The Summons

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Kind of.  More-or-less.

Q. Does this make you uncomfortable?

A. Occasionally.

Q. Why?

A. Because the Bible says: “The question is in the mind of the man; the answer comes from the Lord.”  Proverbs 16:1.  Just read it this morning – this being the 16th day of the month.  But what we’re doing, you and I — it seems the other way around.

Q. Then why have you summoned me?

A. Because it works.  I really try not to summon you too often.  It’s a last ditch effort.  A gesture of desperation.  But – it does work.

Q. So what’s on your mind?

A. My incompetence.

Q. What makes you incompetent?

A. I can’t do it.  I can’t even begin to create a simple piano-vocal score.  I stare at the page, knowing it should be easy to open up the script to the proper place on one window, find the cue I need to input, input it onto Scroll View on the Finale template in another window; convert it to Page View, and see if it all looks groovy.  Yet I stare at both windows mindlessly, aimlessly drawing a blank, and feel guiltier and more helpless every damned day.

Q. Might not this simply be another Writer’s Block?

A. If it is, then I’m sure not blocked up about any other writing project I’ve got going on.  It’s just that those projects are not what I am supposed to be doing.  I’m supposed to be notating this grueling, arduous, tedious piano-vocal score that will take me five months to complete even if I do get on the ball with it.

Q. What makes you think you’re supposed to be doing it?

A. I’m supposed to be doing it because nobody will ever produce the show without a written piano-conductor score.

Q. Why not?

A. Because nobody will ever be able to play the piano part, except for me.

Q. Then why don’t you just produce it yourself, and play the piano yourself?

A. Because I don’t have enough money to do so.  I can’t even rent out the theater less than two blocks from my house.  You can’t do anything without money in this world. It sucks.  Talented people go to their graves with their dreams unfulfilled, while people who are rich by inheritance use their money to screw around with high-class call girls.

Q. Is that really always true?

A. No, it is not.

Q. Then why are you so hung up on the theme?

A.  I don’t know.  I’ve got some kind of chip on my shoulder.  I get tired of being lectured by rich people, because they have no idea what it’s like to be poor.  Nor do they have any comprehension that I would never want to be rich; never want ot be like them.  I only want enough money to produce my show.  And still – this piano part – I say I can play it, but that’s a crock.  I can’t even play it.  It would take a pianist much better than me to play it.  So the score needs to be notated, whether I were to self-produce the show or not.

Q. Then what’s keeping you?

A. The block.

Q. What is the essence of the block?

A. I’m not sure.  Somewhere between lack of confidence and laziness, or some combination of both.

Q. Are you lazy?

A. Um — no one who truly knows me would characterize me a such.

Q. Do you lack confidence?

A. Yes.  I’ve watched over three months go by without me being able to get started on this simple task.  How can I not lack confidence?

Q. Is there a way you can proceed without confidence?

A. I hadn’t thought about that.  Perhaps so.

Q. How so?

A. Maybe if I — if I pray – if I trust God — if I ask God to just get me through this block on His power, being as my own power is insufficient.

Q. But would that prayer be sufficient?

A. Only if He answers it.

Q. Why would he not answer it?

A. If it is not within His will.

Q. Why would it not be within His will?

A. If my creation of this p-v score is actually not what I am supposed to be doing.

Q. How will you ever know?

A. If I try.  If I pray.  If I pray, and then open up the windows, and see if the prayer has been answered.

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. I will.

Q. Will you?

A. Yes, I will.

Q. Honestly?  How many times in the past three months have you said you would get cracking on this, and yet not budged an inch?

A. Innumerable times.

Q. Then why should this time be any different?

A. Because it has to be.

Q. But what if you don’t even pray?  What if you’re scared to?

A. If I don’t pray, then somebody else will.  But I will pray.

Q. How do you know you will?

A. Because I just did.  And I ask other believers to pray for me as well.

The Questioner is silent.

 

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

A Role Revised

For anyone who may have been following my recent journey, I must say that as I attended church for the first time today as a mere parishioner, and not a paid employee, I was blessed far beyond my expectations.

