Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A Musical Miracle

A couple of months ago my oldest son accepted an assignment to prepare a musical number for sacrament meeting at church. He had an idea for a medley of hymns that a quartet would sing. He could hear it in his head, so he figured it wouldn't be too hard to pull it together.

Real life often intrudes on our private plans. Son #1 determined that it was in his best interest to attend summer semester at school so that he could wrap up his associates degree and move directly into the metallurgical engineering program at a different university. As schooling demands sharpened, the musical number slid to the back burner.

I gather that Son #1 was also waiting for his musically talented brother to return from serving a mission so that he could draft him into the assignment. Son #2 returned. But he had his own ideas for what he wanted to do during his first few days back home.

I thought about just letting the musical number flop. After all, we could sing a rest hymn in sacrament meeting instead of having a musical number. Son #1 is not a forceful guy. He often takes a soft touch approach. Sometimes it is so soft that others don't realize that he is trying to get them to do something. Thus, his attempts to get everyone together to practice produced minimal results.

Finally, the day before the musical number was to be performed, I exercised a little leadership and pulled together Son #1 and Son #3. To my chagrin, I found that Son #2 had plans to attend the wedding of a friend. He didn't get home until very late that night.

With the performance being the next day, we dispensed with medleys and lovely arrangements, opting instead for a simple hymn with a couple of variations. When it comes to hymns I can usually play the piano and sing at the same time, as long as I am singing a part with which I am familiar. We didn't want to try to get an accompanist because that would add yet a level of complexity.

But self accompaniment presents its own set of challenges. For one thing, I have found that many active LDS worshipers in my area find it culturally uncomfortable in a worship setting. They feel that it better fits a bar setting or something like that. Trying to gather the other three members of a quartet behind the piano seems odd and kind of clumsy for the way our chapel is laid out. So we opted for vocals only. After all, Sons #2 and #3 both have very good pitch and vocal quality. I figured that they would keep us on track.

We practiced a few times with my wife singing the part that Son #2 was assigned to sing. We thought it felt OK, but knew we needed to practice with the four men. On Sunday morning Son #2 revealed that he had done a lot of singing at the wedding so that his voice wasn't in the greatest shape. Besides, we were short on time. So we practiced only once at home before going to church.

I was nervous when we rose to sing after the first speaker in sacrament meeting. We had prayed for help. I struck initial notes on the piano on the way to the pulpit. We arranged ourselves in front of the microphone. And then we sang. It was a simple hymn. I noticed every flaw. But there were no egregious errors. I did notice that the congregation was unusually quiet as we sang. The quiet persisted as we seated ourselves.

My wife leaned over and voiced her approval. She is musically talented herself and she knows whereof she speaks when it comes to vocal numbers. But I figured that her judgment was tainted by the fact that those performing the number were her spouse and her sons.

Still, after church many people expressed great delight in the number. It seems that our voices were enhanced by heavenly help so that many hearers heard something more beautiful than I thought we had performed.

This was a minor miracle. But it is a small example of the everyday miracles that can occur when we couple our own poor efforts with the Lord's limitless capabilities.

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