DON’T LET THE OLD MAN IN

Our prayers change as we grow older. They change as Life’s river twists and turn, and slowly we’re flung up on the banks of the mainstream where the erosion of our flesh sets in.

I can’t hear as well as I once did. When I’m sitting in a group I try to talk, but I’m really not hearing what others are saying. I mis-hear or talk over someone who is in the middle of their thought…and I’m corrected with a chuckle or rolling of the eyes more times than not. It’s not mean spirited, but eventually for them….tiresome. So now…I just stay out of the mix. I feel isolated….momentarily alone. As for the studio and producing…no more…the page has long turned.

People are kind to me.

As a result of total blindness for a period of months earlier in my life… and macular degeneration,I’m what you call..”partially sighted.” It’s becoming more difficult to play my cello in a group because it requires that I read a chart…and I can’t blow my music up any larger. Maxed out.

I feel like a straggler, cut off from the herd, and the happiness I once had being in the orchestra with my buddies, is now quickly fading ….I know I’m going to have to let go. Life is a series of letting go.

It sounds like a forlorn lament of one hopeless…but here’s the catch. God has work for me to do…and He gives me the ability to do it. I’m joyfully pressing ahead and writing more then ever. I was born for this season. I’m not the best or worst…I don’t keep score…I just create and try to improve ….and these physical conditions are just a bump in the road homeward. For me…and for all my winter friends …THAT’S some Good News!!!

Toby Keith helped me along the way with his latest song. Don’t Let The Old Man In. Listen, and be encouraged. Cheers!!! ❤️

NASHVILLE SESSION SINGERS (Way Beyond Grateful)

The holidays are a great time to celebrate stuff. So while we’re in a celebratory spirit, i’d like to honor some folks. In my world, the studio is a hot bed of creativity, energy, exacting expectation and great pressure to perform. There are some amazing people who have been a constant in my career for most of my adult life. I’m talking specifically about the studio session singers and instrumentalists in Nashville. Although this blog concerns our session singers, I will be writing about our Nashville instrumental musicians in an upcoming post as well (this will include drummers… just a little studio humor).😮

I bumped into Shelley and John Jennings today. She’s a consummate session singer here in town with artistry of tremendous swath. She works with similarly -gifted singers here in Nashville. If I started naming each one, this blog would go on far too long. But seeing her today was a catalyst of great emotion for me, and I needed to write through my feelings.

Every time I see one of these singers, I just want to cry because I’m so unbelievably grateful to them. So often in this town, talent is taken for granted. Some don’t realize the quality of musician with whom they’re working. People just assume that this is how it is everywhere. Well it isn’t. The competition is fierce, and only the cream rises to the top. Conversely, there is a tremendous spirit of camaraderie among the established singers.

Here’s their life from my perspective. Often they’re singing demos, jingles, choral sessions or live gigs from 10 in the morning till 9 at night. They are asked to scream their heads off all day long, and with full throttle emotion. Sometimes they’re asked to read charts that make no sense at all. There have been instances in a choral session where the client asked the singers to make up their own parts. Wacko stuff. Within the body of singers, there are those who actually act as arrangers and producers to move things along. They get no credit for that.

They have to put up with producers, I’ll confess, like me who say “that was perfect, let’s do it again.” They’re thinking, well if it was perfect, why are we doing it again. That is an obsessive paranoidal compulsion that I have gone to the confessional booth to ask for forgiveness and absolution many times….and I’m not even Catholic. (Trust me… I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg of all the missteps I’ve made with singers)

They have to put up with the mercurial nature of clients, artists, producers, arrangers as well as the recording and publishing companies. Sometimes they’re really busy and sometimes it’s dead. It’s certainly not an easy life.

I got a note of thanks the other day from Evie…my sweet sis. She told me how beautiful the choir sounded on a song we recorded 30 years ago. Those voices are the voices of whom I’m speaking. It wasn’t my voice. I just mix the salad….and put the right ingredients together. When you’ve written a song…they sing it back to you…and your musical dreams are realized… it’s stunning…..that’s what they do on daily basis.

So I celebrate you. I celebrate you because in every session you come with a smile, regardless of the struggles you’re going through or how you feel physically. You give your best even in the most mundane situations. You answer the call, you are professional and exacting with each note, phrase and breath.

I just wanna hug each of you over and over and over again. Thank you SO much for all you’ve done for me. I am way beyond grateful.

PAM’S BIRTHDAY

I woke her up this morning, sang happy birthday to her and kissed her. She really likes that. We both do.(i’m not much of a singer, but she doesn’t seem to mind)

I love this picture of Pam when she was little. It speaks so much about her. She is a tender, loving and very caring woman….but to be sure…she is strong, and a leader. She is the consummate champion, counselor, encourager, and understands what it is to persevere. I never get tired of posting things about her.

Her love for me, like her faith, is unshakable. She is a mindful partner, thinker, and we love our conversations of life, theology and philosophy.

No better wife, friend, mother or grandma….Just ask her kids. So Pam….Hope this day is fabulous for you!!!! It is for me, because it’s another chance to tell my friends how I feel about you. Cheers, baby!!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! 🎈🎂 ❤️

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

I was never one to sully the Christmas spirit by trying to find out what presents I was getting before Christmas Day. I would never ever have thought to look in my parents closet, under their bed or in the trunk of the our car where they usually were. I want to make it perfectly clear I would never stoop so low as to steam open the packages under the tree when my parents were gone, it just wasn’t like me to do something like that.

Every year it seemed, our dog would get into the presents under the tree. It was really bizarre, because one year we didn’t even have a dog….😮

IF NOT JUST FOR ME

Okay…I know theologically that people aren’t the same as angels, and people don’t “get their wings.” Now that you understand that I understand this, I will feel the freedom for a little poetic license in this blog of mine.

Other than our immediate family, God sends us extraordinary people at different times in our lives. Ones that are obvious divine gifts…. beautiful angels I think. Curiously, I’ve had three strong women in my life named Holly. They have inspired me, encouraged me, helped me, strengthened me, loved me and cared for me. I will tell you about them in the order in which we met.

First is my treasured niece, Holly Nelson. She was a bright shining light wherever she went. She gravitated to those that others missed in the fury of life. A gifted artist, she lived and loved in a home that was filled with music. We could hardly wait to see what she would do next as she continually made all of us feel that the world was a field of blossoming hope. To soon she would be gone. At age 25, there was an accident, and she was off to better things…. heavenly things. The hurt of missing her has never left my heart.

Next, Holly Krig-Smith is an amazingly exceptional person. For years she managed my life when I was a producer, songwriter and publisher. Never have I experienced the rare combination of total professionalism and genuine people skills as she has. It’s hard to explain. Let’s just say there was never a time that I wanted or waited for anything related to scheduling, studio preparations, travel arrangements, hiring or handling difficult people problems. Her work was meticulous and the companies with which I worked were given immaculately detailed budgetary and album credit Information. It was like she could read my mind and had already handled any issue. She is kind, brightly creative, understood the song world perfectly, and all while being the organizational center of the planet. She loves Pam and the children, and we love Steve, Maddie and Emma. We don’t see each other often, but keep up and cheer for them from a distance. She is the director of Fine Arts at King’s Ridge Christian School in Atlanta, and is rockin’ the house in that capacity as well.

One of the most precious of Holly’s is Holly Rudge. In the winter of my days, I am contending with many things that I have recounted in previous blogs. They are daily and limiting all rolled up into one. Holly and I have played in our orchestra at church, for weddings and other occasions. Her family to me is one of the best things that ever happened in this season of my life. Holly instinctively understands me. She knows I can’t see very well and helps me organize my music, makes sure my stand is lighted, that I have the roadmap for each song and that my music is blown up so I can see it. She laughs at my jokes, talks to me and makes me feel like I matter, and in this stage of life, there are occasional days when I’m not so strong..not so sure. How do I possibly describe this kind of tender care? I can hardly wait for her to get to her chair next to me so I can get a hug …and that smile of hers…yeah….the smile. She is extremely sensitive to others, a fabulous musician, hard working and always kind. Did I mention that all three of these women are absolutely beautiful? Their faces radiate vulnerability, yet, strength, and each defines what is a radiant servant spirit.

I don’t ever want to forget those who have brought so much meaning to my life. I never tire of being thankful to so many who have done so much. Angels they are…..if not just for me.

ONE BETHLEHEM NIGHT

I’m sitting here in our great room enjoying our lighted tree and the beautiful decorations that Pam has spent so much time putting up. I was in Minnesota eating lutefisk so I can’t take any credit. She did it all.

Christmas and all the decorations have so many different meanings to people. Some see the season as a time of good cheer, goodwill toward men and peace on earth. Some don’t care a bit about Christmas and there are those who are offended by all the hoopla.

This is a picture of a dear, long-time musical friend of mine from Bismarck, North Dakota. Her name is Leslie Smith, and she passed away this week. She is a lover. She is a lover of people, of music, of those with whom she worked….and most of all, of her family, and faith in Jesus the Christ.

I say this because Leslee’s passing points out how deeply meaningful this holiday is to the Christian community. Believers around the world find their eternal hope through the birth of Jesus, His redemptive work on the cross and the Resurrection. It was in these elements that Leslee found assurance as she moved from this life to the next. And all made possible because God came to us by way of a humble, yet glorious personal encounter, one Bethlehem night.

PROUD OF MY SISTER

It’s probably one of the most beautiful sounds you’ll ever hear. The annual St. Olaf Christmas Concert in Northfield, Minnesota.

Not only is there a Christmas concert, but a smorgasbord of Norwegian cuisine including lutefisk and lefse prior to the concert that will fling any cod-blooded norske into nordic ecstasy . This is Mecca, this is Scandinavian Nirvana, This is…..The Promise Land

I come up to the snowy north country at least twice a year. My sister, Sigrid and I are kinda like twins born in different years. We know what the other is thinking…it’s freaky! She’s about 3+ years younger than me. My brother and sister could not possibly be any closer and more proud of each other’s abilities then we are. Just not possible.

Before she and her husband retired in 2015, Sigrid spent the better part of her career as an Artist-In-Residence at this college, conducting the Manitou Singers.

Let’s get one thing straight….my brother and my gifts pale in comparison to our little sister. She operates on an entirely different musical level than either of us. She is a sought after choral clinician and conductor all over the world.

Sigrid is a three time featured lecturer at the World Symposium on Choral Music, and member of the esteemed jury for the Béla Bartók International Choral Competition in Debrecen, Hungary. She has prepared symphonic choruses for Neemi Jarvi, Sir Neville Marriner, David Zinman, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Gerard Schwarz, Edo de Waart, and Leonard Slatkin, among others.

Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf choir, tapped her to takeover the conducting duties of the chorale during his sabbatical. Armstrong said “she has the best ears in choral music.”

Her husband Robert (BJ) Johnson, former manager of musical organizations during his tenure at St. Olaf, is a brilliant marketer and entrepreneurial leader of all things organizational. He concluded his career by receiving an Emmy Award for the television production of the “St. Olaf Choir Concert In Norway.”

Do I seem proud of my sister and her husband….well….I AM!!!!!!