Sunday, August 19, 2007


I've never played an organ solo in church before. My freshman year of college, I played a short recital in the old JSB before it was torn down, but other than that, I have never played for an audience with their listening being my sole intention. Yeah, I play "solos" every time I play postlude or prelude, but who really listens to that?

A couple of months ago, the ward music chairman June, an 85 year old woman in our ward, asked me to play an organ solo. She left a message, and it took me a while to call her back. I didn't want to do it. It would mean at least a few visits and several hours practicing at the church. It's hard to get over there, I can't take the kids, and on and on. But, I agreed to do it, and I have been practicing an arrangement of If You Could Hie to Kolob. I think it's a weird hymn to sing. I don't love the words, and remember as a missionary never wanting it to be sung when we had investigators at church. But, I absolutely love the music.

I had a great time practicing it the last few weeks. It's been a while since I've learned a new piece and really practiced something. The haunting and mysterious melody has been in my head a lot these last couple of weeks.

As I was practicing and learning the different sections, each one connoted a different mood to me. The first section has lots of eighth notes in all three parts and is quite lyrical. The melody is introduced in a fairly standard, but lovely way. In the second section, the melody moves to the left hand and the right embellishes above it. It is more reserved after a strong opening. The third section is firm and steady. The eighth notes disappear and it is more like a march with the melody coming out as a strong and single note. The volume starts to build. In the transition between the third and fourth section, the volume and movement grows and in the fourth section there is more movement in the pedals. The tempo slows, both hands are on the great, and it crests to a majestic ending, with the final notes sounding a major key chord.

To me, the music suggests the mysteriousness of heaven and the unknown and cloaked God. But, at the same time, the music gives a glimpse into the eternal realm that to me is so elusive on a day to day basis.

The performance came off well. I was nervous and shaky, and my mind wasn't thinking of the mysteries of heaven. In fact, my mind seemed blank and my hands seemed to go to automatic pilot. I felt good about it, though, in spite of the nerves and the notes were solid. I got a lot of positive comments. I was thrilled with the "we should have more organ solos" type since I never hear them. Playing organ is such a background part of church and most everything hardly thinks twice about it. I was most touched by the choir director's comments. She was quite moved by the music--she also said that it one piece of music that gives her a glimpse into heaven and with tears in her eyes, she told me that if nothing else had been spoken during the meeting that it would been enough for her. I responded with an emotional thank you and thought to myself that all the hours of practice had been worth it.

My recent church experience has felt quite empty. Most days, I can hardly stand to go to classes, my mind wanders through talks, and I long for a calling that demands spiritual strength from me. But, I am grateful that I was able to have this experience today and be blessed by the spirit in an unexpected way.
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The Thirteenth Tale

Last weekend, I splurged and read some great best-selling fiction, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I tend to shy away from books on the NYT best seller fiction list, but this was recommended by a reader I admire (vicariously, online) and so I reserved it at the library. When my number finally came up, I checked it out, set it aside for a few days, but then decided to get on it since I had a limited two-week, no renewal period to finish and return.

One of the heroines of the book is a bookish, plain woman who has worked at her father's book store since childhood. Margaret loves reading the classics, and Jane Eyre and The Woman in White are referred to quite often. She is inexplicably asked to serve as the biographer for a renown author of fiction, Vida Winter. In the course of the novel, both women's stories unwind in gripping manner.

As Vida's pre-fame, previously cloaked life emerges, the home of her childhood, Angelfield, becomes another character in the book. A large manor, in rural England, I was forcibly reminded of DuMarier's powerful and mystic Manderly, although Angelfield has long since left behind all its days of glory. The house is the guarder of many horrendous family secrets, and at times, the family dysfunction to painful to read.

All in all, a good read. Well written. Recommended.
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

After writing, what? like 5 posts about HP7, I still haven't recorded my overall thoughts on the book. Because it's taken me so long to get here, they will be brief.

HP7 is definitely a coming of age story. I was entirely convinced that there was no way for three young wizards like Harry, Hermione, and Ron to succeed in the horcrux quest without the help of an experienced wizard to help them. I thought perhaps Regulus Black was alive, and that he had already destroyed the horcrux in the Slytherin locket. Nope, and nope. Neither turned out to be the case. And although they did receive help here and there, the trio really did manage to do most of the hard work by themselves. Hermione was amazing, and I loved her beaded purse which Mary Poppins style expanded to fit in all their belongings, which with great foresight she pre-packed.

The increasing complexity of many central characters--Dumbledore, Snape, the Malfoys, and even Dudley--are also a part of childhood and adolescence gone. Harry learns to see the world not in monolithic black and white, but in many shades in between. Yes, Snape does redeem himself in book 7, but he is certainly a Snape conflicted. He doesn't like Harry, he had strong inclinations to the Dark Arts. R made an interesting comment. Rowley portrays Voldemort in a world without love. Snape is kept from being wholly immersed in this reality by his love for Lily, but it is the only thread. (I love the line to Harry when he dies: "Look--at--me." He wants to see Lily's eyes one last time.) The NYT says that Harry et al's experiences in this book are the
"final initiation into complexities and sadnesses of adulthood".

And, that fourth chapter when Harry and the aurors leave Privett Drive was an explosive way to get that theme going. Hedwig's death there, as much as anything, represents Harry's final bit of childhood getting wrenched away him. The section where the Weasleys and Harry were waiting for the others of the group to apparate at the Burrow was nail biting.

Even leaving the wedding with Ron and Hermione, though, Harry hasn't found his leadership stride. That happens so convincingly when he digs the grave for Dobby and then buries him.
The aimless wandering in the first half of the book with the tent as shelter was so painful to read about, yet to me showed how deeply Harry had no idea what to do or where to go.

When we see Snape's recollection of Dumbledore telling him that Harry is a horcrux and must die, I was 100% convinced that Rowling was going to kill Harry off. I started crying and sobbed through the end of that chapter and then through the next where Harry walks resolutely to his fate. I loved his use of the Resurrection Stone in that chapter and his interaction with those he loves: his mother and father, Lupin and Sirius. Beautifully and movingly written.

I love how Rowling brings back so many pieces of her wizard world that we've seen from earlier books: Polyjuice Potion, the Pensieve, the Chamber of Secrets, Lupin and Tonks, Fleur and Victor, Ollivander, dementors and Patronuses, Sir Cudugon, Trewlaney, and the villainous Umbridge

And finally, another quotation from the NYT:
"Choices we are made to see that kindly Dumbledore, sinister Severus Snape and perhaps even the awful Muggle cousin Dudley Dursley may be more complicated than they initially seem, that all of them, like Harry, have hidden aspects to their personalities, and that choice — more than talent or predisposition — matters most of all."

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

My HP7 Predictions, Deconstructed

1. My first theory was about Regulus Black. It turns out that RAB WAS Regulus (but I think everyone figured that one out.) Where I went completely wrong was in assuming that Harry, Ron, and Hermione would need help from a powerful and experienced adult wizard or witch to accomplish the task of finding and destroying the Horcruxes. Although they do receive some help at times, they certainly step up to the job quite ably.

2. I also thought Godric's Hollow would be the location for one of the Horcruxes. Again, I am sadly (but happily) mistaken. All that Harry and Hermione find there is Harry's parents' graves and old home and the creepy Bathilda/Nagini combo.

3. My third theory was also WRONG. We didn't find a single extra thing out about James Potter's family. But, instead we get the whole painful and sad Lily/Snape story. One of my favorite lines in the book was when Snape died, and he says to Harry "Look---at---me." He just wanted to see Lily's eyes as he was dying.

4. DEATHS: Ok, I finally got some right here. Snape was good, and did redeem himself, although his death was not voluntary. (But, again, I think most people thought this would be Snape's redemption story.) Snape, Voldemort, and Fred died, but I was happy that Percy reconciled with his family before Fred's death, unlike my prediction. Neville did find his his wizarding feet, but didn't kill Bellatrix. Mrs Weasley got that pleasure. But Neville was instrumental in eliminating Voldemort's last final link to mortality by slaying Nagini. What I didn't foresee at all was Hedwig and Dobby's deaths. So sad! I did love the scene of Harry digging Dobby's grave and coming into his own as a leader of the quest.

5. And of course, Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione end up happily married, sending their own kids off to Hogwarts.
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Reading Harry

It's been a couple of weeks now that HP7 came out. AJ was magnamious enough to go to Barnes and Noble around 11:00 pm to pick up my reserved copy. I woke up at 2:15 am, wondering where he was, worried that he wasn't home. I finally got out of bed, and found him downstairs reading. He had made it through the first 50 pages. I wanted him well rested for the next day, since he was assuming all child care, so I strongly encouraged him to come to bed.

The next day, I woke up and immediately started reading. My job that day was to read, and only to read. I read and read. AJ took care of the kids, getting them breakfast, taking them to the lake for a good part of the day, and basically keeping them out of my hair all day. I was still in my pj's at 2, when I decided to go to the gym, taking HP with me, of course, to read while I was on the elliptical.

That night was our date night. We walked around Staring Lake, we went to dinner at Biaggi's, compliments of the anniversary gift AJ's parents had given us, and then, since we still had some time left before we needed to relieve the babysitting neighbors, we went next door to B&N where AJ picked up a pristine copy and started reading from where he left off the night before and I continued on to read about the whole crazy incident in Malfoy Mansion.

On the way home, I made a deal with AJ. If he would put the kids to bed, I would read for 45 minutes and then turn the book over to him for the rest of the night. I had every intention of fulfilling my promise. After the kids were in bed, I duly gave him the book and started getting ready for bed. After another half hour or so went by, I remembered that we had no milk and that the next day was Sunday. AJ volunteered to go, and I told him he should take the book with him. But, he declined, saying that there wouldn't be time to read. So, after he left, I picked it back up and read on.

That was my mistake. By the time he got home, I was past the point of no return and was sobbing in my bed, reading. I had to finish it that night. I kept reading. AJ was a bit disgruntled, I think, although he told me not to worry about it and to enjoy reading. He went to sleep and I finished at about 11:30.

He finished the next day. When T was cranky and crazy during church, AJ volunteered to drive him around until he went to sleep. Then, he camped out under a shady tree and read on.

After he finished, I reread the last 100 pages. So much had happened, and I wanted to make sure I got the details right. And then, a few days ago, I decided it would be a good idea to reread from the beginning. Just for fun. Just to capture all those things that I missed the first time. Now, I want to begin at book 1 and read through all of them.

Thursday, a woman from my book group hosted a HP party/book discussion. It was great fun. Although no one dressed up, we ate HP themed food. Pumpkin pasties, gillyweed, butterbeer, Bernie Botts every flavor beans, caldroun cakes, etc.

I did feel some of the HP depression after I finished. No more Harry Potter to look forward to!
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