February 28, 2012

Hymn History: The Wonder of it All

Throughout the 1950’s, Billy Graham and his team had a profound impact in shaping and showcasing the Christian music of the day. Songs such as “To God Be the Glory” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” were popularized for the first time. George Beverly Shea, by a wide margin, became America’s best loved and most recorded gospel singer. And with the success of “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” he kept on writing more songs.

In 1955, when the crusades and the Hour of Decision radio outreach were at their height, Shea boarded the ocean liner S.S. United States en route to meetings in Scotland. A fellow passenger struck up a conversation and asked Shea about the typical program sequence at a Billy Graham crusade. Shea described how the meetings were conducted, but then, as he recalled, “I found myself at a loss for words when I tried to describe the responses that usually accompanied Mr. Graham’s invitations to become a Christian.” Turning to the other passenger, he exclaimed, “What happens then never becomes commonplace, watching people by the hundreds come forward. Oh, if you could just see the wonder of it all!”

As he mused over that thought later in the evening, Shea was inspired to rough out a melody and to write down the words of a song. In eight years traveling with Billy Graham, he had truly seen amazing things. Yet to Shea the most remarkable was not the adulation, the fame, or the immense public and media interest. Seeing men and women come to Christ was “The Wonder of It All.”

Adapted from “Music in the Air,” Mark Ward Sr.

There's the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

There's the wonder of springtime and harvest,
The sky, the stars, the sun;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is a wonder that's only begun.

O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

February 27, 2012

20% Off Suzuki Method

Get 20% off Suzuki Method books over at Sheet Music Plus! Discount ends 3.20.2012

Go here and scroll down to sign up for their email newsletter...that is how I found out about this discount! Thanks, Sheet Music Plus!

Any other discounts that you know of? Leave a comment!

February 24, 2012

The Best Of: New Games and other stuff Edition

Welcome to The Best Of: where I round up some great links for you from around the www. that I have enjoyed this week!

Piano Finger Twister from Joy (looks like so much fun!)

Smash Hit Games with the Eggspert (again, why can't I be the student?)

Jennifer uses the Eggspert Quizzing System to play Accidental Adventure

Want to listen to some phenomenal pianists? Listen to music from Carnegie Hall!

Here are the goodies: Hal Leonard is offering 40% off select teacher resources until the end of March!

Slightly humorous, but so very important are the truths in this post about the person hiding in your church's back closet!!!!

Any other great links that you have read this week that you would like to share with us? Please do!

February 23, 2012

The Teacher's Personality

“The teacher should generate as positive a personality as possible in working with students. Negative aspect detract and should be eliminated. It is helpful to portray the following qualities:
Be pleasant. A pleasant attitude is one of the most valuable attributes a teacher can possess. A genuine display of kindness can often defuse even the most hostile and disagreeable child. Although moods vary greatly from day to day, teachers need to conduct themselves with as much poise and self-control as possible when dealing with others. (including parents!!!)
Be enthusiastic. An enthusiastic person is one who evidences a positive, bright outlook in relationships with others.
Be encouraging. Realistic encouragement whenever possible is a sign of an outgoing personality. Rather than trying to get results by negative remarks, the positive teacher can bolster and uplift the student with encouraging remarks.
Be patient. Working with children either privately or in groups can be trying at times. An understanding teacher will “keep cool” and not resort to negative remarks.”
Adapted from How to Teach Piano Successfully by James W. Bastien

I am sure that describes all of you wonderful teachers out there, right? You always have a neat house or studio, a smiling face and a positive word, no matter what is going on around you.  :) You might be thinking, “And what did he dream the next night??” Often we find ourselves clearing books and papers off the piano for a student’s lesson, (oh, that’s where that list went!) greeting our students at the door after just dealing with a annoying tele-marketer over the phone, or just simply having a “down” day. Yes, it is true that we are never happy and pleasant all the time, nor do we deal with each situation in a positive way. We are human after all! But I believe it is so important that as we teach and interact with other people, we keep our attitudes and reactions in check.

I am teaching a young girl right now that is 12 years old, in the throes of puberty changes, and often has drastic “mood changes,” to say the least! :) If I choose to, I can watch carefully the things I say and my attitude, and keep the lesson upbeat and positive, no matter her mood when she comes in! It does take a choice on my part to not let the negatives affect me and to choose how I am going to react. But it can be done!

There is a small booklet called “Your Reactions Are Showing” (Sorry, I don’t remember the authors name!) that I have read a couple of times that contains vital information for anyone that deals with other people. Which would be pretty much everyone! The basic premise is, don’t just be concerned about your actions, but also your reactions! They tell a lot about you that you otherwise would be able to hide or mask. Keep those reactions in check!

As a teacher, how do you deal with negative attitudes or mood swings in your students? Maybe you aren’t a teacher, but are still interacting with do you keep your attitudes in check? What do you find helps you stay calm and positive? We all have areas we need to work on, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as a help to me!

February 21, 2012

Hymn History: Does Jesus Care?

Does Jesus Care?

For two years of college, I was privileged to take piano lessons from a Godly lady named Sue Smith. She helped to shape and mold the pianist I am today more than anyone else, and I was truly blessed by her example in piano and in her walk with the Lord. I took a Hymnology class from her, and she shared this personal hymn history story with us:

“When my mother was a little girl, she attended a Methodist Church in Philadelphia, PA that was pastored by Frank E. Graeff. My mother did not remember him telling this story, but she DID remember HER mother relating this hymn story to her from their pastor.

Apparently, the Graeffs had a daughter who was a beautiful girl. She was a young lady at this time and as was the custom of the day, all girls and ladies wore floor-length dresses with many layers of lace or frills. Their homes were heated at that time with fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. One day, the daughter got too close to the fireplace, and her long skirt caught on fire. They frantically tried to save her, but the fire consumed her so rapidly, nothing could be done, and she was burned to death in the fire.

Pastor Graeff was overcome with grief, as you might imagine. As is the case with many Christians, he began to question if Jesus really cared about this tragedy that had engulfed their family. He began to write,

Does Jesus care, when I’ve said goodbye
To the dearest on earth to me?
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks-
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Pastor Graeff then related that as He asked these questions and others of the Lord, he could almost hear the Lord answering audibly with a resounding voice…

‘Oh, YES, He cares! I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights derary;
I know my Saviour cares.’ "

More verses followed:

‘Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth and song;
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?’

‘Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into dep night shades,
Does he care enough to be near?’

‘Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief I find no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?’

‘Oh, YES, He cares! I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights derary;
I know my Saviour cares.’ "

I am so thankful that we now have these words to comfort us during time of affliction, even though the author had no idea what God was going to do during his time of grief. Certainly God knows best!

February 17, 2012

The Best Of: Get Free Stuff Edition

Here are some musical freebies I noticed throughout this week! Looks like some great resources available to us musicians, for which I am thankful!

Scale and Key Signature Worksheets

"Gallery of Music" Symbol Drawing Worksheets

Valentine Card Hunt (I guess there is always next year. :)

Giveaway of Chordelia App

Piano Arrangement of "When We All Get to Heaven"

Snowman iPad Background and Printable

Finale NotePad 2012 is a free download!!!

Enjoy your new resources! Has anyone noticed any others that I missed?

February 16, 2012

Why I Love being the Pianist for a Small Congregation

Last night, our church took our mid-week service to combine with another church 45 minutes away. This church is like a sister church to us, and just in the last couple months had a new pastor and his family move to the area. Being still in the throes of adjustment and change, we decided to be an encouragement to them and combine services, offering some added fellowship for an evening.

I can't begin to tell you what a blessing this was to all involved! Our church people went away feeling refreshed, and I believe that church family did as well. There is something so reassuring in talking to fellow Christians and knowing that there are others out there that stand for the same things as you. As good Baptists, we had a time of physical refreshment as well, ending the evening with sweets and coffee. :)

But what I got on here to tell you about was the fantastic time I had playing for the service. I am the pianist for our church, but the sister church does not currently have a pianist. It was a joy to sit down at their old upright (which was in surprisingly good tune, I might add) and bring out a few songs...something those walls have not heard in a while! It was a great feeling.

I have played for services of all sizes, from merely a dozen people to several hundred, and there is something to be said for them all. But here are a few reasons why I love playing for small crowds:

1. You don't have to be a fantastic piano player. 
I think those people last night thought that I was the best thing since sliced bread...which is simply not true! I enjoy playing, but I lack in so many areas. They were just so excited to have anyone play their piano! I could have been terrible and they might not have noticed. :) This doesn't give me any excuse for playing poorly, don't get me wrong...but it is nice to know that even my limited ability can be used in a mighty way.

2. Where numbers are lacking, you get to bridge the gap.
We took a couple dozen people from our church and joined about the same number at their church, so compared to some, this was an extremely small crowd.  We filled that church building, however, almost to capacity...and everyone sang heartily! The sound was awesome! I think they raised the roof a few times. ;) So even though the numbers were few, the simple strains of a piano really round out the music...and IMO, we sounded better than a 100-voice choir! Almost....

3. There isn't as much "pressure."
As I said before, these people wouldn't have cared if I played standing on my head, so long as there was music coming out of that piano. I didn't, of course. :) But it does take some of the pressure off. In a large church with an impressive orchestra or several other pianos following your lead, the tendency is to feel the need to "perform" instead of play from your heart! With a small crowd that is appreciative of your efforts, that mindset is taken off, and I could just enjoy playing and hearing them lift their voices in praise to God!

Although some would view such a small crowd, simple building and traditional hymns as a waste of time, I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to be a blessing, honor my God, and have loads of fun!

I would love to hear your thoughts on playing for large or small congregations: which do you prefer? What is your normal playing atmosphere? How do you handle the "pressure?"

February 14, 2012

Hymn History: The Love of God

Frederick M. Lehman was a California businessman that lost everything through business reverses. He was forced to spend his working hours in manual labor, working in a Pasadena packing house packing oranges and lemons into wooden crates. Not an ideal environment for writing love songs, but this was the environment the Lord chose to use.

Mr. Lehman was a Christian who rejoiced in his salvation. He was so moved by a Sunday evening sermon on the love of God that he could hardly sleep. The next morning, the thrill of the previous evening had not left him. As he drove to the packing house, the makings of a song began to come together in his head, with God’s love as the theme.

Throughout the day, as he packed oranges and lemons, the words continued to flow. Perhaps he jotted down words on various pieces of broken crate as he went along. He could hardly wait to get home and commit these words to paper.

Upon arriving home, he hurried to his old upright piano and began arranging the words and composing a melody to fit them. He soon had finished two stanzas and the melody to go along with them, but now what was he to do? In those days, a song had to have at least three stanzas to be considered complete. (A far cry from the songs of our day that only need have three words!) He tried and tried to come up with a third stanza, but to no avail. The words just would not fall into place.

It was then that he remembered a poem someone had given him some time before. Hunting around, he found the poem printed on a card, which he had used as a bookmark. As Mr. Lehman read the words, his heart was thrilled by the adequate picture of God’s love they pictured. He then noticed this writing on the bottom of the card:

“These words were found written on a cell wall in a prison some 200 years ago. It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated; neither is it known if the words were original or if he had heard them somewhere and had decided to put them in a place where he could be reminded of the greatness of God’s love - whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell. In due time, he died and the men who had the job of repainting his cell were impressed by the words. Before their paint brushes had obliterated them, one of the men jotted them down and thus they were preserved.”

Lehman went to the piano and began to voice the words with the melody he had just written. They were a perfect fit. It was a miracle! The song was published - and remains today - with these words as the last stanza.

In later years, the origin of these words became known to Alfred B. Smith, which reveals an even greater miracle in the writing of this song. The original third stanza was written in Hebrew around the year 1000 by Meir Ben Issac Nehoria, a Jewish Rabbi. God, knowing that Lehman was going to write a song, also realized that Lehman would have trouble writing a third stanza and so He chose this Rabbi, who though not accepting Christ as the Messiah did possess the skills to graphically paint a picture of God’s love in words. He would preserve these words and then hundreds of years later He would have them translated by this prisoner into a language that did not as yet exist, namely English.

