306: A New Song – Descant

JLSS made this dove - pretty, right? Click to hear the song.

JLSS made this dove – pretty, right?
Click to hear the song.

The project that didn’t work out is a Christmas carol album…actually they are piano medleys of Christmas carols and year-round hymns.  One of my big takeaways from this whole experience is that y’all not picky.  Thanks.  When I play the piano publicly I think the congregation is just relieved that I haven’t fallen off the bench.    Actually, I’m probably the one who’s relieved that I haven’t fallen off the bench.  Music-wise, though, I’ve found that people are generous listeners, and since a couple of friends requested an album after I posted a couple of slideshows I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.

Besides technical difficulties, I spun out after 4 songs – 8 if you consider that each track includes two.  I’ve been practicing  hard but I wasn’t feeling great last week and “Oh Holy Night” broke me.  Booo.  It really is a beautiful song, but I haven’t felt this frustrated over the piano in a long time.  This is part of the novelty of this project, and why anyone would be willing to listen:  To review, the piano situation was originally very bleak.  I burst into tears after I saw one of my first attempts on video and remembered how horrifying that moment was.  I had no idea that the music coming out of my fingertips would bear zero resemblance to the soundtrack constantly playing in my mind.  Here’s a refresher for you – the video starts with an early attempt, (You can see my PEG sticking out of my shirt.) and then it morphs into more recent recovery scenes and a medley of “Man of Sorrows,” “He Leadeth Me,” and “Immanuel’s Land.”

Click to watch/hear "I'm taking requests."

Click to watch/hear “I’m taking requests” on YouTube

I prepared for this in a few ways:  Mr. R came to tune our piano, I listened to carols online, and I played a game my piano teacher used – you incentivize yourself by putting pennies on the piano lid to help you focus.  Each time you play a song well you get a penny.  Except this time I played with licorice gummies from Aruba. I’ve eaten a lot of licorice but have no new tracks to show for it bc I bent the rules.  I usually play by ear in C major rather than trying to look at music. I have always played relatively simply.  It’s even simpler now and sometimes you can hear my brain flopping around while I think of what to do next.  But in light of how bad things used to be, I’m thankful that I’m able to do this much.

My preparation strategy did not end in a complete album.  Both my shoulders began to hurt – the left one because it’s problematic in general, and the right one bc that’s what happens when I use a keyboard (computer or piano) too much.  It could also be because of Trainer D.  Side note:  Good one, Mr. Miyagi.  When I try this again I’ll have my fancy electric piano back from OR so I can use it to record (if I can figure that out) and I won’t have to worry about Mommy washing dishes or Tanpo walking by and making chirruping kissing noises.  (That is how Tans greet each other – smooching sounds or the Tan Family Whistle.)  Mommy has told him to shhhhhh but he can’t contain himself.  We are a loving bunch.

Even though this is just one song (or two), I hope you enjoy it.  I enjoyed playing it.  God is giving me the gift of music back.  Actually, this is the second time He’s given me a new song.  The first time was during the Crazy Days when I despaired of ever being happy or useful again.  He put a song in my heart (seriously – a specific old-school rollicking hymn I used to whistle in the parking garage stairwell) and the confidence to pursue a new life.  So based on prior experience I was sure He would do it again.

If you recall, one thing that I have requested prayer for is that I cannot sing.  I’m not talking about doing a solo at a wedding or anything, I’m just talking about congregational singing.  I have always enjoyed the voices of my friends who are gifted vocalists, though, and now more than ever I live vicariously through them.  The first song on the album is “Unto the Hills” | “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”.  The verse, “I lift my eyes unto the hills, where does my help come from?” was one of the first verses Daddy chose in his initial emails about me.  I chose the second (Christmas) song “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” because it essentially answers the question.

Q: I lift my eyes unto the hills – where does my help come from?

A: The Maker of heaven and earth sent His son to help us.  And the Son, being one with the Father, came willingly and was lifted up – On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross…

“Unto the Hills” is not in wide usage in the circle I grew up in, but the few times I heard it as a teen I was struck by its beauty.  I was shocked, however, upon learning to play it, that what I had assumed was the melody is actually the descant.  A “descant” is an “independent treble melody usually sung or played above a basic melody” (Google).  It’s all M’s fault, really.  She lived in our area at the time, and I got used to hearing her strong, clear voice sing the descant that it WAS the melody for me.  It still is, actually.  I have trouble separating the melody from the descant – so I stopped fighting it and just played it like I learned it.

The new song God gave me is like a descant.  It’s not the melody most people sing and most listeners enjoy.  But it’s beautiful in its own right.  And although I can’t sing, I write in order to develop a clear, strong voice to show it off.

Psalm 40

1.  I waited patiently for the Lord;
 And He inclined to me,
 And heard my cry.

2.  He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
 Out of the miry clay,
 And set my feet upon a rock,
 And established my steps.

3.  He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
 Many will see it and fear,
 And will trust in the Lord.