In the Palm of His Hand

Grandma Jeanne, this is for you. (And anyone else who would be blessed by this lovely song.)

(From Psalm 91and Isaiah 40:31)

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,
who abide in His shadow for life,
say to the Lord: “My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!”

Refrain: And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

The snare of the fowler will never capture you,
and famine will bring you no fear:
under His wings your refuge, His faithfulness your shield.

Refrain: And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

You need not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day;
though thousands fall about you, near you it shall not come.

Refrain: And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

For to His angels He’s given a command
to guard you in all of your ways;
upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Refrain: And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

A Joyful Afternoon

Saturday afternoon was our son Will’s graduation recital on piano and pipe organ at St. Joseph Chapel in Milwaukee. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon, a rare one, with temperatures near seventy and with skies that were deep blue.

Willrecital6Will wasn’t expecting many to turn out for his recital, especially on a day like that. We thought that only some family and a few of Will’s friends might be there. We were  surprised and pleased at the group that came out, including several of Will’s organist friends in the area, the headmaster of his school, his headmaster’s wife, a two teachers from his school and school friends. Also, driving all the way from Madison was a blogger friend of mine with his wife and girls, and a pastor’s wife whose husband is now in Illinois. Will’s Aunt Lisa and cousins, Rachel and Anna also attended. The trouble they took to come out and hear our son really touched our hearts!

We are so thankful for Shanti Daya and Sister Mary Jane Wagner who have been exactly the right teachers for Will at this time in his life. God has provided for Will’s needs in so many ways in his music training.

Sitting and listening to the music, some of which  had never heard before by me as he practices in the basement and at other churches (where did that one come from?!), was almost a surreal experience. Who is this young man? Wasn’t he just a little boy playing with his Thomas the Tank Engine trains and running the neighborhood with his Super Soaker?

Now he’s grown up, turning 18 in a few days. It all goes by so quickly. I was comforted, however, by Will’s little sister next to us in the pew at the concert. We still have a young one around for a while yet and all the challenges of education and music training ahead. She will probably start with piano lessons in the next year. I’m not sure I can handle the parent-intensive, twice a week Suzuki violin classes again. But if she shows a proclivity, after a couple years of piano, we will certainly give her that chance, Lord willing.

Will played a quiet meditation on organ at the recital. That was after the very full-blast Bach. When a pipe organ’s sound changes from thunder to a low purr underneath with a quiet melody on top, it moves me to reflection, Tom and I reflected a great deal on 18 years with our son. He is off to Wheaton College Conservatory in August. I can’t say enough about the help of those at Wheaton that has made this possible. Best of all, he will be close enough to see us occasionally, if he can fit us into his schedule! We will all look forward to that immensely.

To those reading this who were able to come out to the recital, thank you for showing love to Will. We are grateful. Here are a few photos from Saturday afternoon.

Will with the Headmaster of Trinity Academy, Dr. Robin Mitchell.

Will with the Headmaster of Trinity Academy, Dr. Robin Mitchell.



Will with his piano teacher, Shanti Daya on the left, and his organ teacher, Sister Mary Jane Wagner on the right.

Will with his piano teacher, Shanti Daya on the left, and his organ teacher, Sister Mary Jane Wagner on the right.


Will with some of his musical friends who came out to hear him.

Will with some of his musical friends who came out to hear him.

Emmy gets ready to go in to hear her big brother.

Emmy gets ready to go in to hear her big brother.


Emmy with Cousin Rachel

Emmy with Cousin Rachel


The beautiful St. Joseph Chapel.

The beautiful St. Joseph Chapel.

Midnight Music

Late one night recently I came downstairs for some water and was surprised to see the basement door open and the light on.

Putting my (hearing impaired) ear down the stairway, I heard the soft strains of music. It was Will, keeping a lonely vigil at his organ in the night hours. Will’s love of organ has become a single focus in his young life. I find him in the family room listening, listening, listening to organ performances on YouTube and on CD’s and spending hours alone practicing in his basement hideout.

What does a 17-year-old young man find in music written so long ago? The answer is that he finds in it the same thing that the composers did, and perhaps only serious musicians who write or who play the music fully understand what that is. We who love to listen to music understand up to a point. Those who can look at a page of black squiggles and markings and translate that into glorious sound understand and love it at an even deeper level. At least that’s what I think.

You can’t give love of music to a child. You can create an appreciation and share what you know, but passion for making music is something inside a person. It’s either there or it’s not. Will has been surrounded by good music from before he was born. When I was expecting him, I used to lie next to my boombox and play classical music from Bach to Stravinsky. I thought it couldn’t hurt to give a preborn babe some music appreciation. Then he accompanied his father to trumpet performances at churches all over. He sat through a Skylight performance at age 6 in the orchestra pit and never moved an inch the whole time. He was taken to the Chicago Symphony and Milwaukee Symphony and many other concerts. He has heard musicals and operas and symphonies of all kinds. But ultimately, his own love and desire to make serious music has come from inside of him. And only God can give that. Nobody can take credit for the interests and gifts our children have, whatever they are. We can only try to be good stewards of them.

In a world where entertainment media dominate so much of our children’s lives, it was a glad moment to realize that Will could be satisfied late at night, with only God and himself, making music on his organ.

(I found this music on his desk today! I’m not sure what it is, but it looks a little challenging.)


Notes from the Basement

I post a lot of music on here, because it is such a part of my life. Last night I realized how long it had been since I’d touched an organ. I play piano, but had not played the organ since I had a small one of my Grandma’s in my living room when the kids were much younger. I used to play hymns at night and found it very restful.

Last night, I sat down at Will’s digital Hauptwerk organ in the basement and decided to play a few hymns and songs. After enjoying myself thoroughly, I asked Will if he would give me lessons. He agreed good-naturedly with a grin. (It’s funny that roles are reversed as I used to help him when he began piano!)

It’s a very healing and joyful thing to make music of your own, no matter how humble. Taking music lessons as a child may not always produce a grand musician, but it can be a source of great personal enjoyment, and I think music in the home is a very lovely thing for children. Emmy sat on the bench next to me, amused that I was playing her “Bubba’s” organ. (Will’s nickname is “Bubba” to Em.) Then I asked if she would like to sing some of her Bible songs. She belted out her favorite, pleased to have my organ accompaniment.

Here is a lovely rendition of the first song I played on the organ in many years last night. The video features a harp and a voice singing the (Swedish) gospel song, Day by Day. The words are on the screen. I love it when they put up the words!


A Burst of Joy

The gift of music brings so much joy. There are times when the darkness in this world threatens to overwhelm and then good music, as it has been said so well, brings a burst of the eternal into our temporal condition and causes us to look up to its source, God.

Will tonight provided another such joyful burst on the mighty Schantz pipe organ at Gesu Church in downtown Milwaukee after attending a concert. (It’s the biggest organ in our state of Wisconsin.) Here he plays a piece that is so bright and brilliant. (And to me it is just mind blowing how fast he plays,—a little faster than necessary, I might add!)  This is the Dubois Toccata. It brought a smile to our faces! +Soli Deo Gloria!+

Moments in a Lifetime

“…and draw her home with music.” ~ Merchant of Venice, Scene V, Act I

It is said that we don’t remember days, we remember moments in life. That is probably true for most of us. For me, some of the best moments have involved listening to music.

Several years ago I wrote of coming home from the grocery store to find my husband Tom and son William sitting in the family room in the dark. Out of the stereo speakers came music that drew me in immediately. The grocery bags were quietly lowered to the floor, and I joined them in the dark for moments I will never forget.

They were listening to the last movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony, a piece of music so shimmering in its beauty that it reminds me of seeing a priceless gem turning slowly around on black velvet, the light picking up each different facet of the gem as it revolves. Somewhere in that music all the joy and pain of life are encapsulated, crystallized into one glittering half hour. You cannot listen to this music without shutting out distractions. It commands your full attention.

William was around 10 at the time, but he never moved as he sat with us in the dark. Those moments are sealed in my memory for always.

Years before that, on a gray, bitterly cold, Sunday afternoon, I made my way through the slushy, icy streets on the east side of Milwaukee to St. Paul’s Church. The church was chilly and the lighting was very low. I sat in the bleak sanctuary, hunkered down in my coat , waiting for a choir concert to begin.

Out of the chilly darkness of that church suddenly came a burst of sound. A brass group played the opening lines of John Rutter’s, Gloria! (Click here to hear Gloria! yourself.) Leading the trumpets was my Tom that day (we were not yet married.) Walking back through the slush and snow to my car, arm wrapped in his, I was warmed by the sound of Gloria!  Eighteen years later, I am still warmed by those memories.

Last January, I sat at Church of the Gesu in downtown Milwaukee, once again waiting for a concert to begin. It was surreal for me. Only a few months earlier, our son Will had begun organ lessons after years of piano study. At his insistent request, I had located an organ teacher, and he took to the instrument immediately. So our organ fledgling was suddenly sitting at a newly refurbished Schantz monster of a pipe organ. For 30 years, Tom had played for weddings and concerts with the organist there. From babyhood, Will had accompanied him, taking it all in. To have Will so unexpectedly playing that instrument with his father was a real musical moment, to put it mildly. When they played the Manz Aria together, the tears spilled over a bit. That lovely piece was on a cassette that I had worn out years earlier, something Tom had given me when we first got to know each other.  It hit me that here was Tom’s son playing that brooding, sad and sweet-at-the-same-time, piece of music, his Dad’s solo trumpet voice over the top. Unforgettable.

There are many other musical moments I cherish: Hearing trumpet legend Bud Herseth play the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in Orchestra Hall in Chicago (the old, historic one before they remodeled it), hearing the amazing Frank Almond play the newly rediscovered Lapinski Stradivarius violin in a small chamber setting, (see a clip of the recital here), and sitting near the stage and hearing Marilyn Horne sing Shall We Gather at the River leaving not a dry eye in the house. Those are just a few.

Everyone has moments in time that are sealed forever in the vault of their minds. Good memories are stored along with the bad. But the moments I retain will always and forever be wrapped in the strains of music.

Music Break: Love Divine All Loves Excelling

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Happy 15th Birthday, William – June 3

William is turning 15. He is an honor student with a 98 average who has enjoyed his freshman year of high school. He studies piano, pipe organ and percussion. This year he played with the Youth Wind Orchestra of Wisconsin, played for the performathon at the Conservatory of Music, and won a scholarship for his piano work this spring.

Will has an internal drive that is very interesting to watch. He sets goals for himself and reaches them by working hard. His goal for the summer is to improve at something. He is interested in basketball and fitness, so maybe that is what he’ll be working on. You never know.

Will’s passion is the pipe organ right now. I hear him downstairs practicing on his Allen, and it makes me smile. William’s teacher saw him at his first lesson and remembered when he used to carry his Dad’s trumpet case for him when he would go with Tom to concerts and weddings where she played the organ. Now he’s a young man, and is learning the organ himself under her excellent teaching.

Happy Birthday, William. You have brought non-stop joy to our family through being the loving and hard-working son that you are. Godspeed!

Aunt Kris from Oklahoma stopped by for a surprise birthday visit.