The Piano Guys

There is something so rich and beautiful about the cello and when combined with the versatility of the piano, you get some very incredible music.  But without any feeling for the music, it is simply squiggles on a page being transformed into sound.  Add passion and what comes from the fingertips is music – art coming alive.  It can convey the lightheartedness of a summer’s day, the longing for a loved one or the depth of religious devotion.

This is what I love about The Piano Guys – their passion for their art.  It’s more than just listening to their music, it’s watching them play.  Both Jon Schmidt (piano) and Steven Sharp Nelson (cello) get so wrapped up in their art that it almost feels like I am intruding on some private moment just watching them play.  I’ve tried to determine which is my favorite music video of theirs, but every time I think I have it narrowed down, another facet will appear in another video that makes me sure that THAT one is the best.

For example, as I watch Nearer My God to Thee, I’m struck by the beauty both of the music and the scenery around Nelson.  I am so thankful God has not only gifted individuals to create such beautiful music but that we in turn have been gifted with being able to enjoy it.  I feel the song drawing me nearer to God in an appreciation and love for Him and his glory.

Another beautifully done piece is Bring Him Home featuring both Schmidt and Nelson.  It’s very tender, soft and intimate, hinting at the longing to be with a loved one who cannot be there.  At times, the smile on Nelson’s face as he plays is almost like he is picturing this person and the good memories he has of them.

Then there’s a very fun video where they put on a concert for some older music lovers, playing music from Peanuts .  You can tell they had a blast making the video and everyone listening was enjoying themselves too.

The video that is currently on my “This-could-be-the-best” list is the live version of their Beethoven’s 5 Secrets.  To me, the song is about music itself, the art form, as the opening Beethoven quote speaks of.  It stirs up an appreciation for the beauty of the music, getting lost in the emotions that music draws out.  There are several things I love about this performance.  One is Nelson’s unashamed tears as he plays the song, immersing himself in the music.  The second is that they perform with a youth orchestra, showcasing the next generation of musicians.  To watch these young people play and to see them putting their skills on display is inspiring.

There are so many other videos that are well worth relaxing.  But for now, sit back and enjoy this video with me (well, I’ve already watched it about 4 times already, but who’s counting?)

Music Monday – Day After Day

This is an awesome song by Kristian Stanfill, rejoicing in the hope we have in God.  “Day after day our God is reigning, He’s never shaken, My hope is in the Lord!”

Music Monday – Manifesto

I just recently came across a brand-new band called The City Harmonic.  Their website has a great description of their music:

When listening to The City Harmonic, you instinctively turn up the volume and join the chorus as the music dynamically bounces from sparse intimacy to soaring celebration and back again. It’s a musical metaphor for the band that plays it—with their feet in the dirt and their eyes toward the heavens.  It isn’t long before you find yourself singing along and not because you ought to, but because you want to.

Here is their song, Manifesto, a great declaration of belief in the Almighty, Triune God.  Amen!

Music Monday – Amazing Love

I’m usually not a big fan of Bebo Norman, but I found his arrangement of Amazing Love (written by Graham Kendrick) very stirring.

My Lord, what love is this
That pays so dearly
That I, the guilty one
May go free!

Amazing love, what sacrifice
The Son of God, given for me
My debt He pays, and my death He dies
That I might live, that I might live!

And so, they watched Him die
Despised, rejected
But oh, the blood He shed
Flowed for me!

And now, this love of Christ
Shall flow like rivers
So come wash your guilt away
Live again!

Stop – Hammer time!

Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I have no problems listening to any genre of music.  The Bible does not put limits on what style of music is “acceptable” and what is not.  As Bob Kauflin points out in Worship Matters, “Scripture doesn’t come with an accompanying soundtrack.”  Music as an art form can be and should be enjoyed across many kinds of styles.

Although music is amoral, that certainly doesn’t mean that it cannot affect emotions, attitudes, etc.  In fact, music that DOESN’T affect us in some way isn’t very good music.  The challenge for me comes in trying to teach discernment to my tween-who-thinks-he’s-a-teen.  For awhile now, he’s been into all things “cool” which I suppose is a very subjective category, but apparently includes any kind of music that is fast.  This certainly isn’t a problem in and of itself.  But with the “all things cool” category came the “I’m too cool for you or your kind of music” attitude.  That’s when the music becomes a problem.  I’ve had to take away some privileges like his MP3 player.  But I think we were both getting frustrated because no ground rules had been set up for the music he is allowed to listen to.  This is mainly because I was having a hard time coming up with something that my very non-abstract, linear-thinking son could “get.”  Then I had an idea.

Carlos has started to be interested in working with tools, banging nails, and building things.  Unfortunately, whenever he uses my tools, he has a tendency to leave them outside instead of putting them away.  Monday evening I took him out on a date to Chick-Fil-A, but first we went to Home Depot to buy a hammer.  As we ate, I told him that the hammer was a gift from me.  Then we talked about the proper ways to use and take care of a hammer.  You don’t go around hitting people, windows or cars and you don’t throw the hammer around like a ball.  A hammer is used for building things.  A misuse of his gift might end up with the hammer being taken away.

Then we talked about the gift of music.  I said that God has given us music to enjoy and to use for lots of different things, but mainly to praise Him.  But just like we can misuse the hammer doing things that it shouldn’t be used for, we can also misuse music, even “good” music.  Music can make us proud, unkind, and arrogant if we let it.  We can use it to praise God for the beauty he has created or we can use it to praise ourselves.

We agreed on three ground rules for music that he can listen to (borrowing a little bit from Todd Stocker’s Infinite Playlists);

  • No songs with lyrics that speak unkindly, uses God’s name in vain, or  talks bad about God
  • If I see that any particular music is affecting his attitude or his interactions with others negatively, I’ll remove it from his music collection.  It’s one thing to have a bad day every now and then, but as a dad, I can tell when his attitude starts to go downhill and more often than not, it’s because he is letting his need to be “cool” control him.
  • If he’s not allowed to listen to it, he’s not allowed to talk about it.  This one is a big one for Carlos.  He LOVES to talk about things he perceives as cool and if they are forbidden, he wants to talk about them all the more.   This only adds to the temptation to break the rules.

By the end of our date, I felt like we had made a connection.  Only time will tell how much sank in and I fully expect to have to go over these rules again.  But hopefully Carlos will better understand and be able to make wiser choices about what he allows to affect him, and be able to hear the gospel in songs that we sing while not giving in to the “I’m too cool” attitude.  And of course, I hope I don’t catch him hammering on his siblings.

Music Monday – Hallelujah

Heather Williams’ (a “new-to-me” artist) song entitled “Hallelujah” is one of those songs that, although powerful enough by itself, becomes even more stirring when you know the background of why it was written.  With that in mind, the first video below is Heather telling of how she wrote the song after her little baby died.  Watch this video first then listen to the song.  Hallelujah!

(You’ll need to click through to YouTube to watch.  It’s worth the click.)

Music Monday – Dancing in the Minefields

This Valentine’s Day edition of Music Monday is dedicated to my sweetheart and dance partner, Sarah.  I love you!