When Jesus Walks

Sunday our carillon bell choir was scheduled to play during the prelude and the offertory.  The prelude is a snap, since this is when the congregation is filing in, and the noise drowns out any mistakes that might be made.  The offertory is another story.  It is drop dead quiet and all eyes are fixated on the choir, standing in the front wearing these ridiculous royal blue robes.  The robes are made out of some sort of dense unbreathable polyester concoction, so that you are essentially trapped in your own escalating body heat as all eyes are upon you.   In addition, the mature age of our ladies’ choir guarantees that at any moment several members could erupt in a torrent of hormone-induced sweat, which cannot be discretely addressed since both hands are gripping the bells.  At one particularly suffocating moment, I likened these robes to the memorable coat of gold paint in the James Bond movie, Goldfinger.  The poor starlet died because they did not leave a space at the base of the spine for the skin to breathe.   

For the offertory, the choir director had selected the piece, “When Jesus Walks.”  Apparently this is an established hymn, but the composer had turned this into a jazz piece, and for the entire 5 months we rehearsed this, I never did hear the tune.  I only had 4 bells to play, the low E and F and the accompanying sharps and flats.  The rhythm was very wacky, abruptly switching from 4/4, to 2/4 to 3/4 and then to something called 5/4.  In general, I am most comfortable with a good stolid march, like Onward Christian Soldiers, so this was bewildering.  Also you were supposed to hit the bells differently at different points in the piece, some rung normally, some muffled into the foam pad on the table, some struck with a mallet, some waved in the air, and this was more than my unmusical mind could process.  And in the first two measures I was the only bell that played, where I was responsible for establishing the pace and rhythm, and in the last measure, I had a little solo run.  So my focus was on the beginning and the end, and I figured that any success over the seven middle pages would be just gravy. 

When I first started playing the bells, I diligently tried to play all my notes, which I carefully circled in different colors on the sheet music.  But as time went on, I realized that I did not have to play all the notes, particularly since I was assigned to the low bells that do not carry the tune (however, in this piece I could have been playing the tune but just didn’t realize it).  I could judiciously delete a few notes here and there without telling anyone, and have a stress free experience.  How does the saying go about the slippery slope of compromise?   “God grant me the wisdom to play the notes I can play, and delete the ones I can’t and the grant me the wisdom to know the difference.”  

However, I got it in my mind that I was going to nail this sucker, and after we played the prelude, I took the sheet music back to the pew while awaiting the offertory.  Through various hymns, sermonettes for youth, announcements, joys and concerns, etc, I tapped out the beat on my knees, using my palms for the ploink and a closed fist for the doink.  In the background I could hear the minister nattering on about how humans were as dumb as sheep that inadvertently walk off cliffs, or walk into a corner and can’t back out.  I was a bit irked to be compared to a dumb sheep, but I guess the take home message was that we are so lucky to have someone like JC be our shepherd.    

Anyway as the sermon ended, I leapt up full of confidence.  I should have stuck to the original plan.  The first and last measures were flawless, but the middle was seriously lacking in gravy.  Ploinks were doinks, and sharps were flats, and I felt about as clueless as a sheep stepping off a cliff.  The conductor was desperately trying to shepherd us through this nightmare and to her credit everyone arrived at the end at the same time for the final chord.  She managed a wan smile and quietly said, “good work ladies, that was a hard piece.”  In the aftermath between services, I was delighted to learn that everyone misplayed notes.  One women said that when she was frantically trying to turn the page, she grabbed several pages by mistake.  This is actually quite easy to do, since we are required to wear cotton white gloves similar to the ones that Mickey Mouse always wears, and consequently lose any tactile sense.  However, this women turned so many pages at once that she ended up briefly playing an entirely different hymn, and then when she realized her mistake could not find her way back home!

The missing words in the following poem are all anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, stop, post, etc.)  The number of dashes indicates the number of latters.  One word is at the end of a line and will rhyme with either the preceding or following line.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the context of the poems.  Scroll down for the answers. 

Before the —– of the hymn my nerves jangle and quiver,

 But as the conductor raises the baton, its time to stand and deliver.

 I only have four —– to play but this piece has an odd jazzy beat,

 I freeze up and miss so many of them that my defeat is complete.

 I think I hear a smattering of snickers, moans and groans,

 As the congregation winces at the sound of the dissonant —–.

 Am I the culprit, the mill—– around this choir’s neck?

 Hey – the minister insists we’re not perfect so I say “what the heck.”







Answers:  onset, notes, tones, stone

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