse closed minds and turning a blind eye to others’ pain?

important questions, i believe.  eye-opening questions.

home is indeed subjective for each of us.  our hearts lead us.

download THE WAY HOME on iTUNES or CDBaby

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood