Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Sunday, October 17, 2021
In my previous blog, I introduced you to Andy Meginniss, an inductee into the Alabama Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2011, and a member of the bluegrass group Three on a String (based in Birmingham, Alabama).
As I indicated, Andy's group (and several other groups Andy has joined during his long career in music) sings Best of Friends as their closing number. With the assistance of my high school choral director, Dr. Bill Caldwell, I was introduced to Andy and the song. My first thought was..."What a wonderful way to leave a concert, with the audience knowing "presence" was appreciated." Such a great thing! It seems to be a perfect song for these days of singing with our friends.
As I listened to the words, I thought about all of us in choral music...students, choral directors, choir members in churches, choral professionals, retired choral professionals, those who play instruments in ensembles, those who sing in small ensembles, those who perform professionally on the stage, and those who write for "all of the above."
Best of Friends speaks for all of us who love making music with our friends (as Willie would say). Willie Nelson has been the voice of wisdom for decades, and I think we finally "got" that song in 2020, as everyone was "chomping at the bit" to get on the road again. We had to wait, and it was the most incredible exercise in patience I've experienced in a while...wait on the vaccine...wait to sing again...wait for normalcy.
If nothing else came out of 2020, it was an immense appreciation for our friends...our unaccessible friends (for many months). It was an emotional time for some. Singing is the aural representation of pure joy, and without it, life becomes quite empty and we lose our way (just like the St. Francis reference).
Since we have this amazing gift at this moment (we won't take singing for granted again!), let's use it to celebrate our friends!!
When you visit Earlene Rentz Online Publications, you will find an audio example of Andy singing Best of Friends at the bottom of each page. There is also an electronic choral example provided as well. In addition, Andy has created an MP3 accompaniment with guitar, bass, drums, and piano (free).
The focus of the song refers to the love of friendship, knowing that we remain in the hearts of those with whom we enjoy music, whether in their presence or not.
"We know even best of friends must sometimes be apart, and we'll always keep your memory in our heart."
Enjoy making music with your friends!
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Saturday, September 11, 2021
This. This was the day it all changed. Life changed in ways not one of us could imagine at the time. We actually felt less secure. We felt more suspicious. We felt anger, but didn't know where to channel any of it. We....grieved, and didn't really know anyone (in some cases) associated with the events. Some of us would realize only later that close friends were affected. The worst part was that we didn't know what to do about it. So much was beyond our control, and we couldn't make sense out of the things we were seeing. Later, we couldn't make much sense out of the things we could see, hear, and touch. It was awful.
One thing was certain: We quickly let it be known to the world that we were proud to call this country our home. Others are welcome, and this country would never be empty of souls resolute in standing for goodness. We were unified. Most of us were inspired to work our way through the misunderstanding as we journeyed toward understanding, slowly piecing it all together.
I am not saying the USA is beyond fault. You know as well as I that flaws are present, but for once, we were unified. It didn't take much to hear "Yes! I'll help!" or "Yes! I'll be there!" We wanted to assist our brothers and sisters in any way possible. We became different people overnight.
I had only been married a few months. We received a call from my husband's daughter who told us that America was under attack. I know my face must have been totally blank. It had never occurred to me in a million years that we would be under attack. I don't know exactly why that would be the case. I had studied Pearl Harbor, and knew of vulnerabilities.
One thing I remember about that day is that eventually people started saying "stuff." Stuff that helped no one, and caused more division. Many had an opinion on what God was doing. Well....I did not agree, as God had told me nothing (we speak regularly), and furthermore...when it comes to speaking for the Almighty, I just think we need to be careful. It's like my late friend the Rev. Dr. John Claypool said, "God's other name is 'Surprise!'" Just because we think we know God's heart and mind does not provide assurance that "the Mystery" has totally revealed Himself/Herself. Be watchful. Be vigilant. You might be surprised.
One thing I do know: In the midst of horrible situations, there are good decisions to be made. First, in the consideration of "what to do," I learned to "look around" my world. My husband was a pastor of a large Houston church, and after we had watched in stunned silence for a while, he said, "I need to get to church to take care of things" (he was writing a sermon at home). What? You're leaving me? Yes....he left me. That's what leaders do. They lead. He was a leader in all things related to his church. So....he made sure to be among his staff, where he addressed church programming that was in-session for international residents, and he made calls to his local colleagues from different faith traditions (rabbis....priests....he didn't know anyone at local mosques), to offer support in case of "who knows what might happen?" types of things. I learned to take a look around and see if there might be anything I could do in my world that would let people know of my care. In addition, we realized that not everyone loved us. To realize the extent to which some would go to exercise injury and death to unknown souls was jarring, to say the least. Day-to-day became governed by a whole new set of rules and regulations that are "the norm" to this day.
