Len & Kit's Missionary Adventures in California

Monday, February 27, 2017

He Shall Have Music Wherever He Goes...

February 25th Saturday afternoon walk in Fresno.  Within the next couple of weeks many people will take a drive (a couple of hours) on the ‘Blossom Trail’.  It is a route that goes past many orchards in the height of spring bloom.  We are so glad we had meetings around the mission this week so we could get an idea of the glory of spring in CA Central Valley. Rosebushes are putting out lots of new leaves and the snapdragons and pinks that were planted in our apartment complex for winter color are bushing out, with various colored poppies now blooming too.  There are yellow and orange wildflowers in the ditches along the highway. A good season to be in Fresno!

When we were preparing to move to Scottsdale, we made several trips to AZ and while there, attended our new ward. One time there was a special music number where the men were called up from the congregation and sang in unison a hymn they had never rehearsed. We were shocked. Shortly after we moved into the ward, Len was asked to provide a men’s quartet special music number – “unison would be fine”. Of course they rehearsed and they had four-part harmony. The ward members thought it was great and the men loved being part of it too. In a few months the ward music chair asked the men to sing once a month and more voices were added as a 3-4 part men’s choir. It was wonderful!

When we moved and changed wards, Len was called as choir director and had men’s choir and women’s choir numbers as well as entire group pieces. It was no surprise that when he helped Sister Clark prepare the men for their parts in special mission choir numbers for December and January, he also laid the groundwork for future men’s choir numbers. He had the elders run through a beautiful hymn at the end of practice and invited Sister Clark to come listen to their “audition” so she’d know what he had in mind.

This week we had zone conferences in Porterville, Fresno, and Merced. In each case, Len had a men’s choir practice for 30 – 45 minutes before the meeting began, a 4-part men’s choir number ‘Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy’. He had done his homework. He kept track of all the elders who had sung in Dec/Jan and talked to every new elder that entered the mission to find the ones who liked to sing. Len invited President Clark to sing baritone with him in the group and got a commitment. He texted invitations to all the known singers and talked it up at every apartment we visited and to elders who came into the mission office. He made calls to be sure the strongest singers would be there to lead their section, and supplied music to those who wanted to practice on their own. He asked President Clark to put invitations and reminders in his weekly mission letter. Time-wise, the rehearsal was the small part of the project.

Everything worked out very well. The performances varied, but were all really good. The first group was largest, with the strongest high tenor section, the second group was fervent and most powerful on the deep bass of this hymn, and the last group had a sweet sound and was stellar on the double pianissimo final chorus. The hymn’s message applies perfectly to missionary labors and serving others.

Let The Lower Lights Be Burning

In the mid 1800s Philip Paul Bliss was directing the singing for a series of services being conducted by the well-known preacher Dwight L. Moody. As he closed his message, Moody told the story of a boat that was trying to reach a harbor amid a treacherous storm. The ship’s captain could see the lighthouse, but the lower lights had gone out. The captain attempted to land anyway, but missed the channel and crashed the boat into the rocks, losing many lives to a watery grave. The message of the hymn is, “The Master will take care of the great lighthouse; let us keep the lower lights burning.” That was all Phillip Bliss needed to write one of his best-known hymns, “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.”

          Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy OR Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

          Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from His lighthouse evermore;
          But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.

          Chorus: Let the lower lights be burning; Send a gleam across the wave!
          Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.

          Dark the night of sin has settled; loud the angry billows roar;
          Eager eyes are watching, longing for the lights along the shore.

          Trim your feeble lamp, my brother! Some poor sailor, tempest tossed,
          Trying now to make the harbor, in the darkness may be lost.

Lots of love from Len and Kit