A Little Taste of Heaven

Since I came to know The Lord Jesus at the age of seventeen, my life has been a journey focused on heaven. Though there have been times of trial and hardship, His joy has always brought me through victorious. Along the journey from time to time, He has afforded me the exceeding joy of experiencing a little taste of Heaven here on earth.

Though I am sure that all of these will pale when one day I experience Him in all His glory. But, as I look forward to that I press on eager to share with others His wonderful love for them.

I shall not try to share all of the instances of my tastes of heaven in this blog. But, I shall begin to share. And from time to time I shall share more as our journey continues.

The Beginning

The beginning experience of Jesus coming into my life is truly the apex of encountering heaven. I shall cover that in a blog all to itself, though I doubt that any one blog could suffice.

One thing that seems to be consistent in my encounters with heaven is music. Music became the avenue by which I grew into experiencing a little heaven on earth. I always enjoyed singing, but it was merely the secular songs of the era I grew up in. But, when Jesus took over my life, my taste in music was changed. Not that one particular genre was preferred over another. What became preferred was excellence in music.

Though I had been singing since I could walk, it was just something I did. My mother made me take piano lessons from the second grade through the seventh. But I did it just to please her. Along with those I learned to play the clarinet in the band at school. After the seventh grade, I talked my mother into letting me drop the piano lessons. I still continued to play in the band and sing in the choir at church.

What changed?

Through these experiences, I was exposed to some level of excellence. But, it was not a motivating factor. Then, at the age of seventeen everything changed. I had a life-changing encounter with the living Lord Jesus. Without going into particulars, it was an experience that was as if I was dead and became alive. I had been in darkness and now the light was shining. The scriptures said it best. I became a new creation in Christ Jesus. Old things were gone and everything was brand new.

Now the goal was not just to get by and exist. I was no longer in competition with others. The goal was to show my love for the One Who made it possible for me to live an abundant life. By that, I mean real life. Too often we equate possessions and position with abundance. Real life comes from the source and giver of life. I experienced that and my life would never be as it had been.

The beginningA taste of Heaven

That was my beginning of experiencing heaven. Everything in heaven is excellent. The scripture said it this way: O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your Name in all the earth. Our Creator is worthy of nothing less than excellence in all that we do. I must admit that I have not attained that level in this life, yet. But, like the apostle Paul, I press on toward the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Excellence is always the goal, though it is not always attained.

There are some genres of music that do not lend themselves to excellence. I’ll not be the definer of those. I believe they are self-evident. For me, those forms more aligned with classical music were those that promised excellence. So, my desire focused on developing my talent in those areas.

A side note.

Before Jesus came into my life, I wanted to be an athlete. But, when Jesus took over, my goal now was to serve Him eternally. I could not find any area of sports that would allow for an eternity of service to my Savior. But, as I studied the scriptures, I found the vocation that would allow that. Music! In Revelation, we find that there will be continual praise and worship going on in heaven. Yes, I could be part of that, beginning right now and continuing for eternity.

I mentioned earlier that the classical music forms were more conducive to the excellence I sought. That is not to say that some other forms cannot be done in an excellent manner. There are country/western Christian songs that are sung in an excellent manner and some that are not. The areas of spiritual and folk songs have many singers of excellence. A couple of genres that do not tend to excellence are “rock” and jazz. There are a few performers that overcome that mold though.

I believe you can see where I am coming from.

My first taste of musical heaven

A little taste of heaven
Youth Choir

Apart from my “new birth” experience, my first taste of a little bit of heaven” came in the youth choir. Mr. Carroll Lowe was the minister of music at First Baptist Church in Pineville, LA. (I am not promoting any denomination, just telling my story.)

Mr. Lowe, as we all affectionately addressed him, was an excellent musician. He had a pleasing voice, though not necessarily a solo voice. But his real musical talent was as a choir director. He knew how to translate what the composer was seeking to present in his composition.

When the Lord Jesus came into my life, I immediately wanted to join the adult choir. I was a member of the youth choir already. But, the adult choir got to sing every Sunday. Plus, they did excellent music. Every Thursday evening I was in adult choir practice for almost two hours.

