Tag Archives: music

In “Bring Him Home” Jean Valjean sings a prayer over Marius while he sleeps that sounds like it’s part lullaby, part heart cry, part reflection on his own mortality.  Valjean is anticipating a horrible battle the next morning with the odds stacked against them.

Kretzmer’s words show a change in Valjean through this song. At the beginning of the song the character remembers God’s provision: “in my need you have always been there.” By the end of the song, however, Valjean is reminding himself of the truth that God has the ultimate power: “You can take. You can give. Let him be. Let him live.”  For Valjean to say “If I die, let me die, let him live” I’m reminded of John 15:13.  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

I’ve known for a while that the first change that our prayer makes in the world is not to change our circumstances, or others, or God, but our prayer must first change us.  Prayer adjusts our perspective to put us in our place and refresh our awareness of God’s place.

This song begs the question, however.  Am I willing to be the answer to the prayer that I am praying?  Even if it means I lose everything?

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Lyrics:

“Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables

Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Words by Herbert Kretzmer

Performed by Nathan and Naomi Bird

 

God on high, hear my prayer.

In my need You have always been there.

He is young. He’s afraid.

Let him rest, heaven blessed.

 

Bring him home. Bring him home.

Bring him home.

 

He’s like the son I might have known

If God had granted me a son.

The summers die, one by one.

How soon they fly, on and on,

And I am old, and will be gone.

 

Bring him peace, bring him joy.

He is young. He is only a boy.

You can take. You can give.

Let him be. Let him live.

 

If I die, let me die.

Let him live.

Bring him home. Bring him home.

Bring him home.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Hey there.

As we’ve been making some shifts with our business and life over the past few months one of the things we have really loved implementing is our weekly Song Notes email .

Accompanying the release of our recorded song of the week  we have been sending an email with some thoughts and insights about the song, as well as some updates about our personal and professional lives, and of course details about any upcoming performances that Nathan is involved in.  Starting this week, we will be reviving the blog by reissuing the “Song Notes From the Birds” portion as a blog post.  The emails are still the best place to get fun reviews of what we have been up to, both professionally and personally, and the performance information will be kept current on the website, but the emails are the most effective way to be in the know.

Also, If you’re on Facebook, we would love to see you at Nathan Bird Music. Head on over and give us a “like” to see our posts on your feed.

Now, here is this week’s Song Notes From the Birds…

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“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Photo by m wrona on Unsplash
Text is at the bottom of this email.


Has your week been as much of an emotional roller coaster as ours has been? It seems that even our community at large has had some particularly intense experiences.

A national crisis continues to play out through the government shut down and heated emotional debates about the border wall idea. And…Jayme Closs escaped and is now safe!

Two separate friends of ours here in Minnesota each had friends of theirs die in a car crash or a hit-and-run. And…Nathan’s sister had a baby!

For a few days this week our four year old was quarantined under suspicion of measles. And…We are hours away from finishing our bathroom renovation that has had our shower unusable for four months! Also, he doesn’t have measles! (Remember that water park we mentioned last week?  We’re pretty sure the water was the culprit for whatever the virus was that plagued our little guy.  Maybe it’s good the pool was only open for one day after all!)

What do you do with the wild extremes of feeling?

If you’ve followed the Jayme Closs story at all, you’ve probably seen some people’s vehement ridiculing of the idea that God has had anything to do with her rescue because if He cared at all He wouldn’t have let the horrible crime happen in the first place. There is some real, deep pain behind those words, for sure.

Instability, hypocrisy, and hurt from those closest to us make for a cocktail of confusion. Who doesn’t long for safety, authenticity, and comfort?

Our song this week is the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” a song that has been significant throughout both of our upbringings and continues to be a favorite.  I think the reason it lands, for me, is because of the pervading message of the ever present existence of things like the seasons, the stars, the sunrise. Something about the elements of nature bring into focus the Beyond that is holding all of this together.

And, perhaps more significantly, nature isn’t really selective. Unlike Olaf’s personal little flurry, typically our experiences with nature are more massive in influence.  A snowstorm can be loved by one and despised by one’s neighbor, but the impact doesn’t differentiate. The sunshine, rain, temperature changes, and flux of the seasons happen to all of us, not just those who deserve it, want it, need it, or hate it.  We are part of a much bigger story than that.

For me, when I have felt pretty (except it’s really not at all pretty) hopeless and empty in the faith department, it has fairly consistently been something about nature and the presence of beauty that has coaxed me back to considering hope for tomorrow.  I’ll be honest, my peace doesn’t always ‘endureth’ all that long, and I am not one to enjoy musing about the ‘dear presence’ of the Lord that ‘cheers and guides’ me with his ‘never failing compassions.’  Maybe some day I can say those words without feeling really weird, but for the time being I will settle in with the comfort of the thought that all of this mess of life is actually being seen and felt and heard by Someone, because every . single . day . the sun rises.

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Words by Thomas O Chrisholm, based on Lamentations 3:22-23
Music by William M. Runyan (1870-1957)

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

[chorus] Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided —
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

[chorus] Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided —
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Ties and Slurs and Jobs

I’m not not talking about clothing accessories and inebriated speech…just yet.

When reading them little black and white dots on top of all them lines, aka music notation, it’s really easy for beginners to confuse ties with slurs.  Both are graceful arcs between notes. The actual shape of the lines can be identical.  The purpose is very different, however.  Ties are about rhythm.  They connect the rhythmic event of one note to the rhythmic event of the same note later on and tie the two together in one rhythmic event. Slurs denote how a series of different notes should be played.  Slurs are drawn over a series of two or more notes that are different than one another but who share the same melodic idea.

Sometimes life and work is like reading music notation.  It looks like it’s black and white and you just have to make music out of it.  However, if you misinterpret the notation you’re going to fall flat….and on your face.

There’s so much that I love about being self-employed and in music.  The thrill of hearing my volunteer church choir lock into their chord.  The joy of hearing my voice students creating gorgeous music to express themselves. The fun of casting a vision for a new concert production and seeing it come to fruition through collaboration with a dedicated team of various talented friends.  I love it all.

Brian Tracy, in his book, Earn what You’re Really Worth says that income security can only be guaranteed when you do something that is A. Important, B. in Demand, and C. where you are Irreplaceable.

I know that music is important.  I know that my music performance/instruction/production is in demand and has been growing consistently over the past five years.  I’d like to think that I’m irreplaceable.

So why then am I looking for full-time work? Well, there’s a few.

  1. Work/Life Balance. Teaching thirty voice students at five different teaching studios has been exciting to have a somewhat regular flow of monies, but it makes for a difficult work/life balance.  The emotional cost to my family has been greater than the financial reward.
  2. Growing family, growing needs.  Yep.  Number 4 here we go!  We’re very excited to meet this little addition in October.  I’ll be more excited if we’re able to move into a different home by the end-of-summer.
  3. Self-Employed and you want a Mortgage?  Despite growing my own business for the past five years and experiencing some really cool successes/expansions with teaching/performing/producing, all I need is a couple of pay stubs at a new job and I’d qualify to buy a home for my family.  #thanxhousingmarketcrash

SO.  I’m looking for work that allows me to capture more of the value of my experience in a full-time W-2 “real” job.  The music won’t stop.  Don’t you worry.

After telling a friend of mine about my job hunt, he said that he was sad at the thought of me in a tie and a cubicle.  I understand that I don’t fit inside that box very well.  I’m hoping to God I get to do something that I’m passionate about where I can work with people, care about a cause and finally get paid to be the creative vision guy.  But most importantly, I welcome the tie if it comes with some economic security for my family.

I’m just going to read it as a slur and make it part of my melodic line.

Summer Starts

We’ve been a bit silent here on the blog for a while.  As the season changes, and our schedules along with it, here is an update about what to expect in the near future from Nathan and the Birds.

Summer Lessons

Clip art musicians

After Nathan’s second spring student recital this coming Tuesday, he will have officially wrapped up another year of voice lessons through Waconia High School, Prior Lake High School, and his own private studios at home and at Colonial Church of Edina.

Beginning this week he will be primarily teaching at our home studio in Northeast Minneapolis, while maintaining the Edina and Prior Lake studios as well.  This allows for a much broader and more flexible schedule.  Click on this link or open this pdf (Call for voice students Summer 2014 (general memo)for information about purchasing summer lessons.  We are using sort of a punch-card system this year.  Check it out. Pass it on. Sign up!

Weddings

Nathan and I are looking forward to performing together in two weddings late in June.  Wedding gigs have always been one of our favorite things – in fact it was doing this sort of thing together that kept us so connected when we first became friends 12 years ago (yikes!).

Know of anyone looking for voice or piano music for a late summer or fall wedding?  We’re game!

Concerts

Details aren’t being made public quite yet, but based on the success of last year’s A Summer Night Romance concerts, it’s fair to say that there are plans brewing.  Nathan has been working with a growing team of professionals to help develop his processes as a concert producer. Expect great things to be happening as the year unfolds.

On Sunday, June 8, there will be a fun jazz concert with the Apollo Male Chorus and the George Maurer Group. Nathan has been working as one of their section leaders and will be singing with them on this event. See link above for tickets, and let us know if you’ll be there!

As always, check out the events page for info about upcoming productions involving Nathan.

Newsletter

Our monthly newsletters have been on hiatus as well, but we are reviving them soon, like within a couple days soon. If you’re not sure if you’re on the list, sign up here. If you don’t get around to doing that until after we’ve sent it out, you’ll be able to find it on the archive page, and I’ll be sure to get you on the list for the next one.  This next May/June edition will share more about how we have each been engaged professionally in the recent past, as well as more about summer plans.

Baby!

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The girls (and Nathan) are pretty excited about bringing another boy into the family.

And if that newsletter doesn’t end up getting to you in the next few days like I ‘promised,’ it’s probably because we decided to take a vacation at the hospital.  Our baby boy is due to arrive around June 9 (which also happens to be our wedding anniversary), but this mama would be really ok with any time now.

Thanks for following and supporting us on this journey – both professionally and personally!

Hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather.

~Naomi, for both of us

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Breath Works: Group Lesson

Hello singers,

Nathan has another group voice lesson at the end of the week. This is a new thing he has begun to explore because of his own experiences as a soloist, choir member, and voice teacher. Not all contexts of singing call for the same type of sound to be produced, but the basic technical elements and self-awareness skills will aide any singer in his or her particular singing activity.

Breath Works

photo credit: shawnzrossi
photo credit: shawnzrossi

This week’s 60 minute session will explore the nuances and misconceptions about breathing. As the basis for any sort of vocalizing, breathing should not be cumbersome work but rather a graceful and empowering cycle. Through exercises, group discussion, and lots of fun vocalizing, Nathan will help to unravel and clarify some common rehearsal jargon regarding breath actions, and will challenge the singers to breathe consistently and appropriately in any context.

The lesson is especially suited for those who have had some private voice lessons, but that is not a requirement. Likewise, since Nathan is passionate about vocal ensembles and helping people have great experiences in them, he has tailored the content for people who are members of church choirs or school ensembles. However, even if you only like to sing in the shower or the car; or if your vocal ensemble of choice currently is simply Sunday mornings at church with the rest of the congregation, you can gain something from this session. Join with others of all ages in this unique setting to explore the “breath-taking” journey of singing.

Friday morning, June 28, 10 AM
In the Music Center at Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina, MN 55436
Registration – There is no set fee for the event, but there will be a box for contributions if you are able. Please R.S.V.P by Thursday evening.
Call Nathan at (952) 212-4017 or email naomi.m.bird@gmail.com or contact via this site.

That Sound We Want – The pressure of studio perfection on live performance

Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Institute of Art - the venue for recording Massif Trio's premier CD

Here is an interesting thing.  Most music consumers love perfect quality recordings.  Consumers and the industry together have developed a preferred “sound” that the public expects to hear when they listen to their i-tunes, CD’s, etc.  This “sound” is specific to every musical genre, however many genres have the goal of perfection in mind; no mistakes, no flubs, any hiccup and there’s another take.  Producers record massive amounts of material and edit it down to perfection.  Having worked with producers whose art is this process, I am impressed and thankful that they can make me sound so flawless.  But what’s the problem of striving for perfection via 100 takes?

First,

This perfection cannot be duplicated live.  The public goes to said live concert and hopes to be wowed by the perfection that they are accustomed to on the recording.  The result – pressure on the artist to meet the impossible standards of their own produced work.  How many singers tax their voice to the point of un-health in live performances?

Second,

The performance becomes a show.  Add attractive multi-sensory entertainment.  Anything from a cool set to pyrotechnics is enough to distract people from noticing that they sound different live.  A show is still art.  It’s just a different art than the music that preceded it.

Last,

I hope that someone’s art is truly an expression of their soul.  Would you enjoy a painting that was made by a robot?  Why do we enjoy a recording pieced together by a computer and a producer?  A friend recently commented that he can’t stand the recorded music of a certain Christian Contemporary Artist, but loved this individual’s live show.  Can any of you relate to this in other genres?

Is this pressure on performers good for the industry?  Would you rather hear good music or be entertained by a fun show?  What would it take for you to be ok with only live recordings of everyone in your collection? Do you prefer the perfect sound of highly engineered perfection, or freshly squeezed human authenticity?

Goodnight Music

A mother plays the guitar while her two daught...

Image via Wikipedia

It is no secret that combining the worlds of a music career and family is a great challenge.  Time is limited, energy is limited, and it is just plain hard to feel all that inspired to practice a beautiful line of music when you have just rinsed poop off your hands.

Every once in a while though, there are beautiful moments when we think, “This is so special.  I wouldn’t trade this for anything.”  Last night was one of those times.  Continue reading