Thursday, June 23, 2011

Surrogate Ivories

I get to have my daddy's piano. I'm very glad. I grew up on it, and even though it's just an old upright grand that every piano tuner says should be thrown off a cliff, I love it with my whole entire heart and soul and mind and strength. It has a unique tone that will always be sweet music to my ears.

It also has a history. It's been passed down through several family members, and it even survived a house fire back in the day.

It's the musical love of my musical life.

It's also in Idaho.

And I'm not.

And try as we might, Jeff and I can't seem to get ourselves to Idaho to retrieve the piano. We even had the car packed once, but we had to cancel. Engine trouble.

God has graciously allowed me to be part of our church's worship band. I get to play piano and sing. I've been in worship ministry for a lot of my life, but this is different. This ain't yer mama's worship band. There are weird chords, challenging modulations, improv fill, something our worship pastor, Bobby, refers to as "licks," and complex-sounding piano intros not written anywhere which one must learn from going to YouTube.

For lots of people, what I've just described is easy peasy. In my case, it's the most musically advanced worship music I've ever attempted to play. I. love. it. I LOVE IT!! It's super duper fun all the time. I'm learning a ton and I get to help make awesome music. It's thrilling.

It also requires a bit of practice.

Which is a bit difficult to come by when my piano is in Idaho.

But I've managed. When I come upon a hard section of music, I read through it in my mind between the Wednesday night rehearsal and the Sunday morning rehearsal. I try to show up early enough to the Sunday morning rehearsal to go over the parts I'm struggling with before rehearsal starts. Mostly, I can kind of fake my way through. Mostly.

This past weekend, we sang a super cool arrangement of "O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus". Bobby made me a CD so I could learn the cool piano intro, and I listened to it and hummed it and internalized it, and I think it came off sounding basically sort of similar.

But I focused all of my attention on the piano intro and failed to give any attention to the piano/violin outro. You see, the song starts out in E minor, but it modulates grandiosely to F# minor for the last verse and final chorus, fading to a pensive violin solo with a bit of delicate piano underneath.

When we got to the outro in rehearsal, I found myself faced with the impossible task of quickly sightreading the following chord progression:


It did not go well.

At all.

In fact, it was such a spectacular flop that Bobby busted up laughing. His gut split. He doubled over. He threw his head back. He laughed and laughed and laughed. Finally, he spluttered, "Becky's over there doin' some kind of jazz rendition!"

It was very funny. We all laughed. Good, happy, been-there-done-that laughter. The kind that unifies.

I giggled nervously, rolled my eyes, apologized, and blurted out lamely in my own defense, "I don't have a piano at home, eh. So this is my only practice time. I'll get it, I'll get it. I'll go over it."

Bobby declared he wasn't worried about me at all, which was why he could laugh so freely about it. He was sure I'd do fine. I wasn't so sure. But happily, I did get a few minutes between the rehearsal and the first service to translate the hieroglyphic chords on the page into something my brain could make my fingers play.

There were lots of octaves. With little bits of open fifths thrown in. And constant prayer that I wouldn't distract the congregation from worship with my funky jazz rendition. Prayer which God answered. He even surprised me by guiding my fingers to whatever note makes the sus4 of a C# chord. Yay for God. He rocks. And He rocks Enfield's rendition of "O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus."

Church ended, we celebrated Father's Day as a family, Monday and baseball came, Tuesday and baseball came, and life went on. In the back of my heart, I thought about how nice it would be to sit down at the piano and play through some of my stress and the emotions I always have so much trouble defining and articulating. I thought of Daddy's piano, resting peacefully in Idaho, keeping Mama company. I longed for it.

I don't think an actual prayer really formed on my lips, but God knows my heart. And He is the one who made me to love music and carried me through all those years of piano lessons and constantly propels me toward worship ministry wherever I am and gave me the piano as an expression of emotion and worship and praise. Grace to me for His glory.

Wednesday morning, the boys and I hopped into the car and headed to the church for VBS. I dropped them off, helped them into their nifty yellow t-shirts, watched them put their name tags on, and waved to them as the VBS helpers escorted them to the sanctuary. On the way out, I greeted a couple of friends, made sure we were all still on for lunch at the park later, and turned to head for the Jeep.

As I turned, I nearly bumped straight into Bobby, who was chatting with another parent. Flustered, I angled to walk around him, but he stopped me by saying, "And you, Miss Becky. I have a question for you. My wife tried to Facebook you last night; she wanted to talk to you about something..."

"Cats?" I asked. They are moving and trying to find someone to foster their cats for a while. I had pondered the idea, but we determined putting their cats with our cats would not be very nice to their cats.

"No," he replied. "Um, we didn't know that you don't have a piano at home. I thought Jeff got you one."

"Well, it's in Idaho," I explained.

"Yeah," he redirected, "but when are you really gonna make it Idaho, you know what I'm sayin'?"

"Well," I fumbled, "we've been trying..." My thoughts ran to my sweet mama and how much I want to see her. And encourage her.

Bobby went on. "Here's the thing. Tiffany and I have a keyboard and a piano right now, and we don't need two when you don't have any, so would you like to use our keyboard until you're able to go to Idaho and get your piano?"

I paused for 0.173 seconds to consider the idea and then answered, wide-eyed, "Yes. That would be wonderful."

Bobby moved on to logistics while I stood and marveled, remembering my fleeting heart's cry from a few days previous. Not only does God hear what I say, but He hears what I don't say. What a loving Abba Father.

Within a couple of hours, the keyboard and its accessories were packed snugly into the Jeep and headed for home. Jeff set it up for me when he got home from work, and it already gets frequent use, not just from me, but also from Jonathan, who casually picks melody lines from his head and plunks them out.

When I drove into town on Wednesday to deliver the boys to VBS, I had no idea I would come home with the amazing and beautiful blessing of surrogate ivories.

(And no, Bobby and Tiffany didn't loan me the keyboard to put an end to the accidental jazz improv. They just know life is better when musicians have their instruments nearby.)