Music is a Gift That Must Be Shared

I was not thrilled to be at church yesterday morning at 8:15 to prepare for Mass. I wanted more sleep, my car’s tire light was on the whole way to St. Anthony’s in Waldport (low pressure, not a flat), and I was wiped out from volunteering at the Willamette Writers’ conference. Nor was I thrilled when I realized I’d be doing this Mass alone because guitar-playing, big-singing Tim was waylaid by a situation at home, and the other singer I had expected was not there to sing. But God gave me a voice to sing and a piano to play, so here I was, grateful I had taken time to practice.

Tim made it in eventually, and the Mass went well. Afterward, a man came up to tell us how grateful he was to hear our music. He broke into tears. “My wife just died two weeks ago,” he said. “Usually the 9:00 Mass is so quiet. I’m so glad to have music.” I clasped his hand, but he pulled away and left, clearly embarrassed to be weeping in public, even though he had every right to weep. “My husband died, too,” I called after him. But he was gone, and it was time to get ready for the 10:30 Mass.

As much as I hated getting up early and playing back-to-back Masses, I vowed to keep doing as much church music as I could for as long as I could. I used to get paid for it at my previous church. I don’t at St. Anthony’s. I don’t care. I don’t need the money; I need the music.

Music touches people. It heals and soothes. Not all music for all people. Hip-hop, for example, just annoys me, and I hate the meandering organ music sometimes played at funerals or before church services. Give me a good melody and an earnest voice, even if it isn’t perfect.

I’ll be 70 next year. What is this little old lady still doing behind a microphone? Until I was 30, I sang mostly in school and community choirs, but as 30 approached, I had an “if not now, when?” moment when I decided it was time to step out and start performing on my own. I still did the choir thing with The Valley Chorale in Sunnyvale, California, the Coastal Harmony Vocal Band in Pacifica, and the Billy Vogue Country Singers tour that was supposed to make us all famous–and didn’t, but I also took my originals and cover songs to art galleries, festivals, sidewalk markets, senior centers, nursing homes, garden tours, coffee shops, and stage shows of various sorts.

In the early days, I had a nylon-string guitar and no sound equipment. I was too chicken to play piano in public, but eventually I had a carload of gear and played guitar, mandolin and piano while continuing to sing. My late husband Fred was my roadie and my biggest fan. It’s not the same without him.

Did I ever make much money at it? Precious little. Ages ago, I decided I could not pursue two careers full-tilt at once, and I was a better writer than musician, so I would write for work and do music for God, my only goal to do as much of it as possible as well as I could.

COVID knocked out all in-person gigs. While some churches had no music at all, we were lucky to continue offering music at St. Anthony’s. For a while, we sang with masks on to pictures taped to the pews and a camera sharing the Mass via Zoom and YouTube. Gradually the restrictions eased. The people came back, and the masks came off. Now we may be looking another surge of the virus with renewed restrictions, but meanwhile, I’m still playing and singing.

I’m not the only one. One day last week, I felt really depressed. I had cried a few tears at my desk, asking God why I had to be alone. Then Facebook notified me of an “Open Your Hymnal” concert being offered live. Three Catholic singers offered healing songs and prayers. My tears dried. I grabbed my guitar and played along, watching their fingers to “read” the chords. I was comforted.

I hated getting up early for church. I hated driving all the way to Waldport with the tire light on because I didn’t have time to stop and there are no gas stations or tire shops between South Beach and Waldport. I still feel a little stage fright wherever I sing and play. But I love the music, and I thank God we could give something to that heartbroken man who just lost his wife.

Whatever your gift, let it shine. Someone needs it.

****

P.S. The monthly South Beach acoustic jam/open mic is happening Sunday, Aug. 8, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the South Beach Community Center, 3024 SE Ferry Slip Road, across from Pirate’s Plunder. Bring your instrument and join us.

