God Connections in Playing Music
By Shawna Percy on March 21, 2012
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There is a song I grew up hearing throughout my childhood. If someone was to ask my family what ballad stood out the most to them, what melody was most frequently played, it would be this song.
The sheet music of the composer has traveled with me from place to place. It is so ratty and tattered. I love how worn it has become. It shows how well used it has been throughout all these years. The book of music holds the notes to renditions I had heard my whole life. They are the songs I knew best from an artist I thought I knew well.
The sound of trumpets, piano, and harmonious voices filled my childhood home. Friends proudly played the anthem of my childhood, called You are the One, by Keith Green. But it was the song my mother played when everyone else was gone, the song my sister and I practiced, imitating her talent, that stood the test of time. The song was The Lord is my Shepherd, also by Keith Green.
If there is one piece of music that has been played again, and again by any of us over the years, there is no doubt it has been this song.
As a little girl, I watched my mother’s delicate fingers sweep swiftly over the well-used keys of her Weber piano. I listened, and then practiced. I could never fully play by sight, nor could I fully play by ear. Instead, I called on both. For the parts of the sheet music that were difficult to read, I copied the melody I had recorded in my memory.
A few weeks ago, I met a friend who is a Keith Green fan. He asked me if I had ever heard of him. “Of course," I said, "I grew up playing his music on our piano.”
Image: seriousbri via Flickr
Later, my friend sent me a Keith Green playlist. It’s unfathomable to me now, but in 33 years, it never occurred to me that I could hear Keith Green himself singing and playing his own music. I had never heard the artist sing his own songs, or tell the stories that were behind them. Then there were songs I had heard growing up. Songs that were not in our 'Songs for the Shepherd' music book - songs that I never realized were his.
I listened intently to the playlist. That’s what he sounds like., I thought to myself. Oh, that’s how the piano in this piece is supposed to be played. I paid attention to the tempo, the pitch, the weight he placed on each key.
My friend had also sent me The Keith Green Story. Again, I thought I knew him. What I knew was he was fiercely talented, he loved God, and he died in a plane crash when he was 28. But, of course, someone can not be fully known just by the highlights of their life, or even a movie that attempts to fill in the blanks.
I see parallels between this awakening, and my relationship with God. If God is the melody, the very essence of the music of life, I had played His song with an out of tuned instrument that thought it was right on key.
I had read His sheet music cover to cover. I thought I knew so much I could speak on His behalf, and I did. Then I realized my rendition of his melody will always be only an interpretation until I hear the real thing.
The sudden impact of losing someone so close to me, caused me to think of how I approached the song of life. I took my hands off the piano. I ended the music. Full stop. I had come to view God like my keyboard, in terms of black and white. But there was a lot of unseen colour in-between.
I went from one extreme to a cautious in-between. Then one day my unpracticed fingers found themselves upon dusty keys, wanting to play again, wanting to be closer to the song and its Composer. God is the melody of my life. To stop playing is to lose the very essence of the song. But I had made so many mistakes, I became attuned to being out of tune.
My fingers rested on the keys, not yet pressing down.
Then I realized that perhaps perfection was not the point, and neither was the withdrawal. Perhaps the point was to reach for the melody, explore the hymn and with it find the harmonizing balance between the known, and the unknown, and to practice that standard until the day when I hear the Composer’s true song.
Click here to hear me play the Keith Green song, The Lord is my Shepherd.
Shawna is a writer and public speaker. Email Shawna to invite her to speak at your next event.
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