Tag: Music

A Song Selection

(Stick with me. I go somewhere at the end.)

I am the Director of Music at our church. Part of that job includes choosing music for our services. We are a diverse Pentecostal church, diverse in age, shade of skin, nation of origin, rural/metro mindset, denomination of childhood, etc. Since music is a very cultural thing, basically that means I can never make everyone happy. Sometimes I can make some people happy. I do try to draw us into a mindset of praise and worship, away from the distractions of life to a place where we can focus our attention on God.

I’ve spent much of the day combing through music in an effort to add a few songs to our repertoire. I have a list as long as my arm of songs I’ve jotted down at different times to check out later. Today I tackled part of that list.

Some of those songs on that list are old songs, either choruses or hymns. The old hymns are very effective for us, so I perk up when I hear one I have neglected to integrate. There are other old choruses that I also want to put in. Our young folks don’t necessarily have to know they’re old, and the elders will appreciate it. 😊

But today I was looking for something more contemporary to add to the mix, so I combed through tons of the new music that has most recently been put out.

There are several things I have to consider musically, as we are a congregation who still sings en masse and doesn’t just watch the folks on the platform sing. (There is also no smoke, and we leave the house lights fully up. That’s another topic for another day.)

The range must be about an octave or less or we lose folks. For example, “Shout to the Lord” was a great song, but only about 3 people could sing all the notes, so we never sang it at Newark UPC. Things have gotten better in this area, but there are a few that still hit the rubbish bin for unreachable range.

We don’t have 3 electric and 2 bass guitars. In fact we don’t have any guitars. (We have a banjo that gets played when it fits the musical style, which I think is really cool. Who else has a banjo? We also have violin, cello, French horn, clarinet, and Hammond organ.) So some of the anthems or songs with a heavy beat just sound all wrong with our instrumentation. Some songs sound great with a full band and a stadium of thousands of voices that just won’t work with our Sunday 170. So they get scrapped too.

A lot of the songs released recently have a syncopated beat. I guess songwriters think it sounds old-fashioned to write songs that have words on actual beats. But when you have a congregation of people without sheet music in front of them, and if they had sheet music they couldn’t read it well enough for it to do anything but cause confusion, there has to be some kind of easily attainable pattern where the words fit the beat, the offbeat, the sometimes beat… They have to hit SOMETHING. But many of the songs sung today would require several rehearsals and lots of whiteboard instruction to teach the people where the words go. Not happening. Moving on.

But the thing that gets me most, (as they say in Oklahoma, it gets in my craw. What is a craw, anyway?), makes me scrap more songs than anything, is that so many of the songs put out lately are about a moment of pleasure. Let me elaborate. It seems the purpose of the song is to create an atmosphere where we feel really great in God’s presence for a while, a heaven-on-earth moment that tickles our fancy. It seems we’ve moved from Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs to Jesus-come-make-me-feel-good songs. I heard one person liken these song to what it would sound like if we were trying to get a small kitten to enter a room. The focus is totally first-person, totally me and I. I want… I need… If there is a “You” it is about “You can do this thing for me.”

Jesus is my Savior. He is worthy of all my worship. He doesn’t need to do anything more for me. I owe Him all. I want to focus on the cross, heaven, how He loves me, how I love Him, how amazing He is, His holiness, His grace, surrendering my will to Him… I do not require of Him that He come down and make me feel great. It so happens that often in the process of worshiping and praising Him He DOES make me feel great. It would be okay for an occasional song or two to have this theme. They’re not new; they can be found going way back if you look. But we’re talking way more than “an occasional song” here. Way more.

It makes me wonder if the problem isn’t actually just our songs but goes far deeper than that. Songs usually come as a reflection of what is going on in our culture, in our churches, in our hearts. Have we become so shallow that all we want is a spiritual high? A moment with a lover that we then toss aside for the rest of the week until we come back next Sunday and do it again? Dear God, if that is the case, forgive us. Help us not forgo the ongoing relationship for a momentary joy. Help us not trade the progressive discipleship for an event in time. Forgive us for forgetting your Amazing Grace. Help us to Surrender All, to remember Oh, How I Love Jesus, to rejoice in the Blessed Assurance that It Is Well With My Soul. Bring us back to being Near the Cross, The Old Rugged Cross. We know that Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and indeed, How Great Thou Art!

