reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


Leave a comment

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

to visit iTUNES click on the image above or on this link

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

organ pipe people website box

 


1 Comment

noodling. [k.s. friday]

the art of noodling

we can never repeat it.  that piece we played together during a quiet moment in the service.  moments where notes suspended, combined with hearts and lingered in the air.  we noodled our way through it and, even just after it was over, we could not speak to how it was shaped or where it went.

it is my absolute joy to work with someone who can join me in this.  jim, our beloved guitarist, is a ready partner.  hand signals of the key, head nod count offs and we are on our way.  sometimes the noodling takes us to a more intense, busy place and sometimes it is the stuff of nirvana, peaceful, thoughtful serenity.  always it is rewarding for both of us; we share a smile when it’s done and know that the ethers now own that piece of music.  never to be repeated.

improvisation is a driving force – we play at least seven pieces of music every service.  with skeletal lead sheets we choose how to perform each one.  sometimes we liken our performance to ‘how it was done on the recording’ and sometimes we have our own agenda, working it into the style or feel we wish it to convey.  but, because we don’t simply read every note on the page (since they aren’t on the page), we know the performance of each piece will also never be repeated.  it is not likely that most realize we are drawing from deep inside, from knowledge or experience, from heart, when we play.  they likely think we are reading music that is all written out.  i don’t suppose it matters what they think as long as we deliver what we intend.  as long as we shape the service emotionally, for that is what the music is all about.

as a composer, my favorite moments, in addition to those sweet moments of harmony when we, with our respective instruments sing and can hear the lining up of the stars, are those moments of noodling.  we have no fear of what’s next.  we have no preconceived notion of where to go.  we just start.  and we follow where the music leads us.  it’s ephemeral.  it starts from the dust and returns to the dust.  and is never to be repeated.

yamaha artists

ks website header

visit iTUNES by clicking here or on image above

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

tlccarpetwebsitebox

 


Leave a comment

rough cuts. [k.s. friday]

you're here songbox 2

rough cuts.  there are lots of them.  recorded on an iRiver or an iPhone so i don’t forget.  scraps of paper with lyrics and chord indications, rhythms jotted above the words, a few melodic notes scribbled in the margins or throughout the page.  songs that haven’t yet been recorded.  songs that may some day be recorded.  songs that will never be recorded.  rough cuts.

before the cantata i prepared for this holiday season i had carefully selected music – all contemporary pieces, all meaningful lyrics that i felt would resonate with those watching, making the experience touch their hearts.  but, as i mentioned in a past post, i’m pretty picky and there was this one song.  after playing around with it with the band, i deleted it from the line-up.  with a spot still to fill in-between narrative, i decided to write a new song to fill the slot.  this is the song i wrote –  YOU’RE HERE – and you can listen to a very rough cut of it recorded on my iPhone played on an out-of-tune church piano if you click here.

it’s been a long while since i recorded an album.  more time has passed than i ever thought possible.  i wonder which songs in my rough cut collection will make it onto the next album.  i wonder if there will be a next album.

in the meanwhile, i’ll keep paper by the piano and have my cellphone ready.  the iRiver is in the drawer, along with the microcassette recorder and a pile of cdr’s.  maybe the presence of at-the-ready songs will eventually tilt the earth and i’ll be back in the studio.  maybe people buying cds will come back into vogue.  maybe i will record on vinyl (again).  maybe it will all be virtual.  more to stream.  (note my tone of voice.)  maybe.

or maybe i’ll just put the piano at full stick, pull up a boom stand, throw on a mic and sing.

listen to the rough cut of YOU’RE HERE by clicking here or on the image just below:

you're here songbox cropped

view most of my albums on iTUNES

view most of my albums on CDBaby.com

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

whitetree website box

YOU’RE HERE ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood


Leave a comment

“you are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” [merely-a-thought monday]

dream

i found a note the other day, tucked inside a book.  it was a jotting-down-of-a-memory and was a quote from The Boy.  he was five and he said, “look at how i can snap (my fingers).  at 5 years old!!  i could become a snap teacher and teach everyone how to snap!”  never too young to dream.

jen is zealous.  she is reallyyyy zealous.  i don’t think i have known anyone who is as zealous a learner as jen.  it is invigorating and inspiring to be around someone who embraces all she does not know with questions and a hope for understanding, as opposed to resistance or suspicion.  she actively seeks out ways to learn the new, the unknown, wholeheartedly jumping in and swimming.  she knows that vitality comes with opening yourself to new things.

