Give Over To The Music [on KS Friday]

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Kerri earns her daily bread as a Minister of Music. Each week she plays two services. The early service is “traditional” and she plays the organ. The second service is “family friendly” and she plays the piano with her band. Music, I’ve learned, serves as the great mountain range between the traditionalists and those seekers who are friendly as families. Just try and play contemporary music to a traditional crowd. I dare you [wear protective gear].

Partially, I suppose, the great divide makes sense. Music opens the door to the inner life, to memory and musings. It can reach beyond reason and language to the heart.  In other words, if you associate your spiritual life with pews, the pipe organ and a hymnal, then even a hint of a guitar provides reason to snap a lock on your door.

Navigating musical entrenchment is, I think, the hardest part of Kerri’s job. There are a few dedicated complainers dug in on both sides of the divide. They miss the greater experience. Lying in wait to find offense they actually miss the music. The divide, after all, is never in the music. It is the creation of the listener.

More than a few times I have opened the door to the organ and stepped inside while Kerri plays. It’s a very big instrument and there is literally a door on either side. If, like me, you desire to be inside an instrument while it is playing, seek a big organ. You will vibrate with the music (…well, you vibrate with every note you ever hear but the intensity of the inner-organ experience makes it obvious). I used to have pals that played the didgeridoo and standing within a pipe organ has a similar feel. Ancient. Deep rumble. It shakes the gunk from your soul.

And then there is the piano. There is the player. And, in Kerri’s case, the piano becomes an extension of the player. Playing the piano is how she shakes the gunk from her soul. I’ve written about this before so my old-guy-apologies for telling the same story again and again: the first time I heard her play I was standing next to the piano and the energy that came through her almost knocked me down. She is little and she became a giant. Vast. Deep. It was so powerful I had to hide my weeping. The irony is, of course, that, being in the center of all that power, she has no concept of what happens when she plays. These days, all she really knows is that when her heart hurts or she is hurtling into despair, the only parachute available is to stand at the piano and play. It breaks her fall. The magic comes through and provides lift. The gunk falls off. Her personal divides disappear. That is art.

And, that’s also the greater point. Give over to the music, let it come through, and the dedicated divides disappear. The gunk falls off. The door to the deeper place opens. We vibrate.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE PIPES

 

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find all kerri’s albums on iTunes

organ pipe people website box

 

Noodle [on KS Friday]

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It happened again. We’d just finished rehearsal. Kerri began to play and guitar Jim joined. As the non-musician in the group, my job is to listen and bask in their playing. It’s tough duty but I’ve resigned myself to it. I take my role seriously. So seriously, in fact, that I always make the same mistake. I always assume they are playing a piece that they know. They aren’t.

I can be forgiven for my mistake. First, they are effortless. Easy. Secondly, they appear to know where they are in the piece and also know where they are going. They don’t. They are making it up as they go.

There is a guiding rule in improvisational theatre: say ‘yes’ to the offer coming your way. Go with it, not against it. Listening to Kerri and guitar Jim is like witnessing masters of the rule. Their ‘yes’ is so complete, that they cease being two players and merge into one river of sound. In my mind, this merging is  the very reason, the ultimate purpose of art. When the audience falls into the world of the play, the soul of the witness enters into the soul of the painting, the listener gives over and becomes the music. The tribe knows who they are by the stories they tell. Shared experience. Say ‘yes.’

When they play their final note together, I always ask when they last played the piece. I don’t remember hearing it before. They smile and tell me “Never.” They were noodling. Making it up as they go. Playing together.

It’s like a sand painting. here for a moment and then gone. “No one will ever hear that one again,” Jim and Kerri laugh.

I always wish that I had a recorder running and then, I remind myself that point is not to capture it. I am greedy in wanting to share all that I am fortunate enough to experience. The power of the moment, the potency of the sand painting, is not diminished, rather it is increased, when the wind joins and sweeps the sand away.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on NOODLING

 

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go here for all of kerri’s albums though you’ll find none of her noodling in these many, many albums (there are more albums than seen here).

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Reflect On It [on KS Friday]

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I so loved Kerri’s post yesterday that, today, I’m reflecting it back to her.

Do we ever really know what it takes to do someone else’s job? We don’t know the tools used, the research done, the years of training and experience, how someone perceives their own work. We can only guess and, most often, fall desperately, arrogantly, audaciously off the mark.

Kerri’s piano dominates her studio. A black 6’7″ Yamaha grand. It is not a show piece, it is a workhorse. Littering the music stand are stacks of composition notebooks, idea journals, sketches (she is visual) and pile after pile of church music – old hymnals, new downloads of pieces she’s considering for her ukulele band, choir or handbell choir. On the floor are several heavy binders arranged in alphabetical order with the music already played, binders from the 30 years of experience as a minister of music. There is yet another stack reserved for pieces she’s considering playing with Jim, her brilliant guitarist. Lining the walls are ukuleles, a few guitars, a cello, a keyboard, several music stands, more stacks of the original recordings of her albums (note: they are not stored as sacred artifacts. Rather, they are piled willy-nilly for easy reference). My wife is a Yamaha artist (look it up) and her constantly shifting studio topography (ever-moving piles) is testament to the music in her soul, her very-long history of artistry.

Now, I’ve sung a song or two in the shower. When I met Kerri I told her that I didn’t sing and she fairly quickly called my bluff. I sing in her choir. I delight in singing with her and Jim. They are kind and pretend that I add something to their mix. Nowadays I can even pick out a slow tune on the ukulele!

All of this, however, does not make me capable of really understanding how Kerri plays or composes. I can pluck a note. I can warble a song. I will, however, never have mastery of all the instruments, I will never approach her capacity to transpose on the fly, or compose poetry and melody. I will never hear the nuance she hears, the music of silence. I do not have a natural gift of music nor an entire lifetime to exercise and explore it.

I do not know the tricks of the trade she has accumulated over decades of honing her expertise. Nor do I know the knowledge base she brings about other artists, other musicians and compositions, the instrumentation, the way she ‘feels’ an audience and adjusts, the very technical details and the very heart-based intuitions she has learned through many, many years of study and practice. I can’t understand or even try to predict the amount of time it takes (or doesn’t take) for her to conceptualize, to explore, to create, to review, to assess, to adjust, to re-create. I can respond to her work but I cannot define it, nor would it be credible for me to even try to do so. Out of respect for her work, this ‘music’ that is one of the essential things that define her, I know that I really have no idea. I will never approach all that she knows. What I can do is appreciate the enormity of her talent, the endless hours of study, pursuit, practice, passion, experimentation, frustration, rehearsal, writing, performance, teaching, research, recording, pondering, pounding and playing and playing and playing – a lifetime of experience – that has brought her to this place where she creates beautiful music that seems to take no effort whatsoever.

Making it look easy. It takes a lifetime. The woman who delivers our mail has been a postal carrier for 30 years. It is hubris to think I know what that takes. It is utter arrogance to think I could pick up a mailbag and simply know what she knows, do what she does. Experience is invisible. Value is too easily reduced to dollars and cents. As Kerri wrote yesterday, with regard to anyone, the work they do, the life-path they bring to their work, we have no idea. It is both humbling and respectful to take a step back and consider the invisible, to remember that what appears easy comes from years and years of very hard work.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on KS FRIDAY

 

 

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Pause [on KS Friday]

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Interlude. A pause. Breathing space. The silence between the notes. The space with no name. Untitled.

It seems that we, like all the people in our community, entered the new year exhausted. Our season celebrating the return of the light has become a season of rush and dash with nary a moment to reflect. Kerri said, in a moment of exasperation, “The bears are sleeping through this!” Nature knows what we are supposed to be doing in these dark winter months. Resting. Quiet in the branches sends all the good energy to the roots.

Take a moment. Listen. Breathe. Send some good UNTITLED INTERLUDE energy to your roots.

 

UNTITLED INTERLUDE from the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes and CDBaby. Purchase the physical CD here.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNTITLED INTERLUDE

 

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untitled interlude/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Give Optimism [on KS Friday]

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Margaret has always been an inspiration to me. She is an artist, a maker of quilts. She is one of those rare and gifted people who enter the room and immediately all hearts are flooded with sunshine. Even on my greyest day she has invoked lightheartedness in me. When I see her and I smile.

Yesterday we received her Christmas card and letter. I can’t wait for Kerri to meet Margaret. She is a bit like Kerri’s mother, Beaky. Bright light, teller of stories. In her letter, Margaret wrote of optimism and enthusiasm, of recognizing early in her life that she’d been given those two important gifts and how they had many times carried her through her challenges.

Kerri’s THIS SEASON could be Margaret’s theme song. It is a stroll of window shopping optimism. It is a quilter making a warm and giggle-inspiring quilt for her grandson. It is a mother’s anticipation of visiting her children. Listening to THIS SEASON I am warmed with a quiet enthusiasm. What could be better gifts to give or receive?

 

THIS SEASON on the album THIS SEASON available on iTunes and CDBaby. Better yet! Kerri is having an ABUNDANCE SALE of THIS SEASON. She is selling the CD for $5 to the first 100 people who order. Go here to grab your copy

read Kerri’s blog post about THIS SEASON

 

art sale december 2018 copy

 

onthecapecloseup website box copy

this season/this season ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

Play The Same Stuff [on Merely A Thought Monday]

string bass with frame copy“If you are a chef, not matter how good a chef you are, it’s not good cooking for yourself; the joy is in cooking for others – it’s the same with music.” ~will.i.am

I lived most of my life believing I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was convinced that I had a tin ear. I was afraid to sing. I carried a guitar (I named her Magnolia) with me for years – a gesture of hopefulness amidst my absolute commitment to my ineptitude – and finally gave it away to someone who could play it. An instrument needs to be played and I felt I was being selfish holding onto a guitar that I would never play. Oh, how I wish I had Magnolia today.

I didn’t just make up my fear of music. I had plenty of reinforcement, lots of shaming, before I committed to a story of I CAN’T. Over time, with more and more horror experiences, my story solidified into I WON’T. Ever. Close the door. Kill the desire.

When I met Kerri – a consummate musician – I told her this: “You have to know two things about me. I don’t sing & I don’t pray.” A few months later we were driving back roads in Georgia, windows rolled down, a James Taylor CD blaring, Kerri singing at the top of her lungs, I thought it was safe to sing along. She’d never hear me. But, she did. She burst into tears and pulled the car off the road. I shook like a leaf but we sang together and it was grand.

It took her about 15 minutes to identify my obstacle. I had to relearn how to hear. That’s it. It took a few months and a willingness to mightily miss notes and my scary story of CAN’T crumbled. I learned how to feel the sound. The music was there all along.

Here’s the magic for a beginner like me: when I am rehearsing with the ukulele band or singing in the choir, I am capable of so much more than when I am practicing by myself. Playing the same stuff elevates everyone. It’s as if we transcend ourselves. Actually, we do transcend ourselves. We sync up and the energy uplifts everyone. Even me. Especially me, a toddler in knowing that I CAN.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PLAYING THE SAME STUFF

 

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Sail The Silence [on KS Friday]

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Albert used to come by my studio each evening and pick me up. He knew me well and feared my studio solitude. He’d take me to a coffee house and sit with me until I recovered my capacity to converse. He’d wait until I was capable of crawling out of my silence. We’d laugh when I finally “returned.”

He was right to fear. I didn’t know at that time that the work of an artist – the real work – is to comprehend and navigate their silence. To sail the immensity. We live in this odd age of the individual so an artist’s life is often like solo spelunking. So many get lost in their caves – as I almost did – or their fame (same thing).

My brother-from-a-different-mother recently directed a play. It was a great success. He wrote in the midst of his play’s triumph to tell me how hard he has to work at giving himself any credit. He wrote, “It’s amazing to think how *surprising* that might be for non-artists…” Silence, as he knows, is vast. It is bigger than any single person. When a work of art comes from the vastness it is nearly impossible to claim it. I didn’t tell him that his wrestling match is the mark of a mature artist. How do you claim the ocean or the universe? Success for an artist, unlike the success of a dentist or business person, is an infinite game.

Kerri’s SILENT DAYS could be the soundtrack for the infinite game, sailing into the immensity of the silence. She knows its yearning and awe and brings it back to share with us. I tell myself that she composed SILENT DAYS so others, unfamiliar with their silence, might catch even a small glimpse of life in the boundless places.

 

 

SILENT DAYS from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SILENT DAYS

 

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silent days/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood