Saturday, October 20, 2018

Vibrato


One hallmark of a beautiful, expressive singing voice is vibrato, or the regular, pulsating change of pitch that gives the voice a slightly tremulous, vibrant sound. The amount of pitch variation is known as the extent of vibrato, and the speed of pitch variation as the rate of vibrato. Most instruments, particularly stringed instruments, were designed to mimic the vibrato of the human voice.

With no vibrato, the voice is perceived as a pure tone, which may be musically clean if sung at the correct pitch, yet which lacks expression, as in a computer-synthesized tone. Conversely, with too much extent and too little speed of vibrato, it degenerates into a “wobble,” sounding more like the voice tremor that becomes more apparent with aging, or like the effect of playing a warped record on an old turntable.

Some singers try to produce vibrato artificially by moving their vocal apparatus or diaphragm, but in good singers, vibrato is the natural byproduct of the breath and vibration of the vocal cords. Too little breath pressure, and the voice lacks volume as well as vibrato, and pitch often suffers. Too much breath pressure, or attempting to force the voice, results in too much volume, loss of vibrato, and a harsh or strident quality.

But when the right amount of breath passes through the vibrating vocal cords in perfect contact with one another, without the singer pushing, straining, or manipulating the mouth and neck, our natural voice resonates with the unique timbre created by God Himself, as part of His specific design for each of us since before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10; Romans 8:29-30).

When we breathe, we inspire, or take in air by allowing our lungs to inflate. It is no accident that the word “inspire,” according to Merriam-Webster, also means “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration; to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on;” and to spur on, impel, or motivate.

As born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) saved by our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Luke 11:13).

The noun “Spirit” is related to the verb “inspire,” and it is His role to lead (Luke 4:1), guide, quicken (Ephesians 2:1-5), educate (John 14:26), empower (Acts 2:4) and motivate us to greater love for and knowledge of our Savior (1 Corinthians 2:13; 12:3), as well as to better obedience and service in accordance with His perfect plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Holy Spirit is intimately connected with breath, or moving air, for it was He Who moved across the waters in creation (Genesis 1:2), and Who came to the waiting apostles at Pentecost as a mighty rushing wind (Acts 2:2). With the other two Persons of the Trinity, the Spirit “formed man of the dust of the ground, and,breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Jesus compared the work of the Spirit in salvation to that of the wind – we can see His effect on the believer, even though we can’t see Him directly or see where He came from (John 3:8).

Singing is one of the most difficult arts to master, because we can’t see our voice or how our vocal cords and apparatus work together to produce sound, and we therefore can’t learn much from visual feedback, at least not to the extent we can in dance, painting or sculpting.

Whether in singing or in life, we can glorify God only by yielding to His Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). We must allow our being to be filled with His presence as naturally as we allow our lungs to fill with air. If we push or strain, we are exerting our own will against His natural flow, just as oversinging leads to harshness rather than beauty.

The singer must open the throat by elevating the soft palate, allowing the sound to fill the larger space thus created and to resonate in spaces of the head most suited to the pitch of the note, with higher pitches placed higher in the head.  To allow fulfillment of the Spirit’s plan for our life, we must also allow Him space, not cluttering our being with distractions (Hebrews 12:1), and we must allow Him to take our thoughts to a higher plane (Ephesians 1:3,20; 2:6; Philippians 4:8).

For optimal vibrato and sound quality, singers are taught to breathe deeply yet naturally; to avoid distorting the column of vibrating air by adding muscular tension from the torso, neck or head; and to allow the breath to grow through the musical phrase, creating a smooth line rather than a disjointed group of notes.

Similarly, yielding to the Holy Spirit, staying out of His way by not imposing on Him the desires of our will or flesh (Romans 7:14-25), and following His lead through each song of our life will enhance not only our own peace (Philippians 4:7) and joy (Isaiah 61:10), but that of all who hear us.

May we always make melody in our heart to the Lord, uplifting one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). May we sing a new song of praise to Him (Psalm 149:1; Isaiah 42:10), filled with breath and inspiration, allowing His glory to ring forth!


© 2018 Laurie Collett

 



Saturday, October 13, 2018

Watering


I recently dreamed that I was getting caught up on some much needed housework when I discovered a forgotten collection of house plants hidden behind a pile of clutter on a coffee table. I was amazed that they were still alive, and even seemed to be thriving, as I had completely neglected them and could not even remember where they came from!

Two plants in particular caught my eye. One was a bright green spearmint plant, and the other a desert succulent, its spiny leaves resembling Aloe vera, but with a beautiful, exotic, lavender bloom that resembled a lotus blossom in shape.

I checked the soil in all the pots and found that it was bone dry to my touch. Somewhat gingerly, as I realized the plants had done so well without my attention, I decided to water them. As the streams of water from my watering can hit the dirt, the soil fragmented into large clumps, exposing the roots, which appeared to be healthy despite the small plastic pots that contained them.

It was not until the evening after I had the dream that I even recalled it, my memory awakened by reaching for the Bible I like to read aloud to my husband as we travel in our car. Shortly after I began to read, I realized that my skirt was damp where the open Bible was resting on it, and that the cover must have gotten wet from an umbrella my husband had placed near it after last night’s storm.

That evening in church, I was surprised to see a young Muslim woman whom I first met about two years ago, when she had visited the Bible study class I teach. Although she then had many questions about Jesus, the Bible, and salvation, which members of my class and I attempted to answer thoroughly, we never saw her again until the evening after I had this dream. She has since returned several times, spoken with the pastor and missionaries, and appears to be soaking up God’s Word.

Several evenings after the dream, my husband and I attended a dance concert at a college where we had been blessed to perform one of our dance ministry pieces a few years ago. A young woman who looked familiar, although I could not immediately remember why, crossed the crowded reception area to greet me with a big hug.

“You don’t know me,” she said, “but I performed in the same concert with you and your husband a few years ago, and you guys are awesome!”

Then I remembered that she had told me at our first meeting that she was encouraged by how we used our dancing to glorify God, and that we had spoken briefly about how she could best discover and follow God’s plan for her life, in accordance with some Bible verses I gave her. As these memories were resurfacing in my mind, she excitedly introduced me to her fiancé and explained that she was now a first grade teacher, using her love of dance and of God to engage the children under her care.

The symbolism of the dream, the moist Bible, and these two meetings suddenly came together for me. We are to faithfully sow the seed of God’s Word (Matthew 13:140) and to foster its growth in others, even if we see no fruit from our efforts immediately or even further down the road. As the apostle Paul said, some plant the seed, some water the developing shoot, and some tend the mature plant, but it is God Who brings the increase (1 Corinthians 3:5-8).

The plants in my dream were thriving despite my lack of ongoing care for them, the absence of recent watering, and their being planted in cramped containers. Once we plant the seed of God’s Word in someone’s heart, His Spirit will facilitate its growth through His direct work (John 3:5-8; 16:13; Luke 11:13) and indirectly through the ministry and witness of others (Romans 10:14-17).

The watering of developing faith also occurs through His Word (Ephesians 5:26), as God reminded me with the rain-dampened Bible that moistened me as I read from it. It was as if the Living Water (John 4:10; 7:38) poured from Heaven to God’s Word, thereby cleansing me!

We may hand a stranger a tract, pray for them, or witness to them in a brief, passing conversation, never in this lifetime to see them again or to know what, if any, impact we had. But I believe God gave me an encouraging glimpse, through this dream and through second meetings with these two women, that our work for Him is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), and that His Word will not return to Him void, but will accomplish His purpose (Isaiah 55:11).

The spearmint plant reminded me of the school teacher, as mint is a spreading herb with many offshoots, and this woman is now in a position to nurture many budding young minds. I had also recently read an article about the potential of spearmint to enhance memory and cognition, and I believe that God will use this teacher to grow her students in the knowledge, wisdom and love of God (Proverbs 9:10; Ephesians 1:17).

The succulent plant reminded me of the Muslim woman, and of Hagar calling out to God in the desert to save Ishmael, who would grow up to be the father of the Muslim nations (Genesis 17:20), from dying of thirst (Genesis 20:13-20) . At our first meeting, her manner and disruptions were somewhat abrasive, like the spines on an aloe plant, but over time, a precious flower appears to have blossomed, reflecting the opening of her heart to God’s truth that I had not perceived before.

The healing and soothing qualities of aloe (Psalm 45:8; Song of Solomon 4:14; John 19:39) may represent the peace (Philippians 4:7) and joy (Psalm 35:9; Isaiah 61:10; Habakkuk 3:18) that I pray she may someday be able to share with her family and community through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Succulents and mint are both hearty plants, able to survive and propagate even in conditions of drought and poor soil. Similarly, I believe that God created us with the resilience to continue in our quest for Him even with little nurturing from our environment. That being said, as good gardeners, Christians should continue to feed, water and protect whatever souls God plants along our wayside.

On those rare occasions when we do have a second encounter with those whom God has previously brought across our path, we should not hesitate, as God opens the door, to check on their spiritual state and to continue to water their developing faith and provide the light of His Word (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 3:15). Their reaction to that Word may reflect what will grow in their heart, and whether the Word is falling on shallow, stony, choked or good soil (Matthew 13:1-23).

Praise God that He rewards our obedience, and not our “success.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit to lead a soul to be born again (John 3:3-8), and our work to share the good news of the Gospel (Matthew 28:19). Our message must be that Jesus, Son of God, came to earth in human form (John 1:14) to pay for our sins in full through His agonizing death on the cross; that He was buried; and that He rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), proving His divinity, so that all who trust Him will have everlasting life (John 3:16).  

Praise the Lord that He need not rely solely on any one of us to bring a soul to Him, but that He can work through many of us, all of whom will share in the soulwinner’s crown (1 Thessalonians 2:19) when we face Him at the judgment seat! May we therefore not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not faint at the task! (Galatians 6:9)


© 2018 Laurie Collett