pantene recently ran a new video series.  it’s referencing the holidays and in it transgender people talk about what it’s like to go home.  it’s breathtakingly sad the number of LGBTQ women and men who are not welcomed at home because someone cannot learn, ask questions, try to understand.  instead, resistance and suspicion and a whole lot of judgement fiercely reign and the dream of being all together celebrating is devastatingly dashed.  squelching another’s dreams is not the ultimate job of our job as humankind.

yesterday i conducted a christmas cantata.  ahead of time, i had, for hours and hours on end, researched songs to find the pieces i felt would resonate with people, the pieces that would be generously bestowing of spirit and not off-putting.  i looked for the language i thought would tug at their hearts and remind them of the light, the miracle of the season.  when one song didn’t quite fit for me after i had chosen it, i wrote a new one.   they were labeled ‘contemporary’ songs, with melodies, rhythm, chords, years of copyright differing from the hymns in the hymnals.  over thirty people participated:  a choir, a ukulele band, a worship band, a violinist, a violist.  the result was truly beautiful, the message clear and the music gorgeous.  our little church – a church that proudly purports to be reconciling and all-embracing – had moments truly holy in that service.

h is 93.  every week at rehearsal he is ready and willing to learn something.  he is steeped in traditional – after all, he is 93, his year of copyright long ago.  and yet, those new melodies, harmony, challenging rhythms he has learned to sing have brought a freshness of life to him.  never too old to dream.  he knows that vitality comes with opening yourself to new things.

but back to yesterday.  i remain unfulfilled in one way.  because the sad part about yesterday?  all the work and time that these dedicated volunteers had put into this cantata – with my careful choices based on over thirty years as a minister of music – was not seen by the first service folks.  the word ‘contemporary’ made it unfathomable for that service to host without complaint, relegating it only to the second service.  the spirit of camaraderie, the support of the efforts of others in their own church, the truly beautiful music that was made was lost on this first service.  i try to understand their dedication to traditional music, to choice, and i heartedly honor it in selecting music for every other week of the church year.  but i fail to understand their unwillingness to even try to embrace something else, something ‘new’.  i fail to understand any reinforcement of ‘different’, of divisiveness. especially as simply one day and a festive community celebration of the holiday.  especially when churches are constantly looking for relevancy and vitality is one of the necessary ingredients.  they do not know what they missed.  closing off.  what they are missing.

jen and h would like each other.  they both openly embrace new.  they both openly embrace others.  they both dream dreams, happily engaging in life, snapping.  what a gift to be around.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

trinitychristmasphoto website box

 


1 Comment

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.

ks website header

read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

trinitychristmasphoto website box


Leave a comment

maturity in season of life. [two artists tuesday]

maturity with background

this came across my desk last week. “maturity in season of life.” part of a minister of music job description, i was struck by the unguarded language, the bow to what only time and experience can teach.  i have never seen this written as such before.  it was bracing in every GOOD way.  it was appreciatory.  it was a breath of fresh air.

in a society that seeks to remain youthful and puts less emphasis on maturity in season of life than on staying young, we need remember there’s a place for everyone.  some places require youth, fresh and breathing hard from the sprint.  other places recognize the need for the steadfast wisdom of the ages, a decision-maker-doer who brings a lifetime of positive and negative experiences and knows how to differentiate between them, has an intuition built on time and the ever-growing wealth of lessons.  the seesaw has room for both; the fulcrum can only balance with both.

as two artists living together, we are more than aware of the challenge of ageism, the challenge of time spent in our artistry and how that relates to value.  more than a thousand times we have each been admonished for thinking we need to be paid when we should be grateful for the “exposure” we are being “granted”.  more than a thousand times we have each been in a place where we have had to explain why our artistry needs to be financially rewarded just like anyone else’s work.

indeed, pay scales have been built to reflect time spent and job descriptions use verbiage like “pay is commensurate with experience.”  experience.  maturity:  “the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner.  being aware of the correct time and location to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society (read: job) one lives in (read: one works in).”

i recently was having a written messaging chat with a hard-working young adult whose job is in the arts.  with these challenges facing him every day, he said that people do not realize that “they’re paying me to know what to do if things don’t go well.”  intuition.  working on the fly based on training, knowledge and an ever-building bank of experiences.   he will continue to face that challenge; it will only deepen.  how is that maturity measured?  how will he be paid for that maturity, for that which he cannot describe and for which others cannot fathom?  for some reason, in this society, it is easier to answer that question if you are doing a numbers job, something seemingly more concrete, more measurable, more quantifiable.

but maturity in season of life touches others as well and we have dear friends who have been ‘let go’ from their jobs simply because of their age.  now, their companies would never testify to that and are careful to avoid such language – for that would set them up for all kinds of legal problems – but it has been clear to our friends, struggling to find a new way in later days of their lives.  few and far between are those who are able to benefit by pointing out the error of their ways to the company that is undervaluing a later human-on-this-earth season.  other friends are fortunate enough to be working somewhere that has deeply valued the long time they have spent in their work and these friends have retired with spoken words of gratitude and wishes of continued good living.  where is the fulcrum?

in this particular document that came across my desk, the whole phrase read, “maturity in season of life and maturity in ministry experience.”  shockingly, they are seeking this as a qualifier and they are willing to pay for it.  speaking directly to that qualifier that beautifully honors the wisdom of the ages, there are things that, as a minister of music at 19 i did not know.  there are things that, as a minister of music at 32 i did not know.  likewise, as a 30-years-as-a-minister-of-music at days-away-from-60, of course there are things i do not know.

what i DO know is that every experience i have had as a minister of music has built upon the last.  instead of a chasm where learnings have dropped rapid-fire into an abyss, i have learned what the important stuff is and how to attempt to keep those things foremost.

like anyone in any job, mastery is commensurate with time spent, with growth in that work, and yes, without exception, with maturity in season of life.

“take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.” (desiderata)

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

footprints in sunlit snow website box


Leave a comment

chicken marsala monday

sometimesfaith WITH EYES jpeg copy 3“…well, i will walk by faith, well, even when i cannot see, because this broken road prepares your will for me…” (lyrics from a really great 2002 song by jeremy camp called ‘walk by faith’)

“we walk by faith and not by sight….” (19th century lyrics from a 1984 hymn ‘we walk by faith’ by marty haugen)

trust.  practice.  faith.  repeat.  not necessarily in that order.  through the ages, a common challenge – faith without seeing.  ‘we’ are no different now than ‘they’ were ‘back then.’  faith.  it’s ambiguous.

it’s funny.  you might think that the most faith-reinforcing moments come during a service and this true for some.  as a minister of music for three decades, i have always sought to create those moments for others…when all things come together:  music, lyrics, emotion to amplify the words (and the word) spoken in the service and resonate within someone’s heart and reinforce their feelings of faith. it is a job i take seriously; sometimes you only have one chance to help connect a service with a person’s heart, one chance to reassure, one chance to raise awareness, one chance to have them ask questions within their faith, to challenge their assumptions for and otherwise.

for me, though, the most faith-reinforcing moments are outside of the faith-based venue, be it a church, temple, cathedral, mosque.  they are the moments that i can feel the hugeness of this universe of God and my absolute tiny-ness within it:  walking in the woods, standing in the sunlight, looking out on a mountain, holding hands, seeing the moon rise over the lake, watching the surf, seeing love pass between two people’s eyes, hearing my children’s voices, finding the right chord for a song, eating breakfast on the deck in the sun with cardinals, hearing music swell…

as a minister of music, i have heard a lot of sermons and been at an un-countable number of services.  think about it.  (and this is not counting all the years not spent in this position, nor does it count all the extra services at certain times of the year…you’re thinking, “ok, ok, ohmygosh, we get it!” )  so thirty years multiplied by 52 weeks multiplied by at least two services a sunday (sometimes three, but we will round it to two, as you roll your eyes.)  that equals 3,120 services and sermons.  and let me just mention, some have been…ummm…way better than others.  so you would likely deduce that i would know all the stories of the old and new testaments pretty well by now.  well, i beg to differ with you.  for me, those stories are peripheral.

what really counts for me is the stuff you can’t see with your eyes, the things you can only experience:  love, kindness, peace, generosity…  simplicities.  complexities.  these are the foundations of my faith.  faith in goodness.  faith in being held.  faith in grace. choosing actions that are life-giving.  knowing that if i fail today, i can try again tomorrow.  walking the broken road, faithfully believing that there is a higher power that i can’t see but i can experience.  one that surrounds me in my joy and in my pain.  ptom, in his lenten sermon the other evening, said, “God is for you.”  it takes a little (read:  a lot of) practice; it’s a new day every new day.  but i believe.

FAITH TAKES PRACTICE – we have different products for this on both www.society6.com/chickenmarsala and www.society6.com/kerrisherwood

society 6 info jpeg copy

 

CHICKEN MARSALA MONDAY – ON OUR SITE

 

faith takes practice FRAMED ART PRINT copy

wall art, cards, home decor

 

faith takes practice SQ PILLOW copy

 

faith takes practice LEGGINGS copy

‘faith takes practice’ LEGGINGS

 

faith chicken mug copy

 

 

 

faith white mug copy

 

faith chicken iphone case copy

read DAVID’S thoughts on FAITH TAKES PRACTICE

 

sometimes faith takes a little practice ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood