Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lamb of God: Some Post-Performance Thoughts

During our Friday night performance

Our March 21 and 22 performances of Lamb of God are in the past, but I continue to listen to and ponder this Easter Oratorio.

It is hard to explain exactly why I am so drawn to this. Is it the narration, with its familiar lines drawn from the New Testament? The memorable orchestration? The harmonies in the chorus, the melodies of the soloists?

Lamb of God opens with the Feast of the Dedication, with the people wanting to know "plainly" if Jesus truly is the Christ. It tells of Lazarus' raising, and Judas' deal. It celebrates Christ's triumphal entrance in Jerusalem on the Sunday before passover - what we celebrate today as Palm Sunday.

The chorus sings of the Last Supper, and we hear Christ's declaration that one of the disciples will betray Him. There is a beautiful trio, with Peter, John, and Thomas each asking "is it me?"

The story moves to Gethsemane, with a mournful cello solo. The chorus sings Jesus' prayer, "Abba, Father, take away this cup from me: Nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt," ending with the plaintive "Oh Abba!"

There follow the betrayal and the chaos of that night; Peter's denial; Pilate's judgment; the crucifixion.

And then: the resurrection. Mary Magdalene sings the line that was so confusing to her and disciples, but which is so full of promise for us today:  
The sepulcher’s empty!
And the chorus sings this wonderful anthem of the disciples' joy:
Jesus, my Savior, Lord, and King,
What greater name could e’er I sing?
What greater joy than from Thee I know?
What greater debt than mine to owe?

O how my words in vain impart
What glows within my grateful heart.
No tongue could ever right declare
What tender love is written there.

Ten thousand gifts could I employ
To show my praise, my thanks, my joy!
All of my life, yea, all my days,
Still not enough to sing Thy praise!
In the finale, we see impetuous Peter, swimming to shore to greet his Lord. The narrator declares, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8:35, 37). The chorus offers the final message:
Here is love unbounded,
Here is all compassion,
Here is mercy founded!
O Great Redeemer!
O Prince of Glory!
Here is Hope.
I'd love to see this performed in Kalamazoo again next year, but that will require an infusion of funds. Money from this year's ticket and CD sales is being funneled towards next year's production. (Do you still want a CD? Let me know, and I can help you get one locally, and generate still more money for next year's performance.) This year's organizers are pursuing grants and sponsors.

You can help, too, by donating through our Fundly site - but donate quickly, there are just 29 days left for this particular fundraiser:

(Of course, if you miss the Fundly deadline, we'll still have ways you can donate!)

BTW - Here's a piece of the above photo, showing where Jim and I stood in the chorus:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Signs of Spring

We woke yesterday to this:

A dusting of new snow (much of which had melted by the time I took this photo), but it was offset with sunshine and blue sky, and eventually by warmer temps.

Bonnie and I had a pleasant walk, through the park and into the Friendship Village woods and fields. I was delighted to see flowers pushing up through the leaves:

Inexplicably, one field still had snow, which seemed to energize Bonnie:

The old girl can still look lively - at least for short bursts. When we got home (after I ignored her pleas for a longer walk), Bonnie collapsed for a nap, in her crate. She later joined us to watch another conference session:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

General Conference and Knitting

This weekend I'll be watching the 184th Annual General Conference of the Church. As always, I am looking forward to this.

Part of the charm is that it's simply relaxing. As much as possible, I clear my schedule, so that I can watch all the sessions (two sessions each day on Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 8 hours). I don't go to the church building at all - I sit on the couch in our living room, in my comfiest clothes, watching TV (guilt-free!).

In addition, conference provides direction and motivation. I need church each week, to help me refocus on life's real priorities, on becoming more Christlike. I find it so easy to simply drift with the current. General Conference weekend offers mega-focusing. I watch the sessions, and listen for specific guidance and instruction that will resonate with my situation, that will trigger some new idea within me, that will push me in the way I particularly need to be pushed.

Sometimes, I feel sad; not depressed, just sad. I can't pin down any particular reason - it's a feeling of melancholy, or maybe the sense that I'm doing everything wrong (I can usually talk myself down from that silliness); often it is just an unnamed ache that makes it hard to focus on anything constructive. Sometimes I look around at all the people in a room with me, and marvel that we are in the same place, and yet we are most definitely not having the same experience.

Fortunately, I can usually push through these blue periods. The mood lifts, and on I go.

General Conference always is a positive experience for me. I have never felt that sadness come on during conference. It has always been a safe and comforting haven for me, and I look forward to that again. (I hope I'm not lying here, and conveniently forgetting past experiences...)

So, bring on conference weekend!

President Monson and his counselors
will be among the speakers.

I like to have a notebook with me when I watch conference. I don't take copious notes (after all, texts of the talks are available online, within days), but I make note of comments that seem pertinent to me, talks that I'll want to put at the top of my list to reread, and so forth.

I like to have plenty of knitting on hand, as well. Knitting - as long as it's not too complicated a project - helps me stay focused on the speakers.

I currently have three projects in the works, all of which are candidates for conference knitting. (I've done some swatching for a fourth project, A Promise of Socks, but it's still in an early stage, and so doesn't really count).

Hope They Like Blue

This baby blanket is nearly finished. I made and washed a small swatch, and planned the blanket accordingly. But I've now knit more repeats than I planned, and used just 2/3 of the yarn I planned, and I think it's almost finished - proof that Swatches Lie. When I finish the current pattern repeat, I'll spread it out and measure it, and maybe I will call it done!

Bridge Walk Flynn

When Lori and I went to Mackinac Island last September, I had Lori pick a skein of souvenir yarn (at Alford's). She subsequently picked a hat pattern (Flynn), which I test-knitted, and now I am finally knitting her hat. At this point, most of each round is purling, and about 1/4 of each round is the cable pattern - but that 1/4 round is confusing enough that I mostly reserve this for knitting at home. It's progressing nicely, and I should wrap it up in the relatively near future.

A Sock for Your Head

I've been wanting to make the sockhead hat for some time now. It is very simple knitting - 2x2 ribbing, followed by miles of stockinette stitch - so it's good for knitting in public. I was desperate for such a project, so one day grabbed a skein of Plymouth Yarn Sakkie that I had in my stash. Frankly, it is yarn that I really don't like (merino / mohair / nylon - not my favorite fiber blend), but I am hopeful that someone will like the hat that it becomes. And meanwhile, it gives my hands something to knit on when I'm out and about.

Finally, in case you need a beagle fix, here's a photo from a couple weeks ago.

One happy beagle!