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December 16, 2003
Vol. III, No. 35

"Be Like Mike?"
On the walk to church this past Sunday morning, I had been trying to work out in my mind some details concerning my Christmas Eve concert when, as is all too typical, my mind started wandering. I soon found myself contemplating my schedule, I guess in regard to finding some extra practice time, and realizing that, as I have gotten older, there has been a progressive calcification of my weekly routine (among other things). Sunday is obviously the first day of my week. By Friday afternoon, I'm exhausted. Saturday is some kind of delicate balancing act between trying to relax from the previous week's work and having to prepare for the week's work to come. My schedule is full and I become painfully aware of that when I try to cram more into it.

We church musicians have it rough at the holidays, dealing with an increase in professional obligations on top of a season that already adds to our personal obligations. I started thinking that maybe church musicians could use a little help striking that balance between the personal and professional. Maybe what we need is a role model.

A while back, Nike had an ad campaign encouraging everyone to Be Like Mike (Michael Jordan, basketball star). Now, that's fine for most people but we organists need a role model we can relate to. I say we need look no further than good old Bach himself. Be Like Bach? How about Walk Like Bach? Yeesh, nope. I'll stick with Be Like Bach.

We'll never know the minutiae of Bach's day-to-day but I've never met a person whose work didn't reveal something about how they lived their life in general. When I look at Bach's compositions, I see a delicate balance between, on one hand, strength derived from an emphasis on structure and, on the other hand, sheer inspiration and freedom of creativity. Bach's success at balancing these two seemingly disparate elements seems to be in direct correlation to what we do know about his life.

Bach appears to have been a well-balanced person. He found time for his family plus his extended family and friends. He obviously found time for work but also for entertainment and self-improvement as well. Now, just because Bach could do it all doesn't mean we can. Clearly, Bach had talents we can only dream of. However, the role model's job is to show us what is possible. Through the role model we have someone to emulate, a life to aspire to.

So as we enter the final stretch of this trying yet exhilarating season, my holiday message is this:
Be Like Bach and have a good show!
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Updated Pages
Composition Free Exchange:
It's Christmas time and brings you the gift of free organ music. Victor Frost has generously provided for distribution his Twelve Voluntaries for organ. They are arrangements for organ of pieces that he has composed over the years for other instrumentations. I've played through them and there's plenty of music for all levels of playing and tastes. Thank you, Victor! More info about the pieces is available in Victor's program notes at the link below, as well as the pieces themselves:

Articles Library:
On a sad note, added is the obituary of Dirk Flentrop. "Dirk A. Flentrop, a Dutch organ builder who influenced a generation of American counterparts in making pipe organs that play and sound like the classical Baroque instruments of Bach's time, died at his home in Santpoort, the Netherlands, on Nov. 30, his company, Flentrop Orgelbouw, announced. He was 93. Mr. Flentrop headed the company, which is based in Zaandam, from 1940 to 1976. He took over from his father, Hendrik Flentrop, an organist who founded the company in 1903." Click link below for more.

WHAT I'M READING..."BODY & SOUL" by Frank Conroy -- This novel could be about me. A poor boy, born in New York City, finds out through an intricate series of life events that he is a prodigy at the piano. OK, I wasn't born in New York City and I'm not a prodigy but I was born poor. Actually I'm still poor. Not much of a story there. For a real story, access an excerpt from "Body & Soul" by clicking the link below:

Have a good week.

Dan Long

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