Visiting Liberty University

Visiting Liberty University

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Semester in a Nutshell

Drum roll please...

We finally have our next two video blogs up! Woohoo! The first one covers most of September and Fall Break, and the second one covers just about everything from Fall Break through Thanksgiving Break. We're finally caught up with videos! Yay!





Stay tuned for more over Christmas... we're planning on doing a couple of videos highlighting some of our favorite (and hardest) things about the semester, and also a fun one mimicking our professors. =)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Inside the Christmas Concert

Tuesday night was our final orchestra concert for the semester, Christmas on the Boulevard. Mom texted me afterwards and asked how it went... but I couldn't condense it to the confines of a text message. She asked for just three words, and I said "Thrilling, goosebumps, bass drum." But now I've had time to do the evening justice.

Where to begin? Oh, yeah... I thought out my introduction the other night as I was falling asleep. =) Forgot about that...

Have you ever had a dream... just a silly little dream, but one that made you excited anytime you thought about it? For a few years, my silly little dream has been to play in an orchestra that recorded film scores. I call it silly because I knew it would never happen.

I play the oboe, which is a somewhat rare instrument, but widely used in film scores. However, I know for a number of different reasons that I don't want to be a concert musician. I want to be a filmmaker, and I know I won't have the time... or the desire... to put in the ridiculous amount of hours of practice required to be good enough to get hired by a major philharmonic orchestra that might get hired to record a film score.

So, no, it wasn't gonna happen.

I thought.

So I go to Liberty University, which is a huge university with a sadly understated Music and Performing Arts department. I go there because they have a film school...a REALLY GOOD film school. I declare a business minor because my personality is especially suited for it and it will be helpful to understand business terminology and practices in the film industry. (And yes, I'm rehashing all of this simply because it's more dramatic that way. Please bear with me.) =)

Music is practically nowhere on my degree completion plan. But Rachael and I join the orchestra anyway, her on cello, me on oboe. And guess what?

The entire cello section, except for one, are freshmen. So they didn't have pre-existing circles of friends. I got to know them through Rachael because she and I are practically joined at the hip. It didn't take long for us to all start eating dinner together after orchestra rehearsals on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Guess what? Not one, but TWO of the cellists (Kimmy and Brock) are film scoring majors. (Which, by the way, is a brand-spanking-new major at Liberty.) Did I mention that both of them are insanely talented? You have no idea. Heaven opens and descends on the realm of mortals in their music. Seriously.

Guess what else? The orchestra has a new director this year, and he (unlike many directors I've played under) actually really likes film scores. We played music from Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean on our main fall concert.

It just gets better. A lot better. As if I wasn't already walking on air, playing music twice a week with a bunch of incredibly talented, God-glorifying new friends.

Get this. Brock got essentially commissioned to arrange one of his pieces, an epic version of Carol of the Bells, for the LU orchestra and 300+ person choir to perform on the Christmas concert. He had a different version of the song on YouTube, and when Rachael, Kimmy, and I listened to it for the first time, we basically passed out. SO amazing. SO powerful. SO EPIC.

In our first semester of college, we get to play in an orchestra that is performing basically a mini-film score. WHAT?!?!?!

The first few rehearsals were rough. It was really sad. Tempos and rhythms were ragged and disconnected. But things slowly got better. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving break, we added Professors Feldman and Trombetta on cello and viola, playing the ridiculously awesome solo parts Brock wrote just for them. Suddenly, we could feel that it was going to work!

Then, on Thursday, we had our first rehearsal with the choir. They weren't even all there, but HOLY COW. There is something so inherently powerful about hundreds of human voices belting out lyrics taken from Scripture at the top of their lungs... not to mention the driving rhythms from the string section, the gigantic chords from the brass section, and the thunder from the bass drum, tympani, and gong. How was something this awesome even humanly possible??? (Answer: It wasn't. It was a heavenly gift straight from God, realized through a number of very grateful humans.)

First day back from Thanksgiving break, we had our dress rehearsal. Only, Professor Feldman didn't show up for some reason. Hmm. Wonder who's gonna play the solo cello part for rehearsal?? Why, section leader/composer Brock Snow, that's who! And he did it from memory!!!

So that was awesome. There's nothing quite like hearing a composer play his own music. He knows how he meant for it to sound. His sound wasn't as loud and confident as Professor Feldman's, but it was more sensitive and... meaningful, I guess. It's kind of hard to define or describe.

And then came the concert last night... 

First of all, the stage was packed. Fitting 278 choir members and a 74-piece orchestra onstage is not an easy feat. I think our singers pretended to be sardines. Second of all, the audience was packed. There were a few empty seats near the front, but there were people two-deep lining the back wall and even some people standing along the sides of the auditorium. (Good thing they're building a new concert hall with a LOT more seats!) And maybe most importantly of all, Brock's parents and brother were there.

When Dr. Whaley introduced the concert, he pointed out that three of the pieces were composed/arranged by Liberty faculty and students. "I particularly want to call your attention to 'Carol of the Bells,'" he said. "Brock Snow is right here..." and he stepped aside and gestured to Brock. The audience was clueless, but the entire orchestra and choir immediately erupted into whoops and cheers and noisy applause. After we reluctantly got quiet again, Dr. Whaley explained that Brock was a film scoring major and how exciting it was that there were "champions for Christ" (Liberty's slogan) in yet another sphere of influence.

So we did the first part of the concert (selections from the Messiah) and it was great. It really was. The choir sang so passionately and clearly! All of Dr. Kinchen's rantings and ravings about really believing it when we sang/played "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" and "the Mighty God, the everlasting Father" must have hit their mark. It really was a worship service, not a concert! Then we transitioned over to the "fun music" and got the first three pieces off beautifully.

And then... here goes nothin'. Professor Feldman (who DID show up for the concert, thankfully) and Dr. Trombetta took their places at the front of the stage. Dr. Trombetta starts the piece, all by himself, and he just waited... until everyone got still and the silence hung heavy with anticipation.

The piece starts so beautifully, so gently. A quiet viola solo with underlying cello swells. Then suddenly, the cello breaks out with a rousing, mind-blowing rhythm. It's in 6/8, so everything's triplets (non-music nerds, please forgive me while I geek out a little). Fast triplets are inherently epic. They just are. (Think Pirates of the Caribbean.) Then there's this long, dramatic chord that slides up at least two octaves... maybe three... and a HUGE gong/tympani roll that shakes the stage.

Then the tempo drops into a much slower 3/4 time.

Oh yes. Now we're getting serious. Immediately the tempo starts building again, gradually. Different sections of the orchestra join with repeating patterns that get increasingly hectic as the piece goes on. Through it all are woven echoes of the familiar repeating "Carol of the Bells" pattern.

Then, about 2/3 of the way through the piece, the choir joins, in a majestic chant that sends thrills up my spine and goosebumps down my arms.

"The voice! of One! Calling proudly! Prepare! The Way! for Christ Jesus! Valleys shall rise! Mountains made low! And the glory of