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Disencumber; a time to let go

“I should have….” There’s such a weight attached to words like that, when you let them sit in your mind.

How much of our busy-ness is what we create to distract us from having time to think of the negative thoughts, doubts, guilt, or regret we may carry with us? But if that’s the case, then a life-disruption – like a significant injury or illness, or loss of steady employment, can lead to a devastating term of confronting all the negative issues that we’ve tried to avoid by scheduling our time full. At least, that can be a danger for me.

There comes a time to give ourselves at least the same grace, the same opportunity to rest and/or move forward, as we are prepared to offer others. There is no burden so great as one that people of conscience place on themselves.

If there’s something that a person has done wrong, then – if the person learns from it – that’s experience. You can castigate yourself for an error, but if it’s an error you could then avoid on another occasion – that might put you ahead of a new person without that experience. Anyone can make a mistake. Everyone can grow. So we need to give ourselves permission to let go of past errors and let ourselves continue to grow and thrive through whatever changes are ahead.

Here are the lyrics to my song ‘Disencumber’.


No one can judge me more harshly
than I already judge myself.
The bar of my own expectation is higher
than anything others expect.

I need to leave that big box of deficiency
right up there on that high shelf.
The daily rocks that I add to my pack
accumulate so I’ll get wrecked.

There’s a time
to disencumber…
a time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

There’s a time
to disencumber,
to put aside how we self-reject.
Don’t look for bad news
you can do nothing about,
and find some good tunes to select.

I’m not saying to walk around blindly,
but it don’t help to stare at the light
in the interrogation room inside your mind
because it won’t leave you feeling so bright.

There’s a time to disencumber,
a time to walk around free,
among people who maybe I know nothing about
but at least they also don’t know me.

Disencumber – we are human,
equally valuable, all of us flawed.

Disencumber – it’s okay.
None of us can claim to be God.

There’s a time to disencumber…
time to embrace some peace.
We gather up messages of “not good enough…” –
we need some news of release.

We need some news of release.

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Early Morning Silence

The best part of 6 a.m. is that, except for the dog, I generally have the house to myself.

I’m not a naturally linear thinker. My mind tends to go all over the place, and I’m wired for sound. Any possible auditory distraction has the potential to send me off track. It’s part of why I like music – it combines sounds into purposeful direction, and often in community. But being easily distractible and non-linear, it’s tough for me to get organized to successfully accomplish what needs to be done in a day.

So I’ve come to love those early mornings when everyone else is asleep. I can look over my tasks, assemble a list, and also just drink my coffee and watch the sun rise (depending on the time of year, of course). Nurturing positive thoughts and generally getting into a productive mindset for the day is part of it too.

When I wrote the song Early Morning Silence, I wanted to express all of that, because if such a time is precious to me I thought there must be others somewhere in the world who might be able to relate. Just expressing the ideas in words, though, seemed wrong. I didn’t want the song itself to function as an intrusion on someone’s thinking time because of an excessive and unnecessary repetition of lyrics.

So even though whistling is a really unusual accompaniment to songs in our time, I decided that whistling the melody to accompany the chords the second time through would function as a non-verbal portion of time that represents a kind of purposeful wordless background that a person could just think their own thoughts to.

Speaking of lyrics, here they are;

Early Morning Silence

Wishing I could gather
this early morning silence –
save it for sometime later
in the day –

When everything around me
is full of sound and fury, need
a space in my mind
to make noise go away.

And I would just remember
all the time we’ve spent together
so even in the moments you’re not near…
all the love and warmth of those thoughts would close around me
like a blanket guards from coldness and fear.

As the sun rises
and the world begins to wake,
my soul energizes –
I will do what it takes.

But as I take my place,
I’ll bring along a little space
that the early morning silence gave.

But as I take my place,
I’ll bring along a little space
that the early morning silence gave.

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More Thanks

So many people to thank.

There are more teachers and mentors who were part of my development in music, and also other supporters.

Thanks to the late Peter Braun, my music teacher and school and church choir director, for teaching me so much about music and performance and for providing me with early opportunities.

Thanks to the late Helen Litz, director and conductor of the Mennonite Children’s Choir.

Thanks to my friend in the Mennonite Children’s Choir, Anita Fannenschmidt, for standing by me literally and figuratively and for nudging me in the ribs when I went off pitch.

Thanks to my voice teachers, Ruth Ens and John Martens.

Thanks to my college choir conductor, William Baerg.

Dale Warkentin, without your encouragement and support in Flin Flon for those couple of years, I may well have faltered.

The late Ted Goosen provided me with an opportunity to use my musical training and abilities at Simonhouse Bible Camp. Apparently they still sing some of my old songs up there.

Thanks to my piano teacher, the very accomplished Judith-Lynn Kehler Siebert, who taught me what it means to practice (though I took a rather long while to catch on).

My mentors, John Ens and Henry Wedel in particular, very much helped me to learn about singing bass, being a choir member, and to take leadership responsibly.

Arlie Langager led a choir at the University of Calgary while she did some graduate work there, and being part of that choir was certainly a highlight for me at that time.

Lisa Rosenberg gave me an opportunity to work on a song supporting the development of clean water infrastructure in Eastern Africa. That was an excellent experience for me in developing a project, and I hope to someday do more of that kind of work.