It was refreshing not to have to be worried about what was supposed to come next in the order of worship, but only to sit in the pews and soak it all in.  I found myself focusing on the language in the prayer of confession, the hymns, the sermon, and all other aspects of the service.   When I still had the job, all I could do was nervously worry about what was going to come next.   Would I wind up in the wrong key?  Would I play too fast, too slow, too loud, or too soft?   Was I about to be heavily criticized for my failings after it was all done?  Or, even if they were to compliment me, were they complimenting me for the wrong reasons?  In short:

Did I come across more like a musical theatre or pop-contemporary accompanist, or worse yet, a lounge lizard, in the sacred context?

lounge lizardMy God – my anxiety increases as I even indulge the memory.  Be that as it may.  The “good news” is that I was very blessed to be a simple participant.  I also was freed up to attend a book study before the service, where only six people were present.  Moreover, I can go to another book study on Wednesday evenings when the Choir would have rehearsed.

I’m a little concerned about the substantial decrease in my monthly cash flow — but not too much.  It seems to me that I was living high on the hog to begin with.   I’m used to living on almost nothing at all.  Suddenly having even a little money left over after paying the rent was almost too much for me.  Ah – but I hyperbolize.  As someone said this morning, there is probably a better job in store for me.   All I need do is look.

So, I just wanted to submit a brief blog to share the glad tidings.   I’ll now return to my Writer’s Guild meeting.  Ta ta for now.

Resignation and Debut

On Monday I resigned my position as pianist and organist of a local Presbyterian church.  They haven’t found someone to replace me permanently yet, but they have two people who can cover the stretch of time between now and the end of summer.  I also told them I desired to remain a member of the church, but not an employee.  They then agreed that this is their desire, as well.

The main reason for my resignation was that the stress of the job reached the point of interfering completely with my day-to-day spirituality.  Being a church job, this is rather ironic.  But that’s why I decided to continue on with the church.  I found the church itself to be a great contributor to my spirituality – just not the job itself.

Here is the text of my letter of resignation, submitted by email to the entire congregation:

My physical health is good, and I am generally in good spirits, but there are some issues with my mental health that are hard to grasp and have me occasionally feeling very disoriented. These are aggravated by stress. I cannot explain why this is, but somehow the simple piano-organ position that I had expected to be very easy for me and full of joy has become associated with an unbearable level of anxiety that, when it reaches a peak, causes me to make irrational decisions that have enduring consequences. If you can fashion a prayer around these words, please deliver your words to the One who has power to heal.

Also, while I regret that I was too ill to fulfill the Holy Week services, Norman has advised me that they went very well with the substitute. I will not be in church this Sunday, but I hope that thereafter you will all accept me as a member in good standing of First Presbyterian Church but not a part of the music ministry. While I occasionally enjoy playing the piano and recognize it as a gift from God, I have decided that things like reading music, following conductors, turning pages, piano-conducting, etc. are basically in the category of health risks at this time. I will eventually find some kind of piano lounge where I can play at random while daydreaming, make a little more money, and live a bit more comfortably here. So I hope you all will take this in the spirit in which it is intended. First Presbyterian Church of Moscow is the greatest church that I have ever happened upon in all of my lifelong church-hopping, and I will hop no further, so help me, God.

Thank you all for showing me true Christian love. I need that more than I need a job, at this time.

Grace and Peace,

Andy

As a start to a new day-to-day foundation for spirituality, I picked up a hard copy of a book today called The Celebration of Discipline, by a theologian named Richard J. Foster.  I think that to become a little more routinized and regularized (but not “regulated,” mind you) might help with my musical work as well.  I agreed with Pastor Norman that I would still play the Wednesday evening Taize services on a volunteer basis.  Otherwise, I am mainly focused on putting my show together for my debut as a singer-songwriter in this area:

One World Cafe Downtown Moscow

Andy Pope and Friends, Saturday May 6, 7pm, One World Cafe, 533 S. Main Street Moscow Idaho. Be There.

Even the demo is on the back burner for now (although I have rounded up most of the singers).  Today I found all the band members for the show two weeks from tomorrow, so I’m diving wholeheartedly into creating a set list and writing out parts.  I’ve got an Ibenez custom hollow body, a Yamaha electronic keyboard, and a good percussionist on the Cajon who also plays fiddle and mandolin.  My bassist is from Lionel Hampton, and I’ll be using the house sound system for my singing.  If you’re for any reason in the neighborhood, feel free to cruise by.  I mean – don’t bust your back or break any laws, but you know where I’ll be.

Labor of Love

In case anyone’s wondered, I’m still in the land of the living, and I have not yet dropped off the face of the planet.  I realized earlier today that it’s been nine days since I’ve posted.   I was planning to delay this post until I had completed the piano-vocal score to the third musical number in Eden in Babylon, the song called The Very Same World.  But then I realized that even the completion of that score will only reflect a far greater pleasure — one that has already made itself manifest in my experience, and quite unexpectedly, at that.

