The Professional Guest: Holding Up Others

Dear Reader,
Cue this while reading:

You Tube will open in a new window and then you’ll have to go back to my blog to read while you listen. Not sure how to make that transition seamless. Of course, you can skip the music and just read the blog….but the music makes it so much better.

Screenshot 2016-03-02 16.15.20


I’ve lost myself. In this present season of political change, wondering who to vote for, what to vote for, listening to bombastic front runners, hoping for change and enduring possibly the busiest time of my life in graphic design. I’ve gotten distracted. I’ve paid attention for a little while to political news and pundits, and comments from friends and family….and all of sudden the noise got too loud.

I had to stop, take an afternoon break, put on Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and lose myself in the music.  You know you’ve lost your way when you’re researching for “words meaning ‘to sing.'”

Time to shut it down and listen to “Gloria, Gloria, Gloria, Gloria! In Excesis Deo!  Time to soar above the heavenlies….

I was raised in choir and trained as an alto. I learned how to read notes and music and join my voice in a united way with tenors, bass, sopranos, other altos….to become one with an amalgamated group of 20 to 40 people who somehow knew how to read both words and notes, turn pages at the same time whilst raising their voices in four-to-five part harmony…AND keep their eyes on the conductor ahead who was waving his baton over this section and that. I stood shoulder to shoulder with the altos lowering their voices and coming in at just the right point to carry that magical lower range of balance. The result was an artistic experience that no one but musicians can explain, but the entire world can understand. I am glad I got to be a part of it. No one gets to be the rock star in a choir. This is group therapy.

The art of choral singing, in my opinion, is something no one should ever miss. When my son was young, I tried to put him in piano and voice lessons because I wanted him to also have this learning experience. I signed him up for private tutoring from one of Minneapolis’s most prestigious institutions. They were phenomenal, and Garrett was a quick study. Although he was able to learn the technical part, he never quite grasped the passion. I had to let it go. If he didn’t have the passion, it was just an hour of discipline each day. He didn’t like singing! Still doesn’t. You aren’t the creator in these things. You are just the “watcher.”

Let him go. Let God create his own passion in him because that will be his fuel.

For me, to have a fine conductor, to hear the blending of all the voices in those choirs, AND to have the privilege of singing ….there is just no getting past that.

Screenshot 2016-03-02 16.28.45In London, I attended Sunday morning service at both St. Paul’s Cathedral on the first Sunday and Westminster Abbey on the next. In both locations, of course, I wasn’t part of their chorale, I was merely an attendee in one of the three or four sections hacked off for the public. I stood without gloves but wishing I had them, trying to keep my neck from craning upwards to peer at the arching galleries high above with amazing art dating back centuries. I was in church…in CHURCH…at both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey!  I was supposed to be listening to the bishop, vicar—whoever the Church of England calls their clergy—but I couldn’t concentrate! I would hear something about “loving thy neighbor,” and then my neck would snap back from the upward gaping position I had slipped into as I stared up at all that was towering above me.

To my left were the consecrated singers whose voices soared out, over, up and through the enormous cathedral…completely beyond anything I had grown up with in my Sheryl 80s portrait.jpgsmall Lutheran basement in the midwest. But even if you grew up in a small town in the midwest, you learned how to “sing with the Lutherans,” as Garrison Keillor so fondly described, Norwegian sweaters and all. I confess, I never had a Norwegian sweater, but I did have a handmade Finnish one given to me by one of my college classmates, and a real Finnish Laplander hat made by Finns in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Warmest hat I ever had and I pulled it out on every -20 degree day I suffered through in Minnesota.

At both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey they offered communion, so I cued in single file with the other parishioners in a line which extended back through the choir galleries. Nobody was singing at this point but it would have been really wonderful if they had. Can you imagine if during a communion service, everyone broke out singing “Gloria! Gloria! In Excelsis Deo!” in four part harmony as they shuffled up to receive their wafer and wine?

At Westminster Abbey, I stood in the very place Princess Diana had stood as the boys choirs regaled her. I walked around the same  obstacles she did on that otherwise straight path down to the traditional place of matrimony. I walked over the graves of  Sir Isaac Newton, 26  monks who lost their lives to the Black Death in  1348, writers and poets like Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling and Edward Lear. I filed past the raised tombs of Queen Elizabeth 1 resting only a couple feet away from her sister and blood rival, Queen Mary. So much history. I’m glad I had a good breakfast because otherwise I might have fainted dead away.

In my life, I took piano and flute lessons, I sang Vivaldi and Handel, took band lessons, argued with first chair flute. If I had been a little more attentive, I probably would have beaten her, moving from second chair to first. But I was more interested in Led Zeppelin at the time. Over time, I’ve even learned to run sound…a technological shift from using my embouchures to turning knobs and listening with my ear. It was always about following my passion. Music was first. Art was second.

I was talking with my friend today about how to return to your passion. At some point, God spoke to you and told you what He had in mind about your life, your vision, your passion. Then life happened and perhaps you lost track of that vision, but it was very real to you at the time. This is where other people come in. They remind you of your vision, your passion. They call you back.

And in this distracting, often-heated season of absolutely mind-boggling political theatrics, I was discussing politics with my niece. She said something interesting. She said “Those who are the most interested in power are the least qualified to have it.”

Truer words were never spoken.

So I recap my night with Vivaldi. I rest in the love of my family. I soak in their wisdom. I am grateful beyond words for a good family who loves me and holds me up. And I am grateful for Vivaldi.

I’m aware that I’m also holding others up…Do you remember the story of Moses who had to hold his arms up in order that the Israelites would prevail in battle? His arms got tired, and then his brother Aaron and a couple others stepped in, held his arms up and the battle turned in their favor. If he let his arms down, the enemy got the upper hand.

At some point in our lives, we are called upon to hold up the arms of others. Other times, they are called upon to hold our own arms ups. You just need to know when those times are….because you don’t want to be the one sitting down when someone is calling out for “arms up!”



3 thoughts on “The Professional Guest: Holding Up Others

  1. Oh, my goodness, I love this – it combines so many things I love – music, and the story of Moses, Aaron & Hur.

    I’ve often shared how that story is the picture to me of our role in being THE BODY to one another. Paul Atkins taught me about holding one another up when I was going through complications from my first brain surgery. Then later I saw the correlation in this OT Story and it just means so much to me because I’ve experienced it and want to be the Body for others as well.

    And the comments on choral singing reminded me of the Garrison Keillor “singing with Lutherans.”

    This post was just beautiful, Sheryl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You made me laugh out loud when you mentioned Garrison Keillor and “singing with the Lutherans.” Ha Ha Ha! There’s just nothing like it! And Bethany made me appreciate it even more! I will NEVER forget Pastor Brokke’s funeral. Bethany was packed to the rafters and then we all sang together (in four part harmony!) I myself was surrounded by at least one bass, one tenor and three other altos. And did we sing? Yes! A big shout out to Gary Johnson with his unflappable demeanor, teaching us how to sing Handel’s Messiah. That alto part was harder than anyone else’s, I’m convinced! Thanks, Joyce!!! Thanks for the smile today!


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