Posts from — December 2010
Whether you’re a Christmas music junkie or just looking for something besides the latest radio rendition of We Three Kings on a Silent Night in O Little Town of Bethlehem, here are some free, mostly lesser-known tunes for you to enjoy!
- 10 Free MP3′s from worshiptogether.com
- Free Christmas carol sheet music — I use this every year for our string ensemble Christmas Eve music
- Free streaming of Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God CD
- Three free songs from Sojourn music: two via Justin Taylor and one via their website
- Tips for hearing free holiday music using Pandora
- History and past service programs of King’s College’s Festival of Lessons and Carols (includes a free mp3 the commissioned Stardust Carol)
- Some holiday cheer from the New York Philharmonic brass quintet:
- And I can’t resist posting everyone’s favorite Silent Monk Hallelujah Chorus:
December 22, 2010 No Comments
Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with the teaching profession — probably because my whole life I’ve been blessed with good and influential teachers. I wouldn’t call becoming a teacher a lifelong aspiration, unless you count the whimsical answers of a five-year-old who changes her career goals hourly.
But fast-forward twenty or so years, and here I am — a (part-time) teacher. Of all the things I’ve done to eke out a living, teaching is definitely the hardest. But it is also one of the most satisfying experiences in life.
I used to think teachers were just being polite when saying they learned more from their students than their students learned from them. They really weren’t. My students are continually teaching me about life, music, and myself.
On life: Students have taught me to appreciate each individual for who they are. The most interesting part of teaching is understanding who each person is — what resonates with them, what they enjoy, how they learn. Most of my students are not like me; I’m constantly learning different ways to to explain concepts. Another cool thing about teaching is seeing how people are naturally gifted in different areas. Some things that I remember taking me a ridiculously long time to learn come almost instantly to others.
On music: Students have reminded me about the joy of music. For example, I’ve played the song Silent Night approximately 39928934 times. But the other week, I had a student who had just learned the song sit down and play it beautifully. She looked at me afterwards and exclaimed, “It’s cool when you get to play a piece you like and you just get this thrilling feeling!” I love that. I need that.
On myself: Teaching is humbling. I used to think I was pretty patient, good at explaining things, understanding, and a whole host of other positive things. Wrong! A better word would be self-deceived. Teaching has revealed to me many of my own failings and weaknesses. My students challenge me to continue learning and improving not only musically but personally. I’m grateful for their sanctifying presence in my life.
December 21, 2010 No Comments
Christmas is easily my favorite time of the year; but often I don’t pause to consider what I appreciate about this season until after it has passed. So, in the interest of savoring these last few days before the holiday, here are 25 reasons I’m grateful for the Christmas season.
- Watching cities transform overnight after the trees are lit and the window displays change.
- Witnessing audience sing-a-longs at Christmas concerts. (Yes, I know that the orchestra and audience rarely match up tempo-wise. But it doesn’t matter — it’s cool seeing people of all ages singing together without caring what people think about them.)
- Seeing my students get excited about learning their favorite Christmas carol or song.
- Watching The Muppet Christmas Carol.
- Playing Christmas party gigs (the food is usually the best at these…).
- Preparing for and playing the Christmas Eve candlelight service at Living Hope Bible Church.
- Choosing a Christmas vacation book to read and not moving until I finish it.
- Having the whole family home and trying to take a decent picture together (difficult these days).
- Playing Britten’s “Interlude” from A Ceremony of Carols, preferably in a dimly lit church (hear a clip here — it’s at the end).
- Trading Christmas gig stories with fellow musicians in the green room.
- Enjoying the creative new ways people share the Christmas story, such as this:
- Eating gingerbread and candy canes.
- Singing my favorite Christmas carols…
- And learning some new ones.
- Driving through Crown Hill in Seattle (traditionally some of the prettiest home light displays in the area).
- Turning off the alarm and sleeping in the morning after the last Christmas gig.
- Baking delicious things with friends.
- Reading Christmas letters and cards from old friends and relatives.
- Shopping in downtown Seattle with my mom.
- Meeting up with old friends back in town.
- Cooking Christmas breakfast for the family.
- Taking a requisite sip of eggnog (actually don’t really like it, but I always think, “Maybe I will this year…”).
- Walking through the Bellevue Botanical Gardens light display (invariably we seem to choose the coldest day of the year to do this).
- Trying to sightread through my mom’s vast Christmas music piano collection.
- Marveling again, but still not nearly enough, over God’s immense love for us in the giving of His Son.
What are you grateful for this Christmas?
December 20, 2010 No Comments
C.S. Lewis is one of those writers who could communicate profound truths with remarkable clarity. Although I don’t agree with all his viewpoints, I can think of few other authors who have affected my thinking quite as much as Lewis. (The Weight of Glory ranks as my all-time favorite essay.) Here are a couple of quotes on thanksgiving and praise that have encouraged me of late (emphases added):
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and help others do the same.”