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Nothing a Little Duct Tape Can’t Fix

IMG_20160122_111231634_HDR[1]You might say I need a new guitar case. Look at that poor thing. Even the red duct tape is rotting away. This comes from thirty years of carrying it around, of lifting it in and out of  cars, trucks and SUVS, of setting it on carpets, concrete, gravel, sand and polished stages, of propping it against walls in homes and hotels, of opening, closing, opening, closing all four latches, of carrying it to music camp, church, jams, open mics, street fairs, garden tours, coffee shops, concert halls and nursing homes. Up and down, in and out, open, close.

Some of my musician friends say it’s good to have a beat-up case. People will figure what’s inside isn’t worth stealing. Well, the guitar is as old as the case. I bought them together at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California. My husband Fred kept me company as I tested one guitar after another, playing the same songs until I came to the Martin Shenandoah. A D-35, for those who care. That was the one. Acoustic guitars are said to sound better with age. This guitar has had its issues. The built-in-pickup died. I dropped the guitar twice when my strap gave way. The second time required a trip to the luthier to put it back together. The surface is nicked and scratched and it usually needs a new set of strings, but it’s a Martin. It sounds good. God willing, that guitar will last as long as I do.

The case not so much, although the inside is fine. Its plush maroon padding is like new because the case is usually closed. When it comes to collecting tips, I favor a jar or an old hat over an open case someone could trip over.

I have started looking for a new case. Our local store doesn’t have any in stock and doesn’t do mail-order. I hesitate to order something so big online without seeing it first. I could be using the new case for the next 30 years. I have already spent most of my Christmas money on other stuff, so this case has a few more miles to go. For $4.99, I bought a new roll of duct tape, zebra striped. I’ll definitely know which guitar is mine.

K stands for . . . Keys

Ever lost your keys? Me too. The last time was in Hawaii. I discovered they were missing after we were back on the mainland. Not so easy to go back and look. I think they fell out of my purse in the rental car where I kept pushing my purse under the seat to hide it.

Actually I lose my keys almost every day. I just had to go look for them to write this post. They were in the pocket of the sweatshirt I wore to walk the dog last night, but they could have been in my purse, buried under a pile of mail or still stuck in the front door. Once in a while, I actually hang them on the key rack.

Quick. Don’t look. What keys do you have on your chain? And what would you have to do to replace them? My key chain includes: key to my house, key to Dad’s house, two car keys, my post office box key, a key to the room at the cemetery where Fred’s ashes rest, and three church keys. No, I don’t mean church keys as in can openers for that afternoon beer. I mean actual keys to an actual church.

I work part-time as a music minister at Sacred Heart Church in Newport. I have separate square-topped keys for the chapel where we practice, the little room that holds our sheet music and instruments, and the hallway into the office wing where I make photocopies. I can get into the sanctuary, but I cannot get into the hall because my job doesn’t require me to go there. It’s a shame a church has to be so security conscious, but we have had several burglaries and our pastor is adamant that all doors remain locked unless someone is using them. That means when all the singers have arrived in the chapel, I lock the outside door.

I’m proud of those church keys because they mean I have this great job and people trust me. One of my favorite memories is the night I took my visiting father and brother to the church. Dad was so impressed that I had keys to get in and could take him into the sanctuary. It proved I actually do have a job, something he frequently doubts, and that maybe I actually do something real with my music.

I have other keys. The rack in my kitchen holds a spare house key, the keys to my safe deposit box and a few old keys whose use I no longer recall. Somewhere in the garage, I have more orphaned keys, including an old-fashioned skate key which I used to attach my skates to my worn-out school shoes before playing Roller Derby with my friends. Every key holds a memory of a place I lived or worked, a car I used to drive, a lock I used on a storage shed or a gym locker, or a suitcase that took me far from home.

Actual metal keys are slowing giving way to digital cards like the kind we use at hotels now, but those will never feel the same as that clanging chain of keys that opens all the doors.

K stands for Key.

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge, and K is for Key. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:

A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon–F is for Fur
G Unleashed in Oregon–G is for Gunk
H Childless by Marriage–H is for Harley
I Unleashed in Oregon–I is for I-5
J Writer Aid–J is for Job
K Unleashed in Oregon
L Unleashed in Oregon
M Unleashed in Oregon
N Childless by Marriage
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
W Writer Aid
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Unleashed in Oregon

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Come back Monday to find out what L stands for.