I belong to a musical family. Most of us sing in the Church choir and some of us have done some singing in Community Theater, with an occasional solo or vocal recital to keep us on our toes. One of my brothers is a true professional, and because he loves us, he likes to involve us in his musical projects. Several years ago my mother and I found ourselves making the one hour journey to a Salt Lake City studio to sing in the chorus for my brother’s new musical project. This is always a little bit scary for Mom and me because we don’t have a lot of experience with studio singing–you know, headphones, microphones, silencing the vibrato in our classical voices. We were looking forward to several hours of being totally intimidated by twenty-five other selected chorus singers who were apparently brought up in a recording studio and don’t even know the meaning of the word vibrato. It’s always wonderful because the music is so beautiful, but it’s always a bit stressful. This night was no exception.
We finished the chorus parts and were about to leave for home when, unexpectedly, my brother asked if I could stay and sing a solo. He told me this solo was for me, that it was my voice he could hear performing this particular part. I agreed to stay and try. So there I was, decked out in headphones, standing in the middle of a sound stage ALONE!!! This was definitely a new level of intimidation. My brother took his place in the control room ready for “take off,” but it didn’t take off. For hours we worked over my part. Each new “take” as they call it, promised to be the last, but time after time my singing was lacking in one way or another.
My brother would patiently tell me one of three things after each attempt: 1) It lacked feeling or heart; 2) It was too flat or too sharp; or 3) My timing was off. I would focus on one element and the others would suffer. For example, I would focus intently on the timing and do it perfectly, yet lose all the emotion. So I would focus on the feeling and the notes would suffer. I would give every ounce of concentrated effort I could muster to staying on key and completely forget whether to be loud and forceful or soft and tender. Singing with a pre-recorded orchestra being miked into my head was a new ball game. My experience as sacrament meeting soloist had not prepared me for this.
Hour after hour until the wee hours of the morning, he worked with me. He would save anything, any part, any small set of notes that were beautiful in all three ways hoping to piece it all together later. Anything I did right he kept on tape. But there were sections that were not coming together.
Finally he left the control room from which he had been taping and coaching and said, “We’re going to get this, but we will have to do something drastic.” I couldn’t imagine what he had in mind. My brother disclosed his plan. “I think if you were singing to a single note and a click giving you the beat in every measure, you would get it.”
So he listened to the orchestra and played and recorded a perfectly coordinated piano part note by note. Then we went back to work. This time there was no beautiful orchestra singing into my headphones. He played and I sang along with just that single note and a clicking sound to mark the beat. Finally I was getting it. It was a miracle! But if I didn’t focus on that single note, even for a second, I was off again.
Every once in a while he would call me in and say, “Listen to this.” He would let me hear how it sounded with the orchestra. We would get so excited. Then I would go out again and sing a few more bars with my single note and click track. It was the hardest musical work I had ever done.
I was very tempted to quit. Over and over I thought to myself, “This is humiliating. This is embarrassing. I’m wasting my brother’s time, and I’m keeping my poor mother up all night. He must be feeling frustrated and disappointed in me. There are dozens of girls he could call in, and they could do this in a flash. This doesn’t need to be me.” But my sweet brother wanted it to be me. He was willing to pay any price for it to be my voice. So I prayed and focused and sang until it finally came together at 2:00 am. Three hours of work for a handful of measures.
After we listened to it in its entirety, I felt like crying over the loving patience of my brother and his gift to create such a beautiful musical score. I also felt I had experienced something very spiritual, but it was late at night, and the application did not become clear to me until I pondered the experience the next day. I had been given another opportunity to perform–this time in a stake meeting where I sang “O Divine Redeemer.” As I sang, I recognized how much I had learned musically from my experience the night before. When I got home, I decided to write in my journal about what had happened to me. I had been taught to liken scripture to my life, but this was a bit different. This time, as I prayerfully wrote, I was given the spiritual interpretation of a life experience. I was blessed to see how real life experiences can be likened unto scriptural principles when viewed through the eyes of the Spirit. It was a glorious thing to experience. The “translation” or interpretation of what I had learned spiritually began to pour into me.
The Lord seemed to call me by name, and to speak these words to my mind, “The experience you had last night was not just about singing. It was about living. It was about how to live. It is I who selected you to accomplish certain things here on earth. I can see you doing them. It’s your voice, your words I hear. It’s your face I see. It’s your heart I know. It’s your hands I feel. It’s a part I wrote just for you. I am your Brother in the control room. I am your Coach. I will tell you if you are performing without heart. I will tell you if your timing is wrong, or if you are off the note or task one way or the other. I am also the Great Orchestrator, taking all good, saving it, and making it part of a great whole.
But most important, I am that single note you must listen for as you seek to find your note. It is my voice that is perfectly individualized to play only your part, and if you focus on it, your performance will be perfect. Every once in awhile, I will allow you to hear your part, with the whole. You will hear or feel or see your contribution to the symphony in context. But for the most part you will be a single performer singing to a single note. It will take patience, and love, and humility.
There will be times when you will want to give up and let someone else take your part. You will feel embarrassed. You will think you are wasting your time. You will think you are wasting My time, but you are not. This is your part, and I want you to sing it. It is my work and my glory to help you sing it. Sometimes when your work is to do dishes or wipe a nose or figure out how to make dinner out of nothing, listen for the single note provided by My voice, giving you direction, and know that even these notes are vital. And someday when I play you this symphony in its entirety you will see that every beautiful note counted and is appreciated and is a part of the orchestration of all good.”
By Nannette W.
Posted Sunday, August 17, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Nannette W. All right reserved.
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