Monday, 21 December 2015


Caleb is loving the piano...and he's not taking lessons anymore.  He took lessons every other week last year with a friend of mine, with the intent that once he had the basics down I would sort of coach him along at home.  Formal piano lessons have been a bust in our small house, with the piano in the play room and three other kids playing and talking loudly right beside us.

I had thought that in the new year I would pull the older two boys from school to give them piano lessons without the younger two causing a stir, but I'm having second thoughts.  Because Caleb is loving the piano, and thriving at the piano, and all without me.

He plays his old songs and teaches himself new songs.  But mostly he loves to compose his own work. He's written a half dozen songs already.  Mostly they comprise repetitive note patterns with varying speeds and tempos.  Earlier in the fall, he came to me after composing a new song and asked me if there was anyway to get the song into the computer because "I need a way to add in the violin notes I hear in my head also."  My heart soared at hearing that.  The music is in his head.

I'm amazed at how intuitive music is, when let loose from the constrains of formal instruction.  Over the holidays, he taught himself to play "Deck the Halls" by ear, in the key of C.  Then, in playing around with transposition, he settled on starting on the A position instead of C - effectively transposing the song to the key of A minor.  He stated just how much he loved the new spooky sound.  I was amazed that he had, completely naturally, found the relative minor key to the major key the song began in.  (Sorry if that doesn't make sense to any non-musicians, but it's actually a really big deal to discover that on your own.)

We recently moved the piano from the playroom to the living room (a matter of 6 feet) so that you can sit at the bench without toys in the way.  Caleb often stops on his way through the house to sit and play for five or ten minutes, then continues on his way.  It's such a part of the fabric of who he is, and I love it.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Handel's Messiah

This past weekend I performed in a concert of Handel's Messiah.  Since September I have been singing with a group of concert singers, going through each choral piece from this intricate opera note by note.  I have been challenged as a musician and most certainly as a singer, which is not anything I've been specifically trained in.  Our group of 30 combined with another local group of about 75 to make a most magnificent choir.

Our first concert was in the United Church here in town, an old stone soaring cathedral built in the 1800s.  As our voices combined into musical chords the sound filled the structure and created the most incredible resonance.  Even the echoing silence after a note was cut off gave goosebumps.

I have never heard The Messiah all the way through before. I didn't know the string of scriptures that made up the story.  I had never seen the intricate runs of 16th notes.  But as I basked in such quality music week after week, it made me realize how much cultural junk food seeps into our daily lives.  While art can be entertaining, it is at its most powerful when it is reflecting us as a society, challenging us, or celebrating beauty.  Much of what we (I) consume these days falls short.

A friend recently wrote about finishing a year of great classical reads.  It's been a while since I cracked open one of these classic tomes, and his musing awakened in me the old yearning to really sink my teeth into something profound.

Likewise, I want to fill my children's lives with things "virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, of good report." I love how inspired I am by the good art of the world, and I want to make sure my children are too.