A little taste of heaven
Adult Choir

Then on Sunday afternoons, I was in the Youth Choir for an hour.

Under Mr. Lowe’s leadership, I was beginning to experience excellence in singing for my Lord, Jesus.

Gone were the days of wanting to be an athlete. I wanted to sing for my Lord.

For the next two years, we grew in the excellence of serving our Lord.

A great honor

What an honor it was for Mr. Lowe and the Youth Choir ministry when we were invited to sing at a premier gathering of musicians. That gathering was at Glorieta, NM. For a whole week, musicians from Baptist churches all over the nation came together. Of all the churches to choose from, our youth choir from First Baptist in Pineville was chosen. I am sure there were a lot of good programs, but ours was chosen to come.

In preparation for the trip, we had to learn a full concert filled with quality music. On the way to Glorieta, we sang three concerts at other churches. Then, while at Glorieta, we sang our full concert for several thousand people who were in attendance. This is not to brag about our ability. But, the goal was to lift up our Lord Jesus and to do it in an excellent manner.

What joy it was as we experienced the fellowship in our Lord Jesus as we prepared and presented music that was excellent.

We all experienced a little taste of heaven

As we prepared and presented this excellent music, I experienced a little taste of heaven.  As I continued to grow in my music the more I saw why God has planned so much of heaven to be music.  The more I advance in my growth in Christ, the more my joy of excellent music grows.

My hope for you

Excellent music allows us to begin to experience a little bit of heaven right here on earth.  I hope that you have participated in singing or producing excellent music in your life. If you have not produced it, I hope you have an appreciation for excellence in music.

I am reminded of what a great friend of mine once told me.  He had not grown up in an atmosphere of excellence, especially in music.  His taste of music was nowhere near refined.  But, then he came to know the Lord Jesus.  One day on the job, I was playing a CD that had great operatic arias.  This young man was enthralled by the music.  I asked him where he developed a taste for opera with the background he had.  His reply was a joyful confirmation of what Jesus does in one’s life.  He said that when Jesus came into his life he learned to appreciate excellence in things.  And this singer and his songs were excellent.  His love of excellence was translated into every area of his life.

Someday it will not just be a taste but will be the marriage feast of the Lamb.  I am looking forward to it and I am sharing the invitation with as many people as I can.

There will be more “tastes” to come in the coming days.  Come back to this site from time to time.

Here is just a little “taste” of what I experienced as a growing child of God.  This was the prayer song of the Youth Choir of 1965 that went to Glorieta, NM.

PRAYER BEFORE SINGING

      Track 1 - First Baptist Church YC

 

Get Sheet Music at Musicnotes.com

Choral Sheet Music at Musicnotes

Choral and Solo Singing-The Difference

Many think that because one has a good solo voice, he or she will be a good choir member. But, they might be wrong. In this blog, we shall discuss, “Choral and solo singing-the difference.

While participating in a local choral group this week, I was impressed by one of the voices I heard. It came from the tenor section and its location was not easily detected. The voice clearly was that of someone who had studied and was proficient in singing the part.

There was never a time during the rehearsal, when the choir was singing, that it was not heard. I do not say this to criticize the voice, but to make a point. There is a difference between singing as a soloist and singing in a choral group.

The Soloist

Solo Singing voice
Solo Singing

Most people are not aware that there is a difference in the vocal production of a solo singer and a choir singer. But, there is.

The soloist endeavors to produce a voice that makes him or her to be heard above an ensemble or orchestra. This is the way it should be if one is to be a good soloist.

The choral singer

Choir singing
Choral singing voice

On the other hand, the choral singer is almost the opposite. Rather than seeking to stand out above the crowd, he or she seeks to blend in with the crowd.

In the choir situation I mentioned above, this was almost to the extreme in not blending. It was a unique voice but used in the wrong situation.

Vibrato in choral and solo singing

Another characteristic of the solo voice is vibrato. If a soloist has no vibrato it is not long before “boring” sets in for the listener. Vibrato for the solo singer is the same as it is for the violinist. The string player who does not use vibrato tells right off that he or she is a beginner or amateur. A good soloist has just the right amount of vibrato. It may range from 4 to 7 oscillations per second. Good vibrato is a good indication of controlled relaxation and tension working together.

