Tag Archives: voice

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.

My Christmas with Cantus

This is the weird and wonderful story of how my one and only Christmas with Cantus led me to meet tenors David Walton and Aaron Humble who are joining forces with me for my upcoming “A Three Tenors Christmas” at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.  

plug:

  • Tuesday, December 22 at 8:15 P.M. (dinner seating at 6:15) get tickets
  • Wednesday, December 23 at 8:15 P.M. (dinner seating at 6:15) get tickets

Fyi, as of this writing, availability has gone from “excellent” to “good”….so don’t wait too long to get a ticket!

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The three tenors rehearse with pianist Herb Johnson.

My life is strange.  I’ve known for some time that anybody who willfully puts himself or herself up on a stage in front of other people is unusual.  Being a man that sings really high in front of people makes me a freak of nature.   I shouldn’t be surprised then, that this story is also strange.  Some call it luck but looking back all I can think is that Someone was orchestrating.

When I was in my last semester of grad school, I met Aaron Humble of Cantus as he was getting a tour of Denver University’s Lamont School of Music before the ensemble’s performance that evening.  I’d heard of Cantus on Minnesota Public Radio but had never been to any of their productions.  I decided I needed to look into this group, and I applied to audition that spring.  They hold annual auditions to attract the top male vocal talent in the nation, regardless of any open positions in the ensemble.  They invited me to come to one of their live auditions. That alone was worth the plane ticket.

Instead of singing for a director, or a panel of judges, you sing for the men of Cantus.  After all of the auditionees had sung their songs, we were invited back into the room and then magic happened. We got to sing WITH Cantus.  As I’d prepared my parts for the music ahead of time I had imagined the sound we’d achieve.  It surpassed all of my expectations.  I flew back to Denver with an even deeper respect for the organization.  I was saddened to hear some time later that there were no open positions in the ensemble, but still very glad to have sung with them, even for a day.

While singing a role in Italy at the tail end of the summer I received a call from Doc Rainbow, director of theatre at my undergraduate alma mater, University of Northwestern – St. Paul, inviting me to come sing the lead role of Father in Children of Eden that fall.  We sold or gave away nearly everything we owned and returned to our native Minnesota, anticipating a one month stay and then a circuit of audition trips out west.  Then, just a few days after arriving in Minnesota, I got a call from Cantus.  One of their tenors had taken a leave of absence and they needed a tenor to replace him for their upcoming “Christmas with Cantus” concerts and was I in town and AVAILABLE!?  I was ecstatic.

Rehearsing with them for six hours a day and learning an entire show in two weeks was a rigorous and rewarding experience.  Getting to perform with them was So. Much. Fun.  My contract included singing on their Christmas with Cantus CD in 2011.  That recording is still a favorite in my household, frequently being chosen by our young daughters as their bedtime music.

In the spring of 2012, Cantus was looking to fill this tenor position with a full-time singer, and I was hopeful that I may be able to join this group for the long term. Though I was bummed that they chose someone else, I totally understood their reasoning. David Walton possesses  a tenor range that I only dream of.  On my first encounter with David, I remembered thinking – just from his speaking voice – “wow, this guy is going to go far.”  Which he has. Find out more about him here.

I’ve been so privileged to have performed with David since then in various productions and was thrilled that he joined me and Aleks Knezevich for the debut performance of our tenor trio last year for Christmas at Wooddale in Eden Prairie Minnesota.

As plans for this year’s Chanhassen concerts developed, we needed to find a new tenor, as Aleks was not available this year.  David suggested Aaron Humble, also a long-time Cantus member who is currently on faculty at Augustana College in Illinois.  He is not only a quick study but brings such confidence and experience with him.  You can find out more about him here.

While I never purposed to create this year’s tenor trio with former members of Cantus, it makes perfect sense that that’s what has happened.  Cantus attracts top male talent to the state and the entire community benefits from it.

I’m thankful for the boldness to take chances.  This Christmas I’m especially thankful for the men of Cantus 2010 who took a chance on me.  I will always be grateful for the institution of Cantus.  It continues to create amazing music with many new voices and creating opportunities that go far beyond the ears that hear them.

(By the way, the 2015 “Christmas with Cantus” series starts tonight!)

Three Tenors (medQ)

photo credit: Bethany Jackson of Twin Cities Headshots

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?

Colorado Concert – by Mail!

What a week this has been! Since this is the first time we have done this sort of thing – doing our own concert series – we are learning quite a bit about ourselves and about the process.  Last week’s programs in Minnesota went well.  It has been so good to have the chance to figure out what to change and tweek and rearrange for each next concert.  It has also been extremely challenging figuring out how to balance work and family when it is so intertwined throughout this process.  Thank you thank you to the many people who have been helping with childcare to afford us rehearsal time!

December 14 at Cross of Glory in Hopkins

Fortunately, Nathan graciously decided against firing his accompanist despite her being out of commission due to recovering from compound stress of travelling + 3 year old + 9 month old. Things are looking up and Ms. Accompanist is looking forward to tonight’s concert…or so I’m told 🙂 Continue reading

What you Might Hear at “Peace With Us” December Concerts

Our December 2011 concerts are right around the corner – about six hours away for our first one, at a private event in Golden Valley. Tomorow morning is our first public concert, at 10:30 at Cross of Glory Baptist Church in Hopkins, MN; and next week we perform, along with some organists, in our beautiful former home-state of Colorado.

One thing that we’re doing a little different this time around is that we are not printing programs with the song order.  If you are interested in getting the information about the music performed at these concerts, please refer to our Peace With Us page.

Remember, there is no charge for these concerts, but we will have CDs available for purchase.  And – please, please – be sure to sign our guestbook!

Hope to see you soon!

N&N