Another bit of wisdom: Sometimes it is good just to be quiet and listen, before establishing a strategy of consequential action. It is important to "get it right." Rather than move too quickly and force the "clean up" policy into action, we really need to "get it right," from the beginning. Pain is pain. Maya is right. People will never forget how we make them feel. Consequences are far-reaching at times.
As I watched the memorials today, I was once again reminded that the grief of loss is never something you "get over." No....not even a little bit. Time will help us begin to move on, but that loss is forever, indelibly etched in our memory, hearts, lives, thoughts, and conversations. Somehow, we learn to manage our broken lives. We never forget. All of the events of our lives are simply...our lives. As long as we're living, these events are part of the fabric of our lives, woven together to create us as the individuals we have become...now and forever. I have found that when we remember, we heal. It helps to know that others have not forgotten. Today is the day of comforting words and music for all those who experienced loss on that horrible day.
Today, I am honored to know that my arrangement of Amazing Grace is being sung by the National Chorale and the Soldiers' Chorus, accompanied by the United States Army Field Band during the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial in New Jersey (Statue of Liberty). I know we need an abundant measure of "grace" during grief. It gets us through the day. It makes the day more manageable. Though an indirect way to offer comfort, I hope these families will accept my gift to them on this day of memory and reflection.
And so...we move forward. Our world has changed, though at times we might relish a dose of the unification we felt back in 2001. May we always treasure the lives and heroism of those souls who perished 20 years ago. May we be resolved to make a positive difference in the world they tragically departed, as we journey through this life.
May their souls rest in peace, as we become the world's peacemakers.
Monday, July 26, 2021
I'm back from a very emotional "high" for me and many other music educators in Texas and around the nation. The Texas Choral Directors Association convention was the first professional convention I've attended since February of 2020. We were in "lock-down" three weeks after my return from TMEA in 2020, and we have been longing to gather again for months.
Wanetta Hill graciously agreed to help me with our booth during TCDA, and I believe she knows everybody in Texas!! It was wonderful to see everyone enjoying themselves during this very special time of reunion. Everyone was thrilled with the prospect of going back to their school and church choirs, yet no one really knows what to expect when they return. The "virus" seems to determine everyone's ability to plan, and the "one day at a time" mentality seems to be the only choice. One thing is for certain, no matter what situation unfolds, we have the "best of the best" out there in the choral classrooms, doing their best for their students.
Here are some highlights from my time spent with fellow choral music educators, writers, and directors:
It was wonderful to have friends stop by the booth to chat for a few minutes. In the photo above, from left, are Wanetta Hill (one of my wonderful, delightful lyricists), me, Victor Johnson (composer extraordinaire and choral editor with Choristers Guild....and one of the nicest guys in the entire world), and René Brain (fabulous pianist/accompanist and all-'round delight). I love these special folks, because we are all for the other person's success. For some reason, competitiveness seems to be present among many, and you can trust this, too: There are just as many of us who are totally supportive of each other, delighting in each other's success. We all have our strengths, and no one composer/teacher/conductor creates music exactly like another person. We all have our purposes and our uniqueness in this business.
Earlene Rentz and Cherry Tadlock-Garasi
Cherry Tadlock-Garasi holds a very special place in my heart as the person who saw possibilities in a piece I wrote in 2000. She was my choral editor with Warner Brothers Publications for many years, and she is now in Belton, Texas, where her husband Michael Garasi is in charge of the instrumental program at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. I am so excited for Cherry and Michael (and all of Texas), and I know their future at UMHB is bright with promise. Cherry was responsible for the publication of my most successful piece to date (over 200,000 copies sold) entitled Sleigh Bells. Cherry conducted that piece in clinic after clinic, and she believed in it! All these many years later, it continues to sell-away! I will never wane in my gratitude for Cherry. She is amazing!
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Monday, May 24, 2021
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
|James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)
In the mean time, I love reading the words of James Weldon Johnson, knowing he used music as a personal gift to get through the darkest of times, the gloomiest of times, and the most "broken" of times. I love Johnson's text, "I brood not over the broken past, nor dread whatever time may bring...." Johnson understood the realities. He knew there would be tough times, but he knew that music was his ticket to light. He would sing his way into the light of continuing on in a very difficult world. He, too, sang to keep from losing his way.
Once you begin singing this uplifting text, you will "step into the sunshine" with Dr. Johnson. We cannot allow the darkness to consume us. There is light, and we sing our way into a new journey of hope, joy, freedom, and beauty as.....we....SING! Thank you, Dr. Johnson!!
Thursday, February 11, 2021