Monday, June 2, 2008

Consorting with Papists

I have much to blog about recently, and not enough time to do it!

As many of you know, our family belongs to a progressive faith community of Lutherans and Roman Catholics, called Mission of the Atonement. I'm proud to say that last year we voted to become members of Lutherans Concerned (a nationwide Lutheran organization that supports and welcomes gays and lesbians) as well as Community of Welcoming Congregations (an ecumenical Oregon-based organization of faith communities who declare themselves as welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people). It's a unique group of people who believe that there's no "one true church" and have found benefit in being a part of an ecumenical community. I love the fact that our many older members--as well as the younger ones--have embraced ecumenism as well as the idea of being welcoming to all.

At the end of May, our priest, Father Neil, retired (again). The community held two parties in his honor, one featuring a poetry slam, and the other a roast. At both events, the community's new band performed: "Consorting with Papists II."

Consorting with Papists first formed a number of years ago to play at another community celebration, and its resurrection resulted in a much larger group of musicians. (The title comes from a critical comment written by a conservative writer about our hip young Lutheran pastor right after she joined the community.) We practiced for several weeks in a row (to the point where our spouses were looking forward to the end...) and prepared 10 to 12 songs for both gatherings. Our fearless band leader Dave wrote a wonderful song called "Confessions" (of a Lutheran's Priest), and we also performed a great heretical version of the Lord's Prayer called "Our Father" (by Susan Werner) and a song by Judy Fjell called "Where Are You Standing." The arrangements of the usual folk song standards were fresh and unexpected (like the reggae "If I Had a Hammer"), thanks to our bandleader Dave and creative drummer Brad. We had talented improvisational solos from our clarinetist and keyboard player. Our version of "Wade in the Water" featured our pastor's husband, Drew, channeling Mavis Staples in a deep, soulsy style that had his daughter rolling in her chair in laughter. It was great fun--we captured some of it on video, but I haven't figured out how to edit my digital video yet!

All of this music--and playing with very talented musicians--has inspired me to make more music. As an adolescent and young adult, I wrote songs regularly. The last time I wrote a song was in 1990, for my wedding! Talk about a long dry spell!

Last summer I finally picked up the mandolin I had received for a 40th birthday present and taught myself how to play a few chords. I do not find enough time to practice either mandolin or guitar, so it was good to have a regularly scheduled musical outlet.

After attending the Girlyman concert and participating with the "Papists," I was inspired to think about upgrading my guitar. I owned two--one a classical (nylon string) one I'd owned since the age of 12 or so (my second guitar!), and the other an acoustic (steel string) that my parents had given me a number of years ago (and they had bought secondhand). After 33 years of playing guitar, I had never owned a new guitar.

On Friday, May 23, I went to the Guitar Center and sat in their enclosed acoustic guitar room and played several guitars. Within 45 minutes, I had made my decision and purchased my first new guitar! It's a Fender electric-acoustic, with a very cool built-in electronic tuner--and boy is it fun to play a new (and beautiful) guitar!

Here are some not-very-good shots of (part of) the band in our second performance:

And here are a few glimpses of some of the audience:

It was also fun to sing and play with such talented harmonizers. Our last verse of "We Shall Overcome" a capella was stirring. That song always makes me remember a march to an interfaith service at a synagogue in northwest Portland around the time of Measure 9, following behind the Portland Gay Men's Chorus who were leading us in "We Shall Overcome."
Onto making more music and writing songs before my 18-year dry spell turns into 19 years!

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