Cuba As I See It, Day 4, Trinidad

Cuba As I See It, Day 4, Trinidad

These observations are simply that: my observations. As the title of my blog indicates, this is “As I See It.” If I am offensive in anything I say, I apologize. That is not my intent. If I am incorrect in any information, I also apologize. I am not an expert, simply a traveler who visited the country for a few days. I hope you enjoy my views.
Each day I will tell you what we did on one day of the trip, but I will also give some observations about other topics that span the length of the whole trip.
I advise you to start at Day 1 and work your way through. As I go along I will refer back to things I’ve pointed out and discussed on earlier days.
Click here for Day 2 and Day 3.
I hope you enjoy Cuba As I See It
Day 4,
Monday, Dec 26
Trinidad
Today was our first full day in Trinidad.
We wandered the streets of the non-touristy part of town where the locals eyed us with suspicion.  (We did this in several smaller cites that we visited. We never felt really unsafe, just not quite welcome.) Then we went to the public square and stood in line at the ETECSA (telecommunications) shop to buy Wi-Fi cards.
During the time of Fidel’s rule there were no computers allowed in the homes or smart phones. There is really no good answer to the question of “Why Not?” The only answer given was, “Just because.” This is still a common response and still common question that applies to many situations. There are a few older computers in the private homes now (probably checked as luggage in those plastic-wrapped boxes I mentioned on Day 1), but still no internet access in the homes. The only computer I saw in use in a casa was being used as a giant MP3 player. There are also not computers in schools. If they need to write a research paper they use the printed encyclopedias at the library or they can go to the telecommunications office (where we bought the Wi-Fi cards) and use their computers for a fee.
Some jobs require smart phones, so a few people have those now, too. The only internet available to private citizens is the Wi-Fi in hotels and public parks, and they have to buy access to that. It costs them 1/2 a CUC an hour, which sounds really cheap until you realize that the average Cuban has a take-home pay of 10-30 CUC’s per month. As non-Cubans, we paid 2 CUC’s per hour.
After waiting in line for an hour and 15 minutes in the hot Cuban sun, we were each allowed to buy 3 of the 5-hour cards.
Not wanting to wait in the long hot line again during our trip, both Steven and I bought 15 hours each. We had to show our passport, or at least a copy of it. Also, at every homestay site we had to show our passports and sign their book. Our hosts then only had a few days to report we had been there so they could be taxed the appropriate amount. Every time I pulled out my passport here was a definite feel of Big Brother watching.
After we got the Wi-Fi cards we checked our emails and texted our kids. We tried to FaceTime, but the Wi-Fi wasn’t up to it. In fact, the Wi-Fi was really awful. It was very unpredictable. Sometimes it would let us on, but about half the time it would give us an error message. That is, if we could get it to even bring up the login page it would give us an error message. Then, if we did manage to finally get on, it would intermittently and randomly kick us off, so we’d have to start the whole frustrating process again. We did manage to check emails and text the kids an average of every-other-day or so throughout the trip, though, and Steven even managed to do a Facebook Live video once or twice on the trip. In my opinion, this is a very purposeful decision by the Cuban government. The average Cuban cannot afford to spend time fact-checking what the government says, and the infrastructure is much too unreliable to coordinate any uprisings or share much information. Social media is a totally untapped resource.
While we were trying to take care of some email business, Vince played a game at the local chess club. This was my idea as he does enjoy chess, and I thought it would be a good chance to try out his language skills. Then we realized that people don’t talk during chess games. Though he lost he said it was a good game.
While sitting in the town square we met Enzo, a 1 yr old boy, who liked to put leaves in Steven’s hat. Some things are common across cultures, and child development is one of them. His mother and father were very nice and gave us directions to a few places in town.
 
Next we visited some local shops and markets where we bought some percussion musical instruments (a güiro, and some maracas) and a wooden crocodile to add to Vincent’s collection of wooden animals from the places he visits. Unfortunately, a flight attendant on the Cuban Air flight on the way home managed to crush the musical instruments while they were in the overhead bin.
I thought about buying some artwork, but 99% of the subject matter was either classic cars, provocative women, or Afro-Cuban people, some quite offensive to my American sensibilities. I was not interested in any of these, so we bought no artwork.
Then we got a soda and sat outside the Casa De Musica, listening to a band play music.
They had a trumpet as well as the requisite guitar, and Latin percussion instruments (such as bongos, güiro, claves, maracas, cowbell, etc.) The beat of the rhythm was 1, 2&, 3, 4&, or 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8&. Cubans are quite proud of their music, but after a while all the bands and songs sound alike. There is not much variety.
To continue the journey, click here for Day 5.