And to think, He did it in the exact meter to fit Lehman’s melody!

Adapted from  Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories

(My note: Because of this miraculous story and the vastness of God’s love that the words present, the third stanza is my favorite! Just listen to these words…)

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Tho stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints and angel’s song.

February 10, 2012

The Best Of: Food For Thought Edition

Welcome to a new weekly series of posts, "The Best Of:" where I am delighted to be able to share some of my favorite reads from around the web with you - all musically related, of course! Here's what I've enjoyed reading this week:

When Unwillingness in Practice is a Good Thing - What? Unwillingness is good? Read the post. :)

Piano Books as Gifts - Great thoughts!

Do You Have to Have a Degree to be a Good Piano Teacher? - Consequently, having a degree doesn't necessarily make you a good teacher, either. But I digress.

Teaching the Congregation a New Song - Especially for song leaders, but equally important for their pianists, too!

Joy-oh-joy! The traditional Wedding March is getting a makeover! Can't wait for that to come out!

And a free arrangement of It Is Well With My Soul - one of my favorite songs!

Happy Weekend Everyone! What have you enjoyed reading this week?


February 7, 2012

Hymn History: Just As I Am

The year was 1822. Charlotte Elliott was mad at herself, her family, and God. At thirty-three, when she should have been enjoying radiant health, she had become an invalid because of the strain of a musical and artistic education. “If God loved me,” she complained, “he would not have treated me this way.”

This rebellious spirit not only poisoned her heart but put a strain on the life of the entire family. It was to try and mellow the soul of his talented daughter that her father, Charles Elliot, invited Dr. Cesar Malan, noted Swiss minister and musician, to be a guest in their home in England. Dr. Malan, who was called “the greatest name in the history of French hymnology,” was seated at the dinner table with members of the Elliott family when Charlotte broke out in one of her typical emotional outbursts. She condemned God for His cruelty to her, and criticized her brother, sister and father for their lack of sympathy. Her father, embarrassed at her lack of respect for their distinguished guest, excused himself and left the room with his other children.

Dr. Malan watched Charlotte from across the table. After a few tense moments of silence, he said, “You are tired of yourself, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?” she asked angrily.

“You are holding to your hate and anger because you have nothing else in the world to cling to,” he replied. “consequently, you have become sour, bitter and resentful.”

“What is your cure?” she asked.

He said, “You need the faith you are trying to despise.”

Charlotte soon unburdened herself to the understanding heart, releasing the pent-up feelings she had been struggling to conceal for many years. Dr. Malan explained how God, as we know Him in Jesus, could help her find peace for her soul as well as her mind and body. Suddenly she saw herself as God knew her and was ashamed.

“Dr. Malan,” she said, “I want to apologize for my disrespectful behavior during dinner and I want to ask your forgiveness. Also I want your advice. If I wanted to become a Christian and to share the peace and joy you possess, what would I do? How would I go about it?”

“You would give yourself to God just as you are now,” he explained, “with your fightings and fears, hates and loves, jealousies and quick temper, pride and shame, and He would take them from you in proportion to faith, and put His great love in their place.”

“Just as you are now,” she repeated, and then added, “I would come to God just as I am. Is that right?”

“Exactly,” he replied, “Praying this prayer, ‘O God, I come to you just as I am, to be made over by you and to be used by you for your glory and your Kingdom.’”

Fourteen years later, on the anniversary of that conversation, Charlotte, soon to be lovingly called “The Sunbeam of Brighton,” received her annual letter from Dr. Malan. Reminiscing over the events of that meeting, and the wonderful change that had come over her life, she recalled his words, “Come just as you are,” and her reply, “Just as I am, I come.” Now forty-seven, Charlotte penned her spiritual autobiography in a seven-stanza poem which began:
Just as I am, without one plea, But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come.

Her brother later remarked, “In all my preaching I have not done so much good as my sister has been permitted to accomplish by her one hymn ‘Just as I Am.’”

She passed away in her eighty-second year, in 1871, “in the full hope and triumph of the Gospel she had sung so long.”

Adapted from Living Stories of Famous Hymns, Ernest K. Emurian