Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Uploading Sort of Day

Apart from having to read a few articles, I've had time enough to play with my computer today. I've put a bunch of new videos up on YouTube - if you follow the link on the right, you'll find your way to them.

Please say a prayer for safe travels for of those Irish dancers and their families who will be competing at their regional championships this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Will Take My Worry to the Harp

So for my 301st post, this is a video from the same concert shown below. This is Fr. Robert Scullin, SJ, the provincial of the Detroit Province. This was the release of his CD "And It's So Clear", the benefits from which go to support Jesuit Refugee Services. I like the tin whistle interlude. The acoustics weren't too hot, though.

300th Post!!!

I just realized that this is my 300th post. Hooray!

So here's my first "speaking video" to be posted. I had to edit it a little bit because I risked violating HIPAA protocol. Nevertheless, you'll get the gist of it. This is a talk I gave as part of series at my alma mater, St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. We were asked to reflect on how our time at Ignatius had influenced us on our journey. Obviously, I couldn't resist throwing a little Irish music into the mix.

Discernment of Spirits

Playing Clerics (Ryan and Jim)

I think it speaks for itself! Taken October 29th, 2005 in Detroit at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Weekend Update

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted! Time sure is flying by.

It really has been a busy week. I've been trying to get a lot of work done before I head off to Chicago this weekend for the Mid-American Oireachtas. I'm amazed that I'm not more nervous than I am - I guess I'm getting used to playing "high pressured" gigs again. I've also been busy teaching my one-on-one music students and preparing to teach my "Intro to the Irish Tin Whistle" course next semester (as of Friday, I have 19 students registered and the sophomores and first years still have to sign up for classes). I'm also going to direct a student in the Irish Studies program as she does research into the tin whistle.

Happy 17th Birthday to Michael English. His birthday is on the 15th so I hope he accepts this belated greeting.

Things are going pretty well otherwise. I'll probably not post anything new until after I come back next week, so please don't worry that I've given up blogging. If I could find my tin whistle (I seem to have lost it) I'd record another tune for YouTube!

Speaking of YouTube, if you check out my "favorites" you'll see some very cool videos of a community of Benedictine nuns. I think it is AWESOME that they are using YouTube to spread their message, so if you're so inclined, check them out! Here's one of their videos!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Two Old Favorites

Per a request by Meghan McNamara, I have posted two tunes that I've been playing for many years. The first one is a lovely reel "The Golden Keyboard" and the second one was my party-piece when I was in the 8th and it's called "The Flogging Reel."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Matters of Faith

One of the best things about maintaining a blog is that every now and again, someone stumbles upon what you've written and something you've said touches a nerve or strikes an inner chord. This week I had the good fortune of beginning a thoughtful conversation with a young man who has agreed to allow me to use his question as the beginning of this post. He writes:

One of the problems that I have with faith has to do with prayer actually, and I was wondering your opinion. When I go to mass on Sundays, I feel like I am just sitting through a recited hour of prayer . When people say the creed and when they say the Our Father, there doesn't seem to be any emotion or any meaning behind what they are saying. It all seems like a routine where we say what we are told to say, and that we are not really saying what we believe, but we are just repeating what others say that they believe and that we are not actually saying it for ourselves...I am not saying in any way that church is obsolete, but I just struggle with the fact that even when I realize that I am just repeating words that I have memorized, and even though I do mean them, they are still so impersonal and it does not seem like what I think church should be like.

Let me offer a somewhat elliptical response. When I teach music, the last thing I say, the great words of encouragement I impart, the kernel of knowledge that I pass along in order to help the student grow as a musician is this: PRACTICE! The best teacher cannot make much headway in any subject if the pupil is stubborn and refuses to move. It is only when the music (or the jump shot for basketball , or the pitch for baseball, or the surgical technique) becomes so utterly ingrained in you, so much a part of your nature that you don't have to think about it, only then are you able to move from "Playing a tune" to "being an Irish musician" or shooting a basketball to "being a basketball player."

I think in a lot of ways our liturgical prayers are like this. They become so ingrained, so much a part of our experience, that they can seem impersonal. I don't want to rail against the people in the pews, so I ask each of us this question: What do I bring to the prayers that I recite? Each week (or day) when I gather for the Eucharist, what in my heart do I bring before the Lord? What do I have to offer? Am I there because I have to be, or because it is "it is right to give God thanks and praise"?

Liturgical prayer inserts us into a chorus singing the ever-ancient, ever-new song of God-with-us. When we bring ourselves as we are - bitter, joyful, sad, nervous, angry, unsure - and surrender ourselves over to prayer, then we claim our role in this choral work. I think it is very possible to go to Mass and "not get anything out of it" because Mass is not a Pez dispenser of grace. If you have any sense, you just don't walk in expecting to "get some God" and have some splendid vision of the Holy One. Instead, the Eucharist is like a good investment: you put in your blood, your sweat, and your tears. You invest yourself totally, offering all that you have and call your own, and you place it before the Lord on the altar. The beauty of this investment is that the Lord accepts whatever you have to offer...even what you think of little value, the Lord wants you to offer. Over time, and it takes a very long time, you'll notice that your weekly commitment, your daily offering, is slowly being transformed. Bringing yourself to the Lord leads to your own transubstantiation, a change of your own substance, leading you out of "going to" mass and into "a being for" the Eucharist.

I have gone on far too long! Part of adult faith moves us from an image of mass-as-Pez or mass-as-slot machine where if we're lucky and play the right game, we'll hit the jackpot. Our liturgical prayers are like deposit slips on which we write our heart's needs and desires, consecrating them with our hope in God and entrusting them into Christ's pierced heart. My honest sense is that people experience mass as redundant because they have become redundant; they see it as something they "show up to" rather than an event they participate in. They are spectators, not the spiritual gladiators we are called to be, warriors fighting and seeking rest and healing each week at the Lord's table.

(Could I use any more images or metaphors?)

In short, to my young friend I would urge you to make the words personal by letting them flow from your heart. Do not be afraid to scandalize God...the crucifixion took care of that. Make the prayers your prayers, load them up with your desires and fears and joys and sorrows. Let the prayers you know so well allow you to know God ever anew. Let each moment of the Eucharist call us into deeper friendship with the Lord who offers his very body and blood as our sustenance. Invest not idle words, but your entire life, into the heart of our Lord and give it time...the dividends are out of sight!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sore Finger

A local feis (Irish dancing competition) contacted me early last week in need of a musician. I agreed and, with Kerry Oster, drove out to Long Island yesterday to do the feis. It was a long day, starting at 9:00 and, with but a short break in which I consumed two slices of pizza, I didn't finish playing until 8:00. Needless to say, eleven hours of accordion playing is pretty rough and I needed the full night of sleep I got last night in order to recover.

The only problem, save for a sore back, is that my hands are awfully sore today. My "Pointing Finger" (in adult language, my index finger) in particular is quite sore. Typing with it is hard, so I'm not using it which makes this whole process of blogging very difficult, so we'll let this serve as a brief update.


Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame