Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's What I Do

 Thursdays are always interesting days, as is every day, but Thursday is the day that I teach piano lessons. At the end of every Thursday, I like to reflect on the day.
 I teach piano all day.
 That's about it.

I used to think teaching was just my job. I liked doing it and I learn alot from it. When I look deep, I realize that teaching is so much more than a job. It's a ministry. It's a service to my King... and I LOVE it! For a half an hour every week I get to invest in my students lives. I get to share in their struggles, frustrations and glories as they learn the art of music.

A couple of months ago, I had a student that had to quit. I had lost students before but this one was different. This student had taught me what it meant to perservere when tired, to give when I was exasperated, to be gracious when frustrated, and to celebrate triumphantly when victory was achieved. We had spent many trying hours together and conquered even more hurdles and mountains. At our last lesson, I was fighting tears. I'm not usually a very emotional person. I tend to keep it all in, which is helpful in emergencies, but that night I could barely keep the tears in. As our lesson came to a close, she looked up at me and said, "Kaila, you are the best teacher ever!" and she hugged me, something she rarely ever did. I cracked as soon as the front door closed.
It was then that I realized the true depths of teaching. When I teach, I am not just telling my students how to read music. I am teaching them to worship God with their music. I am instilling in them a gift that Lord willing, they will never forget.
I only have a half hour with them each week (and let me tell you, those half hours sometimes feel like five hours). I have a limited amount of time to make my mark in their lives before it's time to move on.
But, oh how I LOVE It!
It is one of the most blessed, fulfilling callings, under that of being a sister, daughter and follower of Christ.
I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Piano teaching...
It's what I do.
Piano teacher...
It's what I am.
It's someone I strive to be.

It's what I love being, even from my wooden chair next to the piano bench.

My mission field is a dinning chair, in a place I call home, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Every oppertunity to share, every action, every word, they are all reflections of the life I have in Christ. I pray that all of my students will love Christ and will be drawn nearer to Him through the small time I have with each one of them.

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
Johann Sebastian Bach

It's what I strive to do.

In Christ,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Foundation of Love

If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On. - William Shakespeare

For years I have seen this lovely saying on my Grandma's fridge. I always thought that it was a beautiful picture.  Every now and then, I get to thinking about love... hey; we all do at some point. I'm not a big fan of fictional romance and all that, but I do love a true, real life, love story of people in history, to that of my own parents. Having studied different musicians and read biographies of different people, I have found two stories in particular to be quite the interesting comparisons. These stories have a similarity, because both of the couples "fell in love" through their love for music. The love stories are that of Jonathon and Sarah Edwards and that of Robert and Clara Schumann. The major difference in these two stories is that one couple based their relationship on God and the other did not. Both stories are romantic tales, which I enjoyed learning about, but I do have a favorite... I'll share in due time.

In 1723, in the backdrop of British citizens and the thirteen colonies, there was a town called New Haven, and in that town there was a slightly distracted school teacher. This teacher was the twenty year old Jonathon Edwards, and his distraction was the thirteen year old Sarah Pierrepont. He wrote about this young lady in his Greek grammar book.... something I'm very glad he did. But what he wrote about was not silly daydreaming, rather it was about this lass's great love for God. They were very different from each other, but they both loved music. Jonathon Edwards said, "The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other, is by music. When I would form in my mind and idea of a society in the highest degree happy, I think of them as expressing their love, their joy, and the inward concord and harmony and spiritual beauty of their souls by sweetly singing to each other." (1) They became friends and spent more time together talking about life, and God, and sharing books that were influential in their lives. In the spring of 1725 they were engaged. Jonathon waited for two years, until Sarah was seventeen, to marry her. According to Noel Piper, in her book "Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God," this wait was difficult for him, but he endured it anyways in order to honor God. Shortly after they were married, Jonathon got a job as a pastor in Northampton. In total, they had eleven children. I won't go into details on the rest of their lives. Of course, you should read about them anyways as there is much to learn and the preaching of Jonathon Edwards played a big part in the First Great Awakening, so please do some further reading if you haven't already.

The story of Robert and Clara Schumann is a very dramatic love story, filled with trauma and anguish. Robert was a "lawyer-to-be" who in fact, would never be a lawyer because he preferred music over law. Clara was an amazing pianist with a protective father. The two met when Robert began studying music under Friedrich Wieck, Clara's father. When Robert and Clara fell in love, Wieck was furious at the idea of his gifted daughter marrying this poet-musician and he tried to stop them in every way possible. They actually had to take him to court where the judge made Wieck take back many of the untrue statements he had made against Schumann. Robert and Clara won in court, but it took some time before they were actually able to marry.(2) They wrote to each other when they were away and in 1840, they were married. The couple was devoted to each other for life and they had eight children. Unfortunately, later in life, Robert had an ear problem where he constantly heard ringing in his ears. He tried to commit suicide by throwing himself in the Rhine River, but was rescued by boatmen. He lived in a mental institution for the last two years of his life. Once again, there is much more to the story that I have not written.

These two stories are both considered romantic love stories from history. After reading both of these stories, I was thinking about how both couples fell in love with a great love for music as a common thread and suddenly something very important dawned upon me. I was trying to figure out what made these two stories so different, besides the obvious difference in time, place and situation.  Then it hit me. While Robert and Clara both loved music, as did Jonathon and Sarah, there was something extremely different about the Edwards. Jonathon fell in love with Sarah because of her great love for God. God was the foundation for their relationship. They both loved music, but they loved God more. As I look at the later lives of these four people, I see that God used the Edwards in mighty ways in furthering His Kingdom. I do not see this in the Schumanns. The Schumanns may have produced amazing music, but they did not do it for God's glory.

 I love music. I think music is a beautiful thing, and I love the above Jonathon Edwards quote on music. But that does not change the fact that I love God more. While I think it is a beautiful thing for two people to have a common love for music, I think it is an even greater thing for two people to have a common love for God. The foundation of all our relationships should be God. Obviously, the Edwards were not perfect, only Christ is perfect, but I do think they got it right when it came to matters of love and marriage. They put Christ first in their lives, and it shows.

The foundation of love is Christ. Don't let other earthly things...yes, even music...get in the way or distract you from His perfect love.
Just some thoughts.

In Christ,

1. Piper, Noel. Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God. Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 2005.
2. Smith, Jane Stuart and Betty Carlson. The Gift of Music. Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 1995.
Pictures from

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 15, 1912 - Nearer, My God, To Thee

On April 14, 1912, the impossible and unthinkable happened; the RMS Titanic sank. She was a glorious ship, built so well that she would never sink. Her testimony is one of God's great power over man, as He sank the ship that couldn't be sunk. In the chaos and terror that followed the Titanic's crash into the iceburg, the sound of a hymn could be heard through the screams. "Nearer, My God, To Thee," was played by the ship's band during the final moments before the ship sunk into the icy cold depths of the ocean. I can only imagine the hope it must have given to those who would soon be with Christ. This song must have meant far more to the Christians on board that ship, than I could ever imagine until I reach death's doors.

I can picture it; shivering cold, sitting in a lifeboat, watching as the sparks fly, the people run and scream, the ship slowly sinking lower and lower down into the sea, and yet through the screams and screeching, the sound of this hymn lilts over the water, calming those on board awaiting their certain death. I know this scene has been depicted in films - I've never watched any of them - but, I can see it clearly in my head. If ever there was a time that a simple hymn did wonders, it must have been on board the Titanic. Imagine with me, will you, that you are on board the Titanic, fearful of your certain death, and yet peaceful in the knowledge that you will soon be with God, far nearer to Him than you ever could be on this earth. Now read the words to this hymn...

Nearer, My God, To Thee
By: Sarah F. Adams

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.


Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to Thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone.
Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God to Thee.

There let the way appear, steps unto Heav’n;
All that Thou sendest me, in mercy given;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee.

Then, with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee.

Or, if on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I’ll fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.

There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be, nearer my God to Thee.

In Christ,

Alexander Reinagle

Alexander Reinagle

It is often surprising the things you can learn when you study the history of a person. Such is the case of Alexander Reinagle. At first sight, he was just another composer. On the second glance, after reading about him, he became a person; a fellow human being who accomplished things and had close friends. He actually has some close connections to our country since he stayed here for a while and was friends with one of our Presidents. It is in the songs he wrote and the people he interacted with that we discover who the real man was.

Alexander Robert Reinagle was born on April 23, 1756, to Joseph Reinagle and Annie Laurie in Portsmouth, England. His father was a Hungarian musician and Reinagle first learned music by him. He also had some musical training from Raynor Taylor, the music director of Edinburgh’s Theatre Royal. As a young man, he worked in shipping and made several trips to America. He later taught music in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a composer, conductor, pianist, violinist and theatrical manager. When he first began composing, he quickly became well known in America.

In 1786, Reinagle moved to New York and later to Philadelphia. He was friends with President George Washington and taught the President’s step-granddaughter, Nellie Curtis, music. Reinagle even wrote a song commemorating the President’s death. Along with Thomas Wignell, he wrote many ballets and operas for the theatres in America. He also wrote Variations on Famous Scots Tunes, several sonatas and other marches in honor of different people. Because of his theatrical company, two different theatres were built. He died in Baltimore in 1809.

It’s strange to think that someone who used to be so popular in our country has been pretty much forgotten. Many of his works were destroyed in a fire, but we still have some of them including the hymns that he composed music for. We can be thankful for what we do have left and use them to further our knowledge of history and of God.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Patterns in Protestant Church Music

Well, I finished chapters 2 and 3 of "Patterns in Protestant Church Music." They were very interesting. Chapter 2 was Reformed Church Music - The Basic Implications of Calvin’s Philosophy of Church Music, and it held some very interesting facts that I did not know. For instance, did you know that Calvin was opposed to four part singing and organs? I was rather surprised, because Calvin played a big part in giving us the Genevan Psalter, and whenever I think of Psalm singing, I think of 4-part harmony.
Here are some interesting quotes by Calvin:
"It would be a too ridiculous and inept imitation of papistry to decorate the churches and to believe oneself to be offering God a more noble service in using organs.... All that is needed is a simple and pure singing of the divine praises, coming from the heart and mouth, and in the vulgar tongue.... Instrumental music was tolerated in the time of the Law because the people were then in infancy." 1
"The Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God; it having been his will to train his people, while they were as yet tender and like children, by such rudiments, until the coming of Christ. But now when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law, and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time. From this, it is apparent that the Papists have shown themselves to be very apes in transferring this to themselves."2
Because of these beliefs, many church organs were taken down, broken apart and used for other things. Here is another interesting quote about organs from Cotton Mather:
""And because the holy God rejects all He does not command in His worship, He now therefore in effect says to us, I will not hear the melody of thy Organs." 3
This is rather tricky because organs were not around in Bible times, thus they are not listed in the Bible. The Author of the book, Robert M. Stevenson says of Calvin, "In Calvin’s mind, music, when he did allow it, was conceived as Spartan in simplicity; like St. Augustine he knew the emotional power of music sufficiently well to fear it." 4
It is important to have a sort of "fear," when dealing with music. I believe that this fear should be a fear of God. But, I do not believe that instruments such as organs, and part singing cannot be used for worship. I do believe that those who are not trained in part singing should not be forced to do so to worship, but on the other hand, I do not believe that it is wrong to sing your part if you know it.

The 3rd chapter was on John Merbecke and the First English Prayer Book. I learned that the Archbishop Cranmer helped to translate the Latin verses into English and make them fit the origional tunes. He had John Merbecke help him in adapting the music for the Booke of Common Praier noted and insisted that there should only be one musical note per syllable. 5 Merebecke's musical talent later helped save him from execution.
These are just a few things I read and learned. I am interested to hear if you have any thoughts on the above quotes.
In Christ,

1. Stevenson, Robert M. Patterns in Protestant Church Music. London, England: The Duke University Press, 1953. pg. 14
2. Ibid pg. 15
3. Ibid pg. 17
4. Ibid pg. 21
5. Ibid pg. 26

Friday, April 1, 2011

Depth of Mercy

Here is a beautiful story that I found on Cyber Hymnal that goes with the song Depth of Mercy. Tis a wonderful story that goes with a wonderful song.

An ac­tress in a town in Eng­land, while pass­ing along the street, heard sing­ing in a house. Out of cur­i­o­si­ty she looked in through the open door and saw a num­ber of peo­ple sit­ting to­ge­ther sing­ing this hymn. She list­ened to the song, and af­ter­wards to a sim­ple but ear­nest pray­er. When she went away the hymn had so im­pressed her that she pro­cured a co­py of a book con­tain­ing it. Read­ing and re-read­ing the hymn led her to give her heart to God and to re­solve to leave the stage. The man­a­ger of the the­a­ter plead­ed with her to con­tin­ue to take the lead­ing part in a play which she had made fa­mous in other ci­ties, and fi­nal­ly he per­suad­ed her to ap­pear at the the­a­ter. As the cur­tain rose the or­ches­tra be­gan to play the ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the song which she was ex­pect­ed to sing. She stood like one lost in thought, and the band, sup­pos­ing her em­bar­rassed, played the prel­ude over a se­cond and a third time. Then with clasped hands she stepped for­ward and sang with deep emo­tion:
“Depth of mercy, can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?”
This put a sud­den stop to the per­for­mance; not a few were im­pressed, though many scoffed. The change in her life was as per­ma­nent as it was sin­gu­lar. Soon af­ter she be­came the wife of a min­is­ter of the Gos­pel.
Sankey, pp. 134-5

Depth of Mercy
By: Charles Wesley
Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.

I have spilt His precious blood,
Trampled on the Son of God,
Filled with pangs unspeakable,
I, who yet am not in hell!

I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
And profaned His hallowed Name,
Put Him to an open shame.

Whence to me this waste of love?
Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
Now before the throne of grace.

Jesus, answer from above,
Is not all Thy nature love?
Wilt Thou not the wrong forget,
Permit me to kiss Thy feet?

If I rightly read Thy heart,
If Thou all compassion art,
Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow,
Pardon and accept me now.

Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father’s mercies move,
Justice lingers into love.

Kindled His relentings are,
Me He now delights to spare,
Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”
Lets the lifted thunder drop.

Lo! I still walk on the ground:
Lo! an Advocate is found:
“Hasten not to cut Him down,
Let this barren soul alone.”

There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Pity from Thine eye let fall,
By a look my soul recall;
Now the stone to flesh convert,
Cast a look, and break my heart.

Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.