Thanks to Katherine “Em” for her support and encouragement, especially through social media.

Thanks to Jenn Byrnes and Lori Motherwell for their encouragement too.

Thanks to those in my extended family and on my social media network who encourage me. It does not go unnoticed.

There are so many more of you to thank, for so much. For now, this will have to do. Please be assured, I appreciate you all, though my expression of that can never be adequate.

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Overdue Thank You To Many But Not Enough

Whether or not my unusual music goes anywhere out there, I owe a big thank you to many people for their encouragement and influence. Since I am supremely absent-minded, I will probably offend someone by leaving them out… but consider this a beginning.

My first music composition professor, Linda Schwartz, who is now Dean of Arts and Science at Ambrose University. Thank you for your early guidance and the opportunities you gave me.

Olaf Pyttlik, who asked me to collaborate with him lyrically at one point, but who is so far beyond me. Thank you for your friendship of long ago and for sharing your time with me. Olaf is a music producer and composer with DACAPO studios in Winnipeg, and you may have heard his musical scores for any number of television programs/movies/ballet. He wrote a lot of music for the Ice Age franchise.

Allan Gordon Bell – Professor, University of Calgary. Allan taught me more music theory and composition, and I would have done well to heed more of his advice.

Derek Penney – Derek had a band in Halifax once, and he has written a fair bit of music himself. It would be great to hear it publicly sometime. Derek joined me for a couple of jam sessions, gave me some good advice on some songs and about learning from others, and is a super guy.

Fred Green – Fred is one of those people in the world who is underestimated and deserves a whole lot more appreciation. He jammed with me a lot, was really encouraging, and I consumed too much of his beer and hospitality. He’s a mensch – a really solid, good guy.

Rhonda Janzen – a singer-songwriter herself, Rhonda introduced me to my first studio, Music Center Canada. While I haven’t put out those early recordings for distribution, that was where I got my toe in the water, and the guys at MCC were good to me.

Sean Bruneau – Sean was once upon a time a producer for a TV network, and he told me about the studio I’ve been going to lately, The Beach.

Allie Henderson invited me to play my music for guests at Inn From The Cold one night. I appreciate her encouragement and that opportunity.

Doug Klassen, then pastor of Foothills Mennonite Church, gave me many opportunities to play my music in church (not necessarily the same stuff now out), and has always been super supportive of my musical endeavours.

Char Mikalson has always been super encouraging of me and my music.

Chad and June Miller are always there for me and my family, and have been really supportive of my music as well.

Dave Ginther – invited me to play some of my stuff for a Men’s Group Potluck. That was lots of fun!

Steve Larsen – is a local music producer who recorded some of my early efforts.

Rick Tarnowski is a super bass player who has jammed with me, and we’ll be doing more of that. Also, Darrell Krahn (percussion), Eric Friesen (Lead Guitar). Those three guys have joined me on stage, and we’re looking at more of that.

I’ve enjoyed a number of open mic venues around town. The most consistent one over the years for me has been the Ironwood Bar and Grill, hosted by Kit Johnson and Tim Leacock, who are fine musicians as well.

There was a college music and drama troupe too… Mark Bartel, Patty Neumann Bartel, Matthew Bartel, Jenn Mierau, Christine Siemens Huebert, and Lynnette Sawatzky Regehr.

And of course, my family has contributed to my life and thus to my songwriting. #MyDear1, who is rather publicity shy, plays piano and keyboards and sings, and she improvises all of that really well too. She has rescued me from my own musical (and other) errors on numerous occasions. Also, she writes a bit of music sometimes.

There’s also a guy named Gordie who I jammed with once. There are so many, but like I say, that will have to be a preliminary list. Thank you all!

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October 21, 2016 – Aspirations

The most popular songs in English over the last several decades have a vocabulary that could easily be understood by a 3rd grader.

Seriously. Check out the following article; .

That’s not what I’m going for. Songwriters, of course, hope to make a living off of their music, or even to ‘strike it rich’. Since I am no longer 20 years old, and am not exactly a male model, such aspirations are neither realistic nor a point of focus for me.

But in this information age we live in, the age of the internet, I would suggest that aiming for general popularity is not all that important. Surely it is possible to carve out one’s own niche for music on the internet. There is a place and a market for diversity.

So in my music, I aim to go far beyond the average 3rd grade vocabulary. My aim is to write thoughtful music that goes beyond the scope of the popular and saccharine topics commonly heard today, and to present it in a lower voice register than you are ever likely to hear on the radio. I hope to contribute to the body of music available to people by providing a distinct voice, both literally and figuratively. I hope to provide a musical point of connection for people whose life experience is broader or more unique than what they are likely to encounter on their average radio station.

In the meanwhile, I am also providing educational materials for teachers and students – materials that connect the world of music to Social Studies curricula. Check out the ‘Educational’ tab on the site, to see what is there. Teaching was a great career for me for almost a decade, and I want to give back to the profession.

This website is a starting point in addressing the goals I hope to meet. This is my first blog entry. Welcome to the virtual home of my dreams and aspirations. I look forward to getting to know you.

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