Monthly archives "May 2018"

TAO June 2018–Summer Recess

Summer Recess

What child does not love the freedom of summer vacation? It’s one of childhood’s defining experiences. Those days of aimless freedom and joyful exploration lie at the heart of every working adult’s yearning for liberation from the concerns of work, family, and the world at large. If only we could recapture the essence of summer recess one more time….
According to the U.S. Labor Department, American workers leave several days of their vacation on the table each year. So, what can explain why workers are taking less and less of our allotted vacation time? Is it because our current work environment seems to require self-sacrifice for career advancement? Is financial insecurity motivating some employees to trade away their vacations for more money? Many employers require their workers to use vacation time or lose it altogether. Whatever the reason, Americans are increasingly willing to give up their time off.
This trend perplexes many of our European counterparts. There, vacation time is highly valued, and it is fully enjoyed. On the average, European workers are given at least two more weeks of vacation than we are. In fact, many countries nearly shut down during the month of August, due to the exodus of their workers. Do Europeans know something we don’t?
Well, yes, they do. The U.S. Labor Department survey of work attitudes shows greater life/work satisfaction among both European and American workers who use their entire allotment of vacation time. It seems that time away from work increases our level of happiness with life and with work itself – and it increases our productivity, too. So, when you have an opportunity to get away, use it! When you have time off, mark it in your calendar, whether you know what you are going to with the time, or not. Give your adult-self time to play like a kid on summer recess. I promise, you’ll feel better for having done it.
No matter how active you are during your break, take a book or two with you for your down time. Whether you are planning to travel or not, reading is a great way to get away from it all and to expand your appreciation for the great organ heritage we are share. The Practical Organist is here to help with a few suggestions:

A good novel this time of year is essential for escaping the humdrum of daily life. I have selected several novels with musicians as central characters for you to investigate.
• The Choir, Joanna Trollope (Berkley Traditions). Financial woes at the cathedral brings on pressure to eliminate the costly boys’ choir.
• Until I Find You, John Irving (Ballantine). Young Jack and his mother travel the world in search of his father, who is a talented organist, only to learn that there is more to his story than Jack was told.
• Body and Soul, Frank Conroy (Delta). Follow the development of a musical prodigy from his early discovery as a child into adulthood. A fine description of the inner musical processes from the artist’s point of view.
• The Metropolis Case, Matthew Gallaway (Broadway Books). Travel back and forth through time with four characters who are connected by Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde,” as they grasp at love, both earthly and eternal.
• The Soloist, Mark Salzman (Vintage). His service as a juror in the murder trial of a Buddhist monk and the arrival of a talented new student challenge the comfortable world of a world-class cellist.
• The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremain (Norton). Two Swiss boys become friends during the horrors of WWII. Though their careers diverge, one gaining fame as a concert pianist, the other as becoming a hotelier, their friendship is lost, transformed and regained over a lifetime.
• The House of Silence, Blanca Busquets (Regan Arts). A novel exploring the connections between four people, whose passion for music centers around the mystery of a priceless violin.
• The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, Thad Carhart (Random House). The author discovers secrets about the history of the piano after gaining entrance to an old and exclusive piano shop in Paris.

How long has it been since you have added to your knowledge of the organ, its composers and performers? Let’s look at some interesting books covering the organ’s long heritage:
• Organs and Organists, Jenny Setchell (John Butz). The ultimate fun book for summer reading! Colorful photos and clever cartoons accompany lively stories from the lives of organists around the world.
• All the Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and its American Masters, Craig Whitney
(PublicAffairs). A well-written story of the twentieth century’s best known organ builders and performers who developed the sound ideals of the American Classic Organ.
• Vox Humana: Essays about the World the Pipe Organ and Those Who Play It, Haig Mardirosian (MorningStar 90-57). Long-time TAO columnist, Haig Mardirosian, looks back for historical perspective and forward toward new ideas for our profession.
• Bach—Music in the Castle of Heaven, John Eliot Gardiner (Vintage). A master conductor’s in-depth discussion of Bach, sharing his new insights into the master’s musical world.
• Bach and God, Michael Marissen (Oxford University Press). Seven essays explore the religious and theological underpinnings of Bach’s vocal and instrumental music.

The world of sacred music is filled with great books, both informative and inspirational. Choose one of these to add some breadth to your knowledge world of worship and the ideas that shape it:
• Christian Music: A Global History, Tim Dowley (Augsburg Fortress). Discover the diverse sources of the music that we play and consider the diverse sources that are shaping sacred music for the future.
• Wonderful Words of Life: Hymns in American Protestant History and Theology, Richard W. Mouw & Mark A. Noll (Eerdman’s). On the importance of using hymns to teach the faith, with encouragement to recover their role in worship.
• Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music, Jeremie Begbie (Baker Academic). A look at the connections between music, theology and culture. A fresh perspective how the sound of music can touch the spiritual lives of it listeners.
• A High and Holy Calling: Essays of Encouragement for the Church and its Musicians, Paul Westermeyer (MorningStar 90-65). Words of support and inspiration from one of sacred music’s finest pastoral presences.

Of course, reading is not the only way to spend vacation time. The list of recreational opportunities is endless. Variety is the greatest value, and creativity is the only limitation. Summer recess is an opportunity to relax and renew. So, why not use your summer recess to re-establish the good habits you have let go? There is no better time to review your diet, exercise, your health goals, and spiritual practices. A week of uninterrupted focus on your well-being will prove the true worth of vacation.
A new, fresh perspective after your time away? Experiencing greater happiness at work? Increased productivity? Happy memories of time with friends and family? Well worth the investment of time, don’t you think? Here’s to your summer recess!