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Gospel Choir Newbie and other reflections on music (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

01 Mar
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Watoto Children’s Choir in Canada – 2013 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

I cannot remember a time when music wasn’t part of my life. The steel-backed Heintzman that I grew up with— that my mom played with flowing chords and that I attacked at 6 a.m. to practice scales, arpeggios and four-note chords in my Royal Conservatory days—still lives with me.

One of my earliest memories is of Dad, up early to do laundry with Mom. He helped her by pinning the loads of diapers to the clothesline. Between loads, he put on records of rousing gospel music with voices and brass ensembles that drifted into my bedroom.

Singing was an integral part of my Mennonite church and community—rich singing in harmony. From childhood on I sang in choruses and chorales, small groups, and mass choirs. Early in life I learned the pleasure of harmonizing with my alto-range voice, using it cooperatively as part of a many-voiced instrument.

Music is still a huge part of my life. Perhaps it’s no wonder that my Spotify app is a close second behind photos for space used on my iPad. It is also testimony to how music’s delivery has changed—many times over in my lifetime—from records, to 8-tracks, to cassette tapes, to CDs. That Spotify business is evidence of the latest change—one I adopted by necessity.

We listen to music a lot when we travel. So when I discovered, just after we had sealed the deal on a new car in 2016, that it had no CD player, I all but panicked. What would we do for music?

A few days later, through our music savvy son, we discovered the music-sharing behemoth, Spotify and the Bluetooth capability of my iPad and our new Honda. I’ve hardly bought a CD since.

Music is the sound track to many hours of my life, especially those spent in the kitchen. Some of my favourite artists are Matt Maher, Shane and Shane, Audrey Assad, Don Moen, Fenando Ortega, and Andrew Peterson, to begin the naming.

The poem, below, is one I wrote a few years ago, after we joined our church choir which, at the time, was very into singing Black Gospel.

Gospel Choir Newbie

You sing coffee
dark, strong, edgy
your bodies a caffeine choreography
with the Hallelujah beat
and the Praise the Lord bop
and the vamp
and the vamp
and the vamp
Amen!

In me the notes are Sweet Jesus
honey flow over vocal cords
wrap themselves around arms
legs, trunk, hold spellbound
mesmerized, forget
to clap, do those little two-steps
and dips to make
our robes sway
as one.

© 2009 by Violet Nesdoly (first published on VerseWrights)

Now, here’s some Black Gospel that really moves—no out-of-sync forgetting in sight! The Watoto Children’s Choir, is an arm of the Watoto Mission of Uganda.

Beat of Your Love – Watoto Children’s Choir

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey First Thursday, hosted today by Karen Eastlund at Irene Latham’s blog, Live Your Poem.

Thanks Karen & Irene!

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21 responses to “Gospel Choir Newbie and other reflections on music (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

  1. margaretsmn

    March 1, 2018 at 6:03 am

    I have found another connection between us…music, singing alto, and Audrey Assad. I sang one of her songs as a solo last year. Your poem is amazing, like the gospel music it praises. I am going to write about an ecumenical service I sang for this week. The gospel sound was alive and inspiring. I want to sing more of it.

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 6:21 am

      Hey, thanks so much, Margaret! I would have loved to hear you sing one of Audrey’s songs… which one? (I think I’ve searched every one of her albums and saved it to my device so I can listen offline—such a pure and beautiful voice). I’m looking forward to reading your post. Music is a fantastic topic, isn’t it?

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    • Donna Smith

      March 1, 2018 at 6:46 am

      I just looked up Audrey Assad and found her recording of “It is Well with My Soul” – another favorite of mine – she is amazing! Guess I’m going to have do download some of her stuff. What a sweet voice!

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  2. Donna Smith

    March 1, 2018 at 6:42 am

    Incredible video! Music is so important to me in my worship, and this just added new depth! Thanks! Alto’s my forte also, but our pianist can lower our electric piano to a level for solo – love harmonizing. We could do a GarageBand mix!

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 8:20 pm

      Thanks, Donna. I’ve never done solos, so you can take the solo parts!

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  3. Irene Latham

    March 1, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Wow, Violet, I didn’t realize you were classically trained! I love this post, and I love your poem. Thank you! xo

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Thanks, Irene… Classically trained makes it sound so good! I left piano lessons behind in high school and haven’t kept up with piano like I could have. I keep resolving to get back in piano shape, but times moves on and it hasn’t happened. One of these days…

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  4. Karen Eastlund

    March 1, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Violet: Yes, I really admire your poem also. It reminds me of the times we spent with our sister church in Harlem. Those were some fine voices… coffee and caramel. And… I’m an alto also. Choir is tonight! Thanks for this post. Best to you. Karen

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      Thank you, Karen. I enjoyed your suggestion of music for a theme. Hope your choir practice went well. Our choir disbanded a few years ago and sometimes I miss it—especially at Christmas.

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  5. haitiruth

    March 1, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for writing about your experience with music. We like a lot of the same artists! I smiled at the Watoto Children’s Choir, too, since Watoto means “children” in Swahili, so it’s the Children Children’s Choir. 🙂 Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks, Ruth. I didn’t know that Watoto meant “Children’s” So that means you know Swahili too? You are a woman of many talents!

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  6. dorireads

    March 1, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    That video just makes you want to get up and dance with them, doesn’t it?! Ah, I resonate with many of the artists you named. And my daddy always turned of the TV on Sunday mornings to the gospel singing quartets. I have an old car, 2002, that still has a tape player and a CD player and a gadget that plugs into the cigarette lighter that lets me connect my phone. Amazing how things have changed in our lifetime.

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 8:13 pm

      Thanks, Dori! Those Watoto kids are so good. I’ve seen them quite a few times in person and they put on a moving and fun concert… moving not only physically but also because many of them are orphans, rescued by the Watoto organization and living with new hope. Often during a performance, they do a little segment where they tell their stories, or a number speak of what they envision for their futures. Now they are all ambitious and positive — I want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a journalist, a teacher…

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  7. cvarsalona

    March 1, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Violet, I have missed reading your poetry but tonight you provided more information on your background. I am going to link up the names of the singers you mentioned. I am listening to Audrey Assad now. I love the way that she sings It Is Well With My Soul and compliment you on putting together a wonderful post.

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 8:16 pm

      Thank you, Carol! I so appreciate your kind words. I think you’ll like Audrey Assad.

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  8. Patricia J Weaver

    March 1, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    Violet, It is well with my soul was one of the songs my husband’s grandfather would sing at funerals. He was a Baptist preacher, a farmer and a carpenter. I loved the man dearly. He was a POW in WWI and they tortured him by dripping water on him for months. He got sick and the fever damaged his vocal cords. So, when he sang it was raspy and low. But he could really sing. Ronnie’s entire family can sing.

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      What a man, Patricia! I love it when songs remind us of specific people. What a story your husband’s grandfather had…and he could still sing “It is well with my soul.” What a testimony to his faith.

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  9. Ramona

    March 1, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    I was so excited that Karen selected music as our theme for this month. I love when my blogging friends expose me to new-to-me artists. That’s one of the things that I love the most about our SJFT group. Great poem. One of my favorite holiday traditions is attending Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity. I was appalled last year after I bought my new car to discover that I didn’t have a CD player. I still need to figure out Spotify. I spend most of my car time listening to podcasts, but I miss the music.

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 1, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      Thanks, Ramona. You’ll figure something out to get music back into your car… perhaps a car CD player that you could connect to your car’s speakers? With Spotify, I signed up with a paid membership. That allows me to download /save songs onto my device (my iPad). When I’m in the car, I have the iPad’s Blue Tooth on, then select the Blue Tooth as the source of my car’s audio system. The two link, I select what I want to play on the iPad and out comes the music through the car’s speakers.

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  10. bookseedstudio

    March 2, 2018 at 5:46 am

    Hi Violet, It’s uplifting to know that we share a joy of Gospel Music. The video you share of the Watoto Childrens’ Choir of Uganda is so full of true love & joy in their Faith, from the littlest ones on the blanket & in arms of caregivers (or young mamas?) to the lively dancing teens. I’m glad they visited your area & will look for them here as several churches sponsor children’s song groups from countries in Africa often. I also enjoyed knowing some of your family’s music practice & yours! Appreciations for your poem, especially ending on “our robes sway.”

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    • Violet Nesdoly

      March 2, 2018 at 6:23 am

      Thanks, Jan! The Watoto choir tours widely in the States and Canada. They have a website <https://www.watoto.com/ > which lists upcoming tours. The only one on it right now that I can find is for Ontario, Canada in March.

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