Choral singer and vibrato

Though some vibrato may be tolerated in the choral singer, it is best not used very often. In a sense, the choral singer must have excellent control over his or her vocal instrument. To have too wide a vibrato makes it hard to tune two singers of the same part. To have a fast vibrato makes it impossible to blend voices. An almost straight tone is the best for choral singing.

The 2800 factor in choral and solo singing

There is another factor that must be considered. That factor is what is call the “2800”. This factor is the general area of 2800 cycles per second. The pitch for 2800 would be between the F and F# at the top of the piano keyboard. The exact overtone varies from person to person. But this overtone is what gives “ring” to the voice.

This “ring” enables the singer to cut through the other sounds. It also gives a unique distinction to the voice.

The soloist and “2800”

The soloist strives and practices to develop this particular characteristic. It is necessary when singing over a chorus in operas or oratorios. The “2800” also helps to carry the voice in larger halls or auditoriums.

After developing the freedom and breath support, the soloist then should address the development of ‘the ring”.

The choral singer

When it comes to choral singing, the “2800” factor is a “no-no”. We learned that “2800” is what makes the soloist be able to stand out. It helps to cut through instrumental accompaniment and project to the back of the hall. This is not what we want in a choral singer.

This is what I heard in the rehearsal I referred to earlier. The tenor had a powerful ring (2800) in his voice. The voice could be heard over the whole choir. There is no way for a singer to blend with the other choir members when there is too much ring in the voice.

So, even if you are a trained soloist, you should be trained well enough to know how to cover “ring”. It might be better stated, trained not to produce the “ring”.

How to be a good choral singer

When we begin to learn good singing techniques, we learn vowels. The most open vowels are the “Ah” and the “Oh”. Those that are the most closed are the “ee” and the “i”, as in “it”. We work on “Ah” and “Oh” to get open and full sounds. We work on the “ee”s to get focus or ring in the voice.

It is good to work on both spectra to develop the whole voice. But when it comes to choral singing, we should lean toward the “Ah” end of the spectrum. But we should not be at the end of the spectrum. We should lean toward the “oo” on the other side of “Oh”. The “Ah” has, by its nature, some “ring” in it. By leaning toward the “oo” we cover the hard surfaces(teeth) that reflect that ring in the “Ah”. This will help tone down the “2800” and facilitate the blending of the voices.

How to blend

What is the best approach to produce a choral voice that blends with others? A choral conductor that I knew many years ago used the approach of opening the throat like a “yawn”. Hold that, and sing. Needless to say, it sounded a little odd. But, I believe he was headed in the right direction.

The “yawn” was in the right direction. When you “yawn” you open the throat and pharynx to its maximum. It is practically impossible to get any “ring” in your voice that way. But, it is not practical to sing in that manner.

(As a side note, if you want to hit the high notes that you can’t, try yawning and sing those high notes. You may surprise yourself just how easily you sing them.)

solo and choral singing
A yawn

Rather than assume a full “yawn”, assume the feeling at the beginning of the yawn. This is the time when the throat opens up and the larynx drops. Keep that feeling and sing an “Ah” on any pitch. Feel the openness. Even when you vocalize an “Ah”, you get the feeling of a little “oo”. Work to develop that feeling.

As you develop that sensation of beginning a yawn, you will develop a richer fuller sound. Because of the dropped jaw, it will be harder to “bare the teeth”, thus stifling the “ring”. Hence, it is easier to blend with other singers.

Carryover- Choral and Solo singing

As you develop this technique with the “Ah”, begin to do it with the other vowels. You will find yourself singing with a more open mouth, thus producing richer sounds. Can you imagine just how wonderful that will sound with a whole choir doing that? Then as we all begin to blend, though we are many, we have become one.

We become an instrument to show what Jesus had in mind when He established His church. He does not want to do away with your uniqueness, but He wants us to come together as one, just as He and the Father and the Holy Spirit are One.

Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, He is One!

For more reading on singing, you can go HERE.

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