- From Mere Christianity
“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”
- From Reflections on the Psalms
December 19, 2010 No Comments
I actually remembered and used my camera yesterday during the first leg of the tour, a rare accomplishment for me. Some behind-the-scenes shots from pre-and-during rehearsal:
Also on tour with us was the acapella group Voice Avenue (previously known as Voices of Lee, if you watched the show The Sing-Off). A brief clip from their soundcheck:
December 18, 2010 No Comments
Right now I’m on a short tour as part of the Michael W. Smith orchestra. It’ll be an exciting but nonstop few days (with a Christmas service in the middle too), so if you happen to think of it I’d appreciate your prayers!
Meanwhile, here are a few Friday diversions for your surfing pleasure:
- Britain’s version of Silent Night: across the ocean, John Cage’s 4’33″ is in the run for the #1 single for the 2010 Christmas season.
- Espresso as an art form: a primer (including some impressive examples of latte art).
- Let’s recycle that paper into a pencil: a bizarre but intriguing new office tool.
- I knew this would be epic when they zoomed in on the flower:
December 17, 2010 No Comments
I’m what you’d call a fair-weather morning person — literally. I naturally get up with the sun. This means that in the summertime, waking up early is easy and even enjoyable. But for the other nine months of the year — and particularly at this time of the year, mornings pose a challenge.
Fact: short of a miracle, early mornings will never be easy year-round. But I’m grateful for small things that make them more bearable, namely the morning routine.
The key for me is front-load the first 90 minutes of the day (my brain needs that much time to defog) with several simple, enjoyable things to distract myself from thinking, “Waking up is hard to do.”
For me, the perfect morning routine includes the following:
- Some semi-strenuous aerobic exercise, accompanied by the news
- Two cups of strong and fully-caffeinated coffee
- Substantial breakfast, accompanied by some devotional reading and the NY Times crossword
- A hot shower
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what must it include?
December 16, 2010 No Comments
Last night was one for the memory books as, with the help of several family members and friends, my hugely awkward and heavy harp trunk successfully slid into a borrowed Suburban in preparation for a concert tour this weekend. (The trunk strongly resembles a coffin, so I can only imagine what the neighbors were thinking.)
For the rest of the night, the same thought kept running through my head: Wow, I am blessed with the most amazing friends. I also spent some time recounting some of my favorite “good-times-with-friends” memories, some of which hadn’t crossed my mind for years. It made me miss many of you but also renewed my thankfulness for your presence in my life.
Just a few of the memories for which I am grateful (no names to preserve privacy — you know who you are):
- Seeing my blue and pink cabinets and ugly carpet disappear thanks to the expertise of talented and generous friends
- Receiving many encouraging cards and phone calls during a period of health difficulties in college
- Participating in a group effort to order sushi off an all-Japanese menu in Kyoto, and enjoying the surprisingly successful and delicious result
- Crossing the border late at night with two harps and luggage stuffed in a friend’s trunk
- Getting to play the piano for my childhood best friend’s wedding
- Watching and rewatching the priest scene in Princess Bride and laughing so hard we cried (obviously, late at night)
- Having a friend show up to make sure I was still alive after my Skype connection with my parents failed, I didn’t think to call them back, and they sort of panicked…whoops…
- Pushing harps down Bloor Street in the snow
- Roaming the streets of Leavenworth trying to find a copy machine past 7pm (FAIL, though we learned the post office doubled as a saloon after-hours)
- Enjoying Thursday night Starbucks Bible study with the girls
- Enjoying mid-morning Sunday Second Cup coffee between service and Sunday school
- Trying to stay awake during New Year’s Eve Pride and Prejudice marathons
- Eating a surprise American Thanksgiving dinner in Canada after a friend listened to me bemoan my missing the holiday back home
- Forming late-night impromptu jam sessions with fellow musician friends during summer camp (both as camper and faculty)
- Meeting up with college friends in unexpected places (from California to Israel!)
Thank you, thank you to everyone I am privileged to count as a friend. Grace and peace to you all!
December 15, 2010 No Comments
We all get a lot of “Thanks for spending your money with us” pitches at this time of the year. I have to say, this personalized Google AdWords thank-you gets points for originality. (Unfortunately, they disabled embedding so you’ll have to click through for this one.)
December 15, 2010 2 Comments
I was hoping to have something more substantial to post, but I spent most of today making phone calls and getting nowhere. So, by this afternoon I was really in need of a good laugh. Thankfully, I got two. First, my brother showed me this brilliant video:
Then, I rediscovered this oldie-but-goodie, which is more clever than funny. But most anything that spoofs on Princess Bride makes me smile because who can help but laugh just thinking about that great film?
December 14, 2010 No Comments