Remember how I said I wasn’t looking forward to having to create an entire piano-vocal score for a musical so huge?  I alluded to the tedious ardor of having to put The Burden of Eden together nine years ago, and not having attempted a score of that magnitude since.  But to my pleasant surprise, I have found that I am actually enjoying the process of creating this score.  I’ve been working on “Same World” since Monday, and I honestly believe I will have it finished tomorrow, which is Friday.  (Or later on today, to be more accurate, since I am up after one in the morning as we speak.)

Steinway-Model-D-Grand-Piano-52626-Brazilian-Rosewood-1I think part of the difference lies in the software I’m using now, as opposed to back then.  In those days I only had a general midi replica of a piano sound.  Now I’m using a sampled Steinway grand.  Believe me, it makes a huge difference.  I’m also undergoing the intriguing challenge of trying to create a piano part the way that I myself would play these tunes on the piano.  This challenge is made even more challenging by the fact that I have never played any of these songs on the piano.  I don’t own a piano; and I wrote them, like I write all my music, “in my head.”

But hearing the sound of that Steinway, I’m eager to at least try to play them on the church piano, which is a Baldwin grand.  Once I have the music written out, it will be much easier to do so.  All I’ll have to do is change hats and read it – as though it were somebody else’s music, and not my own.  I honestly think this process will fascinate me enough, that the tedium I’d earlier dreaded will no longer be a legitimate threat.  More likely, this current fascination will morph into a gigantic labor of love.

So, I’m in the final formatting stages of “Same World” tonight.  Our church secretary said I could sent the pdf file to her, and she would print it out for me in the morning.  Then I’m going to examine the hard copy, pencil in any adjustments, and print out a final version.   My goal is to have both “Same World” and Heart Song scored by next Friday, so I can take them down to the Open Mike, where I just might meet some interested singers for the project.

Many other nice things have been happening lately, and my goal to get this musical produced seems a bit more attainable now.   The plans I’m devising to go about this are a bit less vague and a bit more fully baked than they were the last time you saw me.  But I’ll save the details for a near-future entry.  I want to take another look at the “Same World” score before I ponder the unappealing notion known as “sleep.”  I’ve long been of the camp that contends something like sleep, in situations like these, to be for the faint of heart.   Food also seems to be quite unnecessary.   My theory, as expressed in this post, is this:

What physical nutrition I lack is made up for in the spiritual nutrition with which this music is feeding my soul.

No wonder they bipolarized me!  But would I have it any other way?  Probably not.   They can bipolarize me till the cows come home.  When I take care of my soul, the rest of me takes care of itself.

A New Season

I’m over at the North Berkeley Senior Center, where they have a nice Yamaha U-2 console piano, one of my favorite non-grand pianos.  I don’t quite understand why two of the other pianists here prefer the Baldwin.  To me, it plays like an old Hamilton workhorse.  The keys can’t take normal rough pressure in the least; they keep breaking on me.  Well, this one hasn’t yet – but I feel it’s about to.  And the other pianists caution me to go easy on the keys.  It’s true that the nice nuances of its action come at a much softer range; but still, where is the tone?  The Yamaha, notwithstanding that for me, its action is far more subtle, precise, and superior, sounds like a damned Steinway in places.  It’s just a sensational piano – like the C-3 baby grand that I played for all those years at Gulliver’s.

I played a couple of my very newer tunes, then for some reason drifted into my standard New-Age improvisations around “Feed the Birds.” After that, I more-or-less dared to play three songs from The Word from Beyond that I really have only hitherto played in my head, those being “Adytum,” “Another Round of Fear,” and “Rosy.”  title: These songs reflect a spirit more consonant with the current phase in my life than the earlier music from Eden in Babylon, which was mostly written between 2010 and 2012.  Although by and larger their tone is more romantic and passionate than my earlier work, the most recent song that I’ve written, “The Very Same World,” has a very upbeat, optimistic feel to it, almost bubblegum in places.  As I played it, two of the guys working at the front desk tuned into it, and seemed to perk up a bit.  When I was done, they both asked me: “What was that last song you played?”  So  I explained everything, and linked them to this web site.  

It’s not that I don’t want to finish the very nearly completed script of Eden in Babylon, and finally tie it all together.  It’s just that I see no reason to rush into it, even after five years, and plow away at it as though there were a deadline, thus compromising its integrity at some point.  There’s a right script out there in the Universe, and it will get dropped down upon me at just the right time–just like everything else, in Art, and in life.