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Updated: Jan 15

One year, Vessels of GOLD and the parallel studio group put together a show about “Time.” It was pretty hard work and stressful, but included some great ideas. This year, Vessels Vault is revisiting the show and putting their own personalities and thoughts into it. The show opens with, “Does Anybody Really Know what Time it is?” (Our show orders always said “DARK.”)

Time is one of those things we call “precious” because we feel we don't have enough of it. We waste it, save it, spend it, use it, find it, make it, eat it, savor it, and take the time to think of our own phrases. We’re pressed for time but we always pursue more of it! To our last day, we try to figure out how to make the most of what has been given to us - and time is at the top of that list.

To some, it is so precious that we refuse to be rushed. “If I’m late, I’m late, but I’m going to enjoy this moment.” To others, life is always a rush and we’re always in too much of a hurry to stop and smell the roses - or the home-cooked meal, or the petrichor after an afternoon rain. Most of us are somewhere in between - trying to balance by stopping for a moment, taking a picture, or a breath, or a listen - and then rushing on.

Where is the balance? I think it’s not to be had. The Lord has given us an earth full of beauty and creativity and opportunities and frustration and pain and abundance and need and stopping and starting. If we just didn’t have to sleep - but what a blessing it is to get a “restart” each and every day, and not just when the calendar changes. We lean to one side and then the other and maybe for just a small moment we think we have found that balance and then something pushes us one way or another and there we go trying to stay on the tightrope of life.

At TU, we are often driven by the calendar and the clock. We must plan ahead, but leave room for the spontaneous opportunities that will undoubtedly surprise us along the way. We plan a show, but leave room for a great improv moment that leaves a lasting impression. We plan a camp, knowing that what we achieve in that week will include bits of each individual the Lord has thrown in together at that particular time.

Where am I going? Around and around, looking from all angles. The importance of time, the importance of people. In our rehearsals, we don’t present a script that everyone can learn on their own and walk in to perform. It’s the collaboration and the cooperation and the unique qualities of each cast member that turns out a creative, never-to-be repeated “product” shared with a one-of-a-kind/one-at-a-time audience. The individuals with their own circumstances walk through the door and give their time to influence and be influenced by all those around.

Time together is important, so being present is important, so being on time is important. Are there exceptions? Always. We worked through a pandemic shutdown. It was different. Hopefully not an experience to ever be repeated, but a time to be creative nonetheless. Even that required being “there” and on time. The other day we spent TWO hours going from the studio, and then back past the studio to go east in order to go south in order to go west to get home. Things happen. In that case, someone actually died at the daily-passed Country Walk intersection. Be careful out there. One morning I was rear-ended and missed an entire rehearsal. More recently I broke my scalp and missed a rehearsal. Things happen that disrupt our plans and our “time.” But not every day. Not every week. We can live in this crowded city and make good use of the time given to us.

We know that the GPS can only estimate travel time, but never accounts for the wreck or the real effects of construction in the calculation. “But I don’t want to get there too early.” Why not? Get there early and then take some quiet moments - inside or outside. Coffee, an audio book, a conversation, a song - things that might not happen if it’s just “run to the car, bring your breakfast, get dressed along the way, have a hurried conversation, get out quick - RUN!!! You’re late! I’ll order you some food.”

Why not, hey, if we get there early, we’ll go together and pick out some good food at the grocery store, and have a little breakfast while we’re at it? Why not pretend that you need to be everywhere ½ hour before you really need to be there? We think that half hour of sleep will make the difference. Maybe. Maybe not. Did you not get enough sleep because of sickness, worry, a critical conversation? Maybe. Was it watching one more in a binge or maybe a “quick check” of your social media? (Is anyone able to do a “quick check” and does it lead to a restful sleep?) Build in some padding and enjoy the extra time - when you get it - as an unexpected gift to yourself, your family, our Holy Friend. Then when the real unexpected happens - well, you still get to be there (usually) and give and receive the time together.

Does anybody really know what time it is? Time to make the most of the time that’s been given to us.

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Updated: Jan 15

When I ask the general question, “Do you read music?” I get a variety of answers. Often they go somewhere along the lines of something that Good Boys Find After the Cat Eats Grass…and treble clef and hole notes and those other ones. Some have learned piano or guitar from watching YouTube and many love to sing. Singing is cool because you always have your instrument with you and absolutely everyone CAN sing (although some have been told or will say that they “can’t”).

We ALL love music, in one form or another. We may appreciate an artist or a style or have a broader, more eclectic approach, but there is something for all of us. Isn’t that amazing? I posted a letter that Helen Keller wrote about “listening” to Beethoven. Incredible the depth of appreciation she had for the nuances of voicing and the complexity of the rhythms. Worth reading!

To participate in music, whether singing along with a recording, or responding with movement is so innate and universal. I call that God-given. It’s a part of us. Music is not a thing that “some people do,” or that “some have a talent for.” It is a part of our very soul. Many great books have been written that explore these depths and I’m not even trying to summarize those works. I’m heading somewhere else.

We communicate through spoken and written words and even body language. Why? Because we are not “made” to live alone. Whether we are “good” at speaking or “talented” as a writer, we ALL “speak” and “write” (even if it’s with our thumbs or pictures). If music is so universal, does it not make sense that we can benefit by more clearly understanding some of the layers and participating in the communication?

I’m going to dive right into our "little choir that could" as a prime example right now. We have a wide range of ages and “abilities” walk through the door and look at the coded dots and lines on a page that are accompanied (usually) by words. Each person is asked to follow along and have a part in producing a sound that together makes something we couldn’t do separately. We hope the group sound is pleasant and that the result is more than satisfying to the ear. Sometimes what we produce is less than perfect and might even be worth a good laugh (which happens a lot, actually). But we are working and learning together. It’s like having a guided conversation about a wide range of topics. At times we choose to share what we’ve done with others, and sometimes we just keep it to ourselves.

No one is required to understand all the code and we don’t have a lot of time to teach it during our group conversations (aka rehearsal). But the more you “speak” and “listen” the more you understand. You might even feel compelled to learn some things on your own so that you could deepen your understanding of what’s taking place.

We can help you with that. Maybe you don’t live near here, don’t have the time or already know your “ABCs.” That’s fine. Maybe you’d like to try out this choir thing but don’t want to do an extra class. That’s fine. Maybe you don’t want anything to do with anything that has to do with music, or singing, or even more specifically, Talents Unleashed. That’s fine, too. Really. Our Creator has provided so many options. Just be aware of them!

So - to make you more aware of our little world, I’ll let you in on a couple of secrets. 1) Although “Talent” implies a certain level of skill, each and every person can take what they’re given and do more with it.* You can increase your spoken and written vocabulary, and you can do so with music as well. 2) This writer/director doesn’t know everything. 3) The basics of music reading can be taught in a day - even in an hour, and the deepening of understanding will continue with a lifetime of “practice” (just like you practice speaking and reading every day).

This music teacher used to be known as a good sight reader - on piano. You could put a piece of music in front of me and I could get through it pretty well. The code went straight through from the paper into my fingers. However, when it came time to graduate UCF with a degree in music education, I FAILED the sight-singing test. Although I had sung in choirs and performing groups for years (often holding onto the harder 2nd soprano part) and could sing solfege intervals (DO-RE-MIs) in vocal warmups, I had not practiced seeing the code on the paper and producing the right sound on sight. It’s all about what I did with my time. Yes, it’s embarrassing to share this. It was like I could read silently, or have a conversation, but could not read out loud. How did I get through? I had to get some music and practice singing the notes I saw out loud.

Back to the little choir example: Young folks might think it’s for old people who can’t do the more rigorous work of singing with choreography like we often do at Talents Unleashed. And that might be true in some instances! Older people might think that participating in music is something that young people should do as part of some rite of passage, or as part of their general education. You know what I’m going to say now, don’t you? What if there’s a place where we can have a conversation with a broad range of ages about a broad range of topics and end up agreeing in harmony that we have something important to share? If in the process someone wants to increase their vocabulary in order to go more in depth, they might take our “music intensive” or find some ongoing music reading classes.

If not local (or even if you are), you could consider other alternatives, of course. But we’d be honored if you’d consider our modest offerings (oh, I’m sounding like an ad again). That’s OK. To advertise is just to let you know what’s available. You are the consumer and can take it or leave it. But appreciate the access, the process, the talent* that you have been given. Take whatever you have and do more with it - wherever you are, whatever the circumstance. Join us if you can, if you will, or find others and have that conversation.

*There is a story that Jesus told that you can find in chapter 25 of the book of Matthew. Maybe I’ll ramble about that on another day. It’s a good read - and the principle applies. Maybe practice reading it out loud and thinking about applying it to music.

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Sometimes I see it, and sometimes I don’t. I once heard a pastor’s wife asking for help with clean-up. She said “help me see it…” I get that. I’ve never forgotten it. We can get to the point where we just don’t “see.” We put something by the door to take out to the car, to give to a friend...and it sits there for months! Is it just me? We put something IN the car and then never take it out. We get used to moving things from one seat to another, or we make a pile or put it in a box to “go through later.” If it’s not “we,” then me! MY confession. You can tell by the number of manuals for messies I have on my shelf - FIVE. I can’t “see” them either. When I looked up to count, I discovered two books that I could have loaned out recently if I’d remembered they were sitting right in front of me!

Just a couple of days ago we finally got the last (I THINK) of the Christmas decorations put away at the studio. It occurred to me this morning what a disservice I am offering to the students and parents. They either have to “grin and bear it” or they have also grown accustomed to it.

Honestly, I can’t think of a theater, music or dance studio that had everything neat all the time. I defend it as the nature of the work we do that has us continuously moving and adapting, pulling out and putting away. I get it. And I can live with it.

But this morning, I am thinking we could do BETTER. It’s about stewardship. Are we taking care of what’s been given to us? When I wax on about finding a place that would allow for outside and inside and room for “everything,” am I just asking for more clutter? I need to do better. I need to see, and then act. One small thing at a time. I should never go downstairs without trash in my hand. I should never come upstairs if there is something in the stairwell that should be put away. I should never pass through the lobby without wiping something off (like the chalkboard), or refilling something.

Now, I’m not applying a spiritual lesson just to justify this little musing. But, as it usually goes with me, my mind keeps moving forward and then realizes that it can be like this in our life. We clutter it up with things that need to be put away, tossed away, reconsidered, dealt with, etc. We can get so used to NOT looking that we miss something (or someONE) right in front of us that we don’t “see” any more.

Lord, help me see all of it, and teach me, one thing at a time, to manage it.

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