And Creativity Abounds!
Posted on September 21, 2020 | Posted by Mary Stoneback
When this pandemic started,
When the whole world shut down,
I felt my world had broken,
And the dear Lord had left town.
This is how I felt shortly after March 15, when I found out that all my rehearsals had been cancelled, and that I couldn’t play bells, or sing, with anyone, for some indeterminate length of time. I felt like I had been put in a box and stuck someplace cold to rot.
But then I started thinking,
As God likes us to do,
And I asked if I could borrow the bells,
To play a note or two.
After a few days, it occurred to me that I had always wanted time to just noodle around on the bells, and play melodies for myself. So, I asked for permission to borrow the bells, and it was granted. I spent a few days just playing for myself – not anything recognizable, just tunes that I made up.
When problems come upon us,
And adversity comes down,
That is when God gets us thinking,
And creativity abounds!
At about this time, several interesting things happened. One group of bell choir people in Pennsylvania started SPLICE, which is still an ongoing project. They picked Kevin McChesney’s piece “Now The Green Blade Rises”, and they challenged people to pick a part of that piece and film themselves playing it, and then to send it in, where it would be spliced together with everyone else’s submissions. They were hoping to maybe get 50 submissions. They got over 500, from all over the world! Of course, putting all that music together is a massive undertaking, and it is still going on. They hope to have it completed soon. I sent in a submission, too, and hope to hear that it is put together and available to listen to and watch in the not-too-distant future.
Also, at the same time, Jason Krug, who is another bell composer, started thrice weekly video sessions on Twitch, which is a video channel, somewhat similar to YouTube. He started by talking about the music he had written, and how he had written it, but he insisted that all those listening to his broadcasts had the same type of creativity inside themselves that he did. In late April, he challenged us all to take a step outside of our comfort zones and try to write a bell piece. I took a deep breath, and did just that.
When God writes music through us,
Or causes new things to be,
It stretches the imagination,
And sets the closed mind free.
I quickly came to the realization that, although I have played bells since I was 12, I knew very little about the technical act of determining which notes go well together, and which do not. Jason helped me, as did Bonnie Linder, Teresa Allen, and Kevin McChesney. Finally, I had something that resembled a finished bell piece. Now, I needed to give it to God, in church. The date was set- June 16.
Fear, concern, a frown,
Would this piece be an abject failure,
Would some sour notes rain down?
When I walked into the sanctuary that morning, I was feeling very much alone. It is weird to be ready for church and only have a few people there. However, as we got closer to 9:15, I realized that I was not alone. Every time that I thought about one of my friends, I realized that God was telling me they were right there with me, and that He was there too, waiting for the music that He had provided to be shared.
Perfect? No, but passionate,
And played with heart and soul,
A prayer received, a message sent,
And now, a newer goal.
After I played that piece, I was challenged by Bonnie to write another piece, this time a hymn arrangement for bells and another instrument. I chose cello, and Megan Miller was kind enough to play with me and to teach me about her versatile instrument. And now? Well, the bells are back at church, because we have started rehearsals again. But, I now have a different way of looking at music, after composing a few pieces. I have more ideas of things I would like to write, and more questions about how to do it. I am still in contact with Jason Krug, and he has continued to give me ideas and suggestions. Kevin McChesney has also given me ideas and things to improve upon, and Bonnie Linder has done the same. I have a new appreciation of the craft of composing, and God has given me more things to write about.
COVID is a scourge, ‘tis true.
It challenges us, day by day.
But God sends grace, and thoughts anew,
To help us find a way.
A way to solve this deadly thing,
And while we do this deed,
He helps us find new ways to sing,
To keep our spirits freed.
I still have dark days, when I fear that I will never get to play or sing unmasked again. However, God has shown me that there is good to be found, even when we have to take precautions and be a bit more careful. It’s not perfect, but it is better than silence and moping. Stay curious, my friends, and create new ways to show that, even in the midst of chaos and confusion, there is light and love. God is with us, even here and now!
Ingrid, ALC Online Contributor