Musical Thoughts for Mother's Day - May 2016

Johann Sebastian Bach

To the glory of God - It is no small thing to me that Bach wrote his music to the glory of God.  Much of His music pulls me into worship without words; it is clear to me that was his aim.  I listened to a lecture series with my daughter a while ago about Bach and the "High Baroque" period.  The lecturer said he was not religious himself, but yet felt Bach's music brought out a feeling of reverence and worship. Sometimes I tire of words, they seem to ultimately often fail for me to fully capture and adequately explain something, so it is so nice for me at times to experience the universal language of music, and maybe in particular the music of Bach.

Harmony - But I also realized a few months ago what might be another reason I like JSBach so much and why it makes me feel so good when I listen to it.  It is possibly that its design feels to me like problems that are always moving towards and finding resolution.  Ah, resolution!  What creates the most stress for me internally with my personality is unresolved tensions, which are honestly all around most of the time in some way.  I want everyone to get along, everyone to be happy with each other and especially with me. Harmony. (And I think if I can have a part in helping people to find joy and success, that gives me joy too.)  Bach takes my emotions on a trip of addressing a 'problem' and then moving to resolve it.  Again and again and again.  Which gives me those feelings of resolution and harmony that I long for in my personal world.  It is like it gives me a chance to feel something soothing and beautiful that hardly ever is true the way I wish it was, in my world, and in the world in general when I look around me. When I listen to Bach it feels like all my concerns or troubles in real life can temporarily be put on hold and I can experience the feeling and energy and joy of resolved and harmonious emotions.

Family - As well as having a strong faith and life purpose based in faith in God, Bach also had a strong love for and commitment to his family which is certainly something else very important to me. He was German and taught by his father. My daughter-in-law, Christina, who is such a wonderful, positive godly Mama and who is so excellent at finding wonderful resources for her children, recently loaned me a children's CD about Bach, and as I listened to it in the car with her son, my Grandson Ezra, I learned some things about Bach's life. Especially amazing to me was that with two marriages, Bach eventually had 20 children! (His first wife died after giving birth to 7 children.) However, only 10 lived to adulthood, which adds another layer to me of His personal faith and strength. He still lived a life full of purpose and accomplishment in spite of the certain grief of losing half of his children before they reached adulthood. Losing my father-in-law and sister-in-law and then both my parents, as adults, has been a huge thing for me to process and grieve and move on after. So to learn that Bach lost 10 precious children is almost mind boggling to me.  Although Bach lived in a time when living a long life was not assumed, childbirth was extremely dangerous, and death was an expected part of the fabric of life, still his personal strength and tenacity is amazing to me. Maybe that strength of Bach's faith-filled persevering perspective is somehow communicated to the listener without words? Also I wonder if at a time when people didn't assume they would live long lives and have lots of time to do the things they value contributed to the motivation to have a stronger work ethic and work harder and accomplish more at younger ages?

Two of my Granddaughters playing JSBach - For Mother's Day I decided to take some video of my beloved granddaughters playing some beloved Bach on the violin. :) The girls have had a few great teachers over the years, but their Mom, my daughter-in-law Kerin, found their current teacher, right in their church, and this new teacher has been wonderful for them! Kerin is such a great and godly Mama to these girls!

Rachel - JSBach Minuet 2 from Suzuki book 1

Abbi - just started working on a this JSBach Gavotte, number 3 in Suzuki book 3

Abbi and Rachel together playing a JSBach Minuet - the part Rachel plays with Abbi is from Suzuki book 1, but the second part that Abbi plays by herself starting about 1:38 is from Suzuki Book 3. I am really enjoying Abbi's sound and beginning vibrato that she uses occasionally, as well as her joy in playing.  The way they stood in this video and moved when Abbi plays by herself was figured out by them on their own. The little 'bobs' to the music at one point I didn't ask them to do, I think they are just feeling it. :)

My favorite virtuoso violinist, the Grammy Award winning Augustin Hadelich is also German, also taught to play by his music-loving musician father, in a seemingly strong family, probably Catholic, by parents committed to loving their family as well as to helping others. This was seen in their humanitarian efforts working with agriculture in Africa for years before buying their farm in Italy, around the time Augustin was born. Their organic farm and their hospitality where they continue to live now has continued that vision - the location of the farm was rural and a bit isolated, but the students coming through to help with farm work as Augustin was growing up provided socialization, stimulating conversations, as well as a chance to practice English sometimes. And a family of 3 boys in German culture in modern times is probably considered a big family! Augustin's academic education was primarily out of his home, too, in his case because he was a prodigy and needed this so he could practice and perform more at such a young age. He was working on concertos as young as 7 and performing with orchestras soon after. Strong family culture, stimulation and encouragement to grow musically, faith(?), being surrounded by stimulating people and conversations - maybe these are some similarities to Bach's life and background, although in a modern era? I am really hoping someday Augustin does a recording or at least some video of performances of my favorite composer Bach, but as of yet he has not. So I will include this new video of Augustin Hadelich playing some Beethoven. Perhaps this creates similar feelings of beauty, harmony and resolution with a bit more romantic leanings. I realize I have talked about Augustin quite a few times, but he is unrivaled in my opinion, in so many ways, so I hope you take some time to enjoy the beauty of his playing! Here he is in recital with the great pianist from the UK, Charles Owen. Charles seems to play a lot of who knows someday maybe they will together do a Bach recital program?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate source of harmony and resolution - Even the most beautiful music in the world though, is just an 'echo of a tune' to quote CSLewis. It is an earthy pleasure, and an earthly thing that is an incomplete reflection of something we will have in completion in heaven. The beauty can draw our eyes with longing towards our Father in heaven, the creator of things on earth and things beyond our earth.

"The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they become dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."

-C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

As beautiful as good music is to me and as much as it can help me into positive emotions, as much as I like to learn about it, talk about it, listen to it, and share it with my family and friends, the ultimate source of resolution and harmony is the gospel itself!  Hearing the gospel proclaimed and the redemptive love of God taught week after week at my church is really the ultimate source of truth and freedom that I am eternally grateful for. Listening to scripture on CD in my car helps wash me in His word and clear negative emotions with truth.

Sarah and JSBach - My daughter Sarah likes Bach too, but not for the same reasons I do I don't think.  I think she likes the challenge and the process of uncovering and unraveling and learning the path and progressions of Bach's intertwining voices and melodies, she enjoys the excitement and exploration and the journey probably more than the harmony and resolution that I enjoy. 

I hope sometime in the next month to record her playing a few Bach pieces as well as a baroque style composition of her own. :)  Check back here in about a month if you want to hear it. She told me that recording these pieces would be her late Mother's Day gift to me...I am counting on it...

Musically, Sarah has been keeping busy teaching piano in several studios as well as by taking classes in orchestration. She also is having opportunities to use her piano playing at church to help with preludes, accompanying the high school choir and a soloist, and being on the evening service worship team. It surely makes me happy that the Lord has brought opportunities for her to use her piano playing in this way!

So on Mother's Day this year, as I think about being a Mother and also now a Grandmother, I hope you enjoy these little pieces from my life and some of my greatest loves...

My Creator, my family, and music to His glory.

And of course my husband, earthly leader, lover and partner in this life!  He is amazing...probably more about him for Father's Day next month!

Much love and God's blessings to all as you remember the role and service of Mothers this month!

~ Linda for the Bealls