Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tickling the Ivories

Photo courtesy of Photo Bucket

I filled in this morning for our regular piano accompanist at church. Several times a year, she asks me to do this and, for some reason, I always agree. I never know why. Every single time, I ask the same questions: What have I gotten myself into? and Why, oh Why, did I say yes?

First of all, let me tell you that I physically DO NOT do well when I play. My hands become clammy, my eyesight seems to go bonkers, I become hearing impaired and I am unable to self-regulate my body temperature. All-in-all, I become almost paralyzed because I have to focus and pay close attention. My mind CANNOT wander. And, believe me, it is not easy to play the piano with wet hands while wearing wet clothing. And, it's embarrassing. I mean, seriously - you would think this physical reaction would be bad enough; but, I know that other things can happen and usually will.

I've had some incredibly interesting experiences playing the piano in church. I used to accompany my brother-in-law every year when he sang the same solo during the Christmas season. Every single year something would go bananas. The first year he just decided, willy-nilly, to skip a verse without telling me. The second year, I truly believe he must have been overcome by the Holy Spirit - for what other reason would he add a verse where no verse belonged? This was in addition to the verse he left out the first year. And, the following year, one of the deacons decided to turn off the lights mid-performance. This was great. I could not see the music and neither could my brother-in-law. We were pitched into total darkness. So, I quit playing and he just sang la, la, la, la, la until he could find a way to end the song. It's pretty funny now and, to be truthful, it was pretty funny, then, too. I really find it ironic that the name of the song is "I know now..."  Really, if I knew then what I know now, it wouldn't have been half the experience because I would have talked someone else into doing the job.

It's not just my brother-in-law, though. My girlfriend has an exceptional voice and was asked to provide the special music at a neighboring church. So, I went along to play for her. Little beknownst to me, the entire service was broadcast "live" on the radio. Janice gets up to sing, we are tooling through the song and all of a sudden, she decides to go rogue - forgot to tell me she was going to repeat the chorus a few times more than it was written in the music. She had to sing some of that A Capella. It's my rule, when in doubt - stop playing and let the soloist figure out how to end the song. It's the real reason it is called a solo and it usually works pretty well - people most often just think it's in the plan and, when they see me smiling like a Cheshire cat and biting my bottom lip, they get all goosebumply and think I must be having a "God" moment. There is something about quiet distress that moves people, I guess.

I've had other frightening experiences. One time, someone turned on a fan and it blew my sheet music off the piano and completely out of reach. That time I had to stop, chase the music and start over with a shrug. I've had music turned upside down. I've had to ad lib my way through a page turn when the page refused to turn - these are all terrifying moments in the life of an accompanist.

As you can tell, this all adds to the hilarity of the moment and I am thankful that God must have a sense of humor since He rarely complains. I'm sure He is aware that it is hard to worship when I am nervous. I'm thankful He gives me a break and a chance to laugh at my silliness - even though the laughter doesn't come until after the fact.

I guess I take it to heart, though, because I feel music is the connecting force during the worship experience. It is what makes the service flow smoothly and what transitions the atmosphere from praise and worship to prayerful contemplation. It allows the words and the sounds of worship to seep into my soul. I'm always so afraid I'm going to mess that up for someone else.

This morning, we ended the service with "Give Thanks" and I was able to put aside all of the worry and stressful anxiety. I was finally able to lift my heart to God with thanks and in prayerful response to Him. I was able to express myself through the keyboard and it felt really sweet. I'm hopeful it was a joyful noise of praise from my heart to His.

So, until the next time... In between, I have to figure out a way to keep my hands dry.

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