Playing the “Music” of Liturgy

Witnessed the yearly piano recital of my two oldest today in the public hall of the Waltham Public Library. Hearing their lovely melodies and inspired playing reminded me of one of my boss’ best articles on the subject of music, inspiration, and worship. Enjoy!

pianist

Katertyna Tereshchenko, Pianist by Ralf Roletschek; online at wikipedia.org

This past summer, my 10 year-old son made a significant breakthrough in his piano playing.  All last year, I watched him practice as though practicing was just one more task on his “to do” list before breakfast.  He marched through 20 minutes of practicing just as he marched through “make my bed,” “feed the dog,” and “pack my snack.”  Where was the joy, the appreciation of beauty, the sense of accomplishment?  Masterpieces from Bach to Bizet were reduced to equal footing with readied backpacks and signed permission slips.  The tasks were accomplished.   And music was nowhere to be heard. Continue reading

Fixing Our Hearts on True Worship

liberale-da-verona-monks-singingAlmighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.  

Collect from Fifth Sunday of Lent, Anglican Book of Common Prayer

I could not believe my ears. When I had just begun college, my Pastor at the time was telling me that the music I then desired, the tunes which were my life blood would very soon grow old and seem trite to me. In other words, I was made for something more refined, more subtle, and significantly deeper in both content and form.

Up to that point in my life, I argued vehemently that the Gospel content could be and should be inserted into a variety of contemporary forms and that these forms had little to no impact on the essential message. This Pastor contended otherwise, that medium and message were not only inseparable but mutually co-inherent. Continue reading

Boys and Blizzards

61teuikzunlThe blizzard today in New England gave our own family the chance to read one of our favorite picture books by John Rocco. Blizzard tells the story from the author’s childhood  in 1978 Rhode Island when snow was so high that his family could not leave their front door or even shop for food at the local store. Little Johnny, according to the book, had been reading a survival book that informed him how to strap on tennis rackets to his feet and wax down his wooden sled runners to command 4 feet worth of snow without sinking through it. Continue reading

The Mother of My Movie Lists

its-a-wonderful-life-3I have a friend and fellow graduate of a one-time missionary school held in an Orthodox Monastery in California. This friend reminded me of an old movie list that he has recently decided to resurrect for the salvation of his own soul and those of his immediate circle in memory of the former Abbot who authored the list, Fr. Herman Podmoshensky. I offer the list here in memory of the same Abbot, whose love and selfless devotion birthed in so many of us the need to feed our own souls along with our spirits.

May this list of old time favorites help spark your memory of a time when Hollywood was less besotted with entertainment that merely titillated but never transformed, a time when Tinseltown had a moral backbone and a heart of gold.

Saint Paisius Missionary School Must See Movie List

Jane Eyre, 1941, Orson Wells

Wuthering Heights

Les Miserables Continue reading

Christmas Parties in Desolate Places

02closeup_scrooge_cratchit“I’m a Christian, so I don’t go to parties,” said a person to me recently. There was a time in my life I would have accepted such a judgment about parties without qualification. The theology behind the idea of canceling Christmas is partly to blame for this tepid approach to life. Indeed the Lord does give his peace to us not as the world gives  with the implication that all worldly parties without Him will always fall short of the mark. But where does this trepidation towards partying in general and towards specific Christian feasts/parties mean for the life in Christ? How do we answer Scrooge’s argument to his jubilant nephew in our musical adaptation of Dicken’s classic Carol:

“The 25th of December from what I remember is no special day, just a date.” Continue reading

Theatre You Can Believe In

scroogeMonday, November 15/28, 2016
First Day of the Nativity Fast
Commencement of Advent in the Orthodox Church

It has been a New Year’s resolution of my oldest daughter since she saw her first show three years ago: To act and sing in a production of New Life Fine Arts out of Concord, MA. What she saw in Ebezener Scrooge: A Christmas Carol sparked her imagination while deepening her understanding of this literary character’s repentance. Now that three of us have been blessed to be chosen as cast members in this year’s production, it has allowed us an even more intimate acquaintance with NLFA’s uniquely spiritual approach to musical theatre. Continue reading