Geralyn Anderson is another one of the marvelous soul sisters that I have found across the world wide web. What did we do before the internet could connect us to so many inspiring people? She is unfailingly uplifting and I appreciate the generosity she shows in sharing her story as part of the How Can I Keep from Singing? series.
The spiritual qualities of music have long been felt and talked about, as we hear proverbs such as, “Music calms the savage beast”; “He who sings, prays twice;” or “Music is well said to be the speech of angels.” To write about a piece of music that has affected me spiritually is like reflecting on how beauty captivates the soul; both go hand-in-hand in a mysterious way that can only be described as an exchange of love, a gift and a grace.
But if I am thoroughly honest, I am being challenged from the inside-out at this very moment in articulating my reflections on the transcendental capacity of all music, let alone religious music. It is almost as difficult as concentrating in prayer, because while I like to claim that I constantly feel the presence of God in the goodness that is this life, I am in fact writing to you from a place of spiritual dryness. Similarly, while I know from experience and have felt it with the heart many times over, that music has shaped me, transformed me and affected my spirituality, it is another thing to choose one for sharing when I am exhausted. How does one reflect, ponder and write about being unable to ‘keep from singing’ when one feels no song to sing? A hurdle though this task may be, let me assure you that ‘this is my desire…’
For the record I’d like to state that I am not a musician and I do not sing loudly, but I do have music in my blood. I had the privilege of growing up in a household and family where it oozed through the walls, teaching me that passion for music is universal, and that music reaches everyone. My mother’s father, who lived with us during my childhood, was a brilliant jazz musician who in his heyday thrilled the night clubs and hotels of old Singapore, performing for and with local and international celebrities, including American clarinettist, Tony Scott, to name one. It was the 1950s and ‘60s, and Papa’s own brother would go on to introduce jazz music and the saxophone to the king of Thailand, to this day, an avid jazz-lover. But the thing about my grandfather was that out of everyone in the family, he was the epitome of prayer and music, intertwined. His song was about life and living, and praising God, no matter what, composing even until his dying days. I have memories of Papa sitting at the table, putting notes onto the stave as meticulously as a medieval monk would have transcribed parchment. There are memories of him playing his clarinet and saxophone at my brother’s wedding reception during the early stage of his treatment, struggling at times with his breath, but so focussed and intent on celebrating. Then there are also the stories of him sharing his passion for music: by transposing all the parts for the instruments in the concert band so each one had sheet music from which to play, contributing to the life of various local parishes in church music groups and opening up his music room to anyone who wanted to play an instrument.
Papa died over ten years ago and my children did not get a chance to meet him. But the love and importance of music lives on. As challenging as today has proven in writing this, I have done so in fidelity to the cause (it’s often easier to back out of something), while listening repeatedly to a recording that my friend sent me; his rendition of Michael W. Smith’s Lord, I Give You My Heart. Though I have more challenges to face, it is prayer enough to listen with an open and gentle heart:
This is my desire
To honour You
Lord with all my heart
I worship You
All I have within me
I give You praise
All that I adore is in You
Lord, I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
Every breath that I take
Every moment I’m awake
Lord, have Your way in me
And in the end, I find that a little part of me somewhere has begun to heal, to pray – and to sing!
I would like to thank Margaret for the opportunity to contribute to such a wonderful series of reflections. This post is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Lawrance Francisco; to my mother, without whom I could not claim such lineage and to my dear friend, Bernadinus Asmon, whose passion and talent for music, among other things, would render him ‘one of the family’.
Geralyn Anderson blogs at: www.keeping-company.com as Mission and Identity Promoter for the Faithful Companions of Jesus Sisters (Province of Asia-Australia), Tweets @walkwithyoufcj and is an occasional guest blogger at DotMagis.