Monthly Archives: May 2012

A loaf of bread, a pint of blood, and me

Today, I’m planning on giving blood for the first time.

The appointment is set. I don’t have evening practice. I will get a full day of work done. (I wrote this post in advance.) I will eat. Then I will head to the parish hall, where the blood drive is being held.

Then, if I understand correctly, a bunch of Draculas will leech life-sustaining fluid from my body with Shop-Vacs, using a gift certificate to a local ice cream place as bait before they perform their evil magic voodoo on my veins. (Your understanding may differ slightly.)

Actual picture of blood bank technician. Or so I’m told.

Yes, I’m nervous. I don’t really need accolades, because in theory, donating blood shouldn’t be a big deal. I’m not doing anything heroic. What I would appreciate is the reassurance that I will not die. (Perhaps I have slight hypochondriac tendencies, which may also explain why I’ve never donated blood before.)

So I talked to a friend who has donated blood several times. He’s slightly more level-headed about this. For one thing, he is certain that I will not die and chipper about the fact that I’m intentionally getting a needle stuck into my arm.

“At the end,” he said, “you’ll feel pretty good about yourself. Just make sure you eat those cookies right after.”

True. It may not be heroic, but it may nonetheless be lifesaving. And I’ll be overcoming a fear in the process. In that regard, I really have plenty to gain and nothing to lose.

Well, except for that pint of blood.

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UPDATE: The paper chase

So remember how I was talking about my favorite music store, Naperville’s Brookdale Music, closing?

Not anymore. Got this e-mail from them, signed by the store owner, yesterday:

After sending notice in April about closing the store on June 30th, we received an overwhelming response asking us to keep the business operating. Since then, we have worked diligently on options to keep the basic merchandise, printed music, and lesson programs operating at Brookdale Music.

This past week I was able to work out an arrangement to keep us operating in our current location in Pebblewood Plaza for the foreseeable future.

Our plan is still to close the store on June 30th but to do some remodeling and renovating during the month of July to give the store a new look and configuration. We plan to then reopen on August 1st with an improved appearance and new direction.

So there you have it. Considering one of my largest drivers of traffic has been people trying to figure out whether the store is closing, I’m happy to report that it’s not.

What it’s like to play music at Spanish Mass when you don’t, say, speak Spanish

Well, that’s not fair. I speak a little Spanish (and I did take two semesters of Spanish in college, though that was almost ten years ago). But when I started blogging again in medias res, I realized that the title of this blog post is something that’s worth explaining. So here we go.

I. Actually, it’s not that different from English Mass

There’s a reason for this, of course. Regardless of what language the Mass is celebrated in, it’s basically the same structure throughout. There are hymns, readings, a psalm, and, of course, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, all in the same order regardless of whether you’re attending Mass in English, Spanish, or Russian. The actions in most cases are the same, which means my cues are often the same. (For example, to cue the start of the Sanctus, or Holy, which is said or sung at every Mass before the consecration of the bread and wine, the priest closes his outstretched arms as he finishes a prayer.) I’ve picked up enough Spanish words to be able to tell when I need to start some other music. Continue reading

The names escape me

When you’re a church organist, a lot of people get to know your name. Every weekend, folks greet me by name, and I, of course, reciprocate.

Except not really. Rarely can I use their names.

I’m not good at learning people’s names, though once I have them, I can remember them. And I’m too embarrassed to acknowledge that I don’t know the name of someone I see every week, which makes it a lot harder to actually learn names. You can imagine the reaction:

I’ve known your name for a long time! How could you not know mine, you clearly terrible person?

It took me eight years to learn the name of one of the ushers. When we head over to the parish hall on Sunday for breakfast, I hope that someone uses the names of people I don’t know so that I can learn them without having to admit I don’t know them. As for the kids who come up to chat after Mass, I’ve got a few but don’t have a clue on the rest. And don’t even ask the choirs at other churches that I play at once or twice a year. They all know who I am, but I just don’t have a chance.

A little thing? Perhaps. But it’s something that I’m looking to improve on while I’m trying to make myself the complete church musician. After all, names are a significant part of one’s identity, and people could get upset if they figure out I’m just a little clueless on something they’ve had since, well, birth.

Sir, he’s one of your slugs in Sector 7G.

On music at Catholic Mass, take the long view

Every few months, I come across another rant about how bad music at church has been since Vatican II. Oftentimes, there’s a pining for the music of before Vatican II. I don’t have a problem with much of the stuff from pre-Vatican II, and I like Gregorian chant; we use it sometimes at my church. However, a lot of these critiques are, well, not able to take the long view. Consider this one at CatholicVote, which came out a few days ago.

Choir loft stained glass

Honestly, I just needed a photo here for aesthetic purposes. This isn’t here for any other reason than to look pretty. I suppose that means I shouldn’t have this caption, either.

Now, whether you like Marty Haugen (who wrote such stuff as “Gather Us In” and “All Are Welcome”) is up to you. Same thing with any other contemporary composer of music intended for liturgy. (Not you, Christian contemporary music. Stay out of this.) But I think it’s important to keep the following things in mind when you’re having a discussion of what you like/dislike and think is appropriate/not appropriate for Mass. Continue reading

This is why you treat your choir members nicely

I owe one of the choir members at my normal church, bigtime.

I had taken a nicely, leisurely trek on a couple of area bike trails (both the Fox River Trail and the Prairie Path), and I was on my way back home and was near downtown two towns over when I headed up a hill and had to stop at a stoplight. I decided to walk my bike over to push the button to get a Walk sign.

Then, I heard perhaps the worst sound you can hear if you’re a bicyclist:

PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHH

Oh, no. Crud. Bike’s now disabled with a flat front tire, thanks to a shard of beer bottle. That’s bad.

Bad bike!

Continue reading

When working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Thanks to the NATO conference in Chicago, I’m working from home right now. (But I wrote this post yesterday, just to mess with my head.) On a normal week, we’re allowed to work from home once a week, usually Wednesday. Working from home isn’t bad, I suppose, especially with my commute. Scarlet the dog is here to lie nearby, and the house is empty, so I can play my music as loud as I can. But I’d rather be in the office, chatting and working.

Yes, oddly enough, I like my coworkers. I like talking with them, joking with them, etc. At the end of the day, I can leave the work I do at work. I leave work most days smiling, and it’s not because of the work; it’s because of the people.

Something is lost when I work from home.

My day job before this one was work from home only. My boss was in Atlanta, and coworkers were all over the place. The only way to chat with them was Skype or the phone. So day after day, I sat at home, working, with some sort of TV noise in the background so things wouldn’t seem as lonely.

In my prior job, where I worked from home all the time, there were times where I was working on three computers simultaneously — in the basement, all nice and fluorescent and such.

I wasn’t meeting people. I wasn’t really getting out of the house, because the work never seemed to end. And even when I was done with the day’s work, it felt like I could never escape work, because it was always only a few feet away from me. The day I ended that job was, to put it mildly, one of great relief. And the day I started at my new day job was one of even greater relief.

When I work from home now, it’s a reminder of those days. Sure, I don’t have to get too nicely dressed for work and I can work whenever I feel like it, but it’s more of a necessary evil.

So, dearest coworkers, if you ever wondered why I insist on coming in on days we’re normally allowed to work from home, now you know. It’s a little bit me, and it’s a little bit you … too. (Sorry, for those of you who get the reference.)