Monday, July 5, 2010

The Band

I have always been interested in music.  Our family had a record player and I would love to listen to classical music on it.  There wasn't a huge selection of music to choose from, just a couple of German love songs (talk about an oxymoron), oompah bands, John Wayne's "Green Berets", and twenty or so Southern Gospel albums with music straight out of the 1940s (and not the good Big Band stuff.)  But for one of my birthdays, I got a recording of Handel's Messiah and some Chopin Etudes.  When I was a little older, I got a copy of "Switched on Bach" and enjoyed listening to some of the first electronic music played on a Moog synthesizer.  Little did I know that many years later I would be playing a Kurzweil K 2500X and recording my band's music on a cutting edge laptop computer.

Music was a huge part of Belmont Gospel Church.  Sunday School was always started by a time of singing led by Brother Wally Gebhart.  He would pick most of the songs, but the Sunday School students would get to pick one or two and one of us would almost always shout out "The Rose of Sharon".  I don't remember song lyrics well, being focused mainly on chord patterns as a musician, but I can sing every word of that song unto this day.

Our pastor's wife put together a very good amateur choir and we would sing "Special Music" at almost every morning and evening service.  They were classic SATB Southern Gospel songs and most of the music was fairly forgettable.  But it did lend a lot to each service.  My mom sang in the choir for many years and when I got to my mid-teens, I joined with several others from the youth group.  Probably the high point of my church choir experience was the Singing Christmas Tree.

The picture quality is terrible, but you get the idea.  I am in the second row from the top on the right.  Sister Klaus, the director, is on the bottom left and my first piano teacher, Carole Gebhart is on the bottom right.  Interestingly enough, these Singing Trees were quite the rage in evangelical circles and every once in a while you would read about one of them collapsing.  Ours never did and we really did put out some excellent sounds.

In high school, I played tuba, sousaphone, flugelhorn (think Chuck Mangione), and trumpet.  By my senior year I got to play first chair, first trumpet in Lane Tech's concert band.  Our 100 member band was top notch and the school had won city and state championships for years (read decades) on end.  When other high school bands were doing "Paint Your Wagon" and "Theme from Shaft", we were doing Holst's "Planets", Rossini's "Overture to Semiramide", Husa's "Music for Prague 1968" and Sousa's "Washington Post March".  It was a first rate music education from the Chicago Public Schools.

I also got to play a duet with Phil Nava at a Mission on Grand Avenue, just off the Kennedy Expressway.  The song for the evening was "Onward Christian Soldiers".
a history of this mission.

I gave a testimony as to the Lord's saving grace and we played our song.  Phil then preached and we talked to a few of the ladies that were spending the night in the Mission.  It wasn't the last time that I've done music in the service of God's realm.

Fast forward to July 4, 2010.  Kathy and I have the band over for our yearly Fourth of July Celebration.  I've been with these guys and gal for almost fourteen years now.  We do music on a pro bono basis for various church outreach ministries.  Most of our stuff is written by band members but we also do some takes on Spirituals and Gospel Songs.  (A little different take than years ago at Belmont Gospel!)  We've been part (not always big) of raising over a hundred thousand dollars for various groups.  Most of all, we've been a team for all this time, watching each other's kids grow up, parents die, and growing older ourselves.  Danika was 12 years old when the band started.  Now she sings and plays with us.

Back to the band party...

The view from our balcony is beautiful, with the city stretched out in front of us.  We have a meal of Burgers with either Chipotle Chili or Cheddar Cheese mixed in.  There are incredible brats, sauteed onions, homemade pickles, oven fried russet potatoes, freshly picked corn on the cob (bought in Michigan the day before) and for dessert, vanilla ice cream with a homemade blueberry sauce.  (Don't worry... you'll get the recipe!)  At 9 PM we go out onto the balcony and watch the horizon light up like a field of flowers with beautiful fireworks.  It is truly a satisfying time of celebration for a very unique group of people.

I am so thankful for the music in my life...  it has been one of God's greatest gifts to me.

Blueberry Sauce to Die For...
8 cups Blueberries (You can use frozen)
1 cup Sugar
8 Tablespoons Corn Starch
1 cup Creme de Cassis
1 cup Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
2 Lemons, Juiced

1. Put the blueberries, creme de cassis, and orange juice in a pot and heat until blueberries begin to give off juices.
2. Mix sugar and corn starch.  Add to the blueberries and bring to a very slow boil, stirring constantly.
3. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the corn starch thickens and the sauce gains clarity.
4. Can be served hot, cold, or warm over anything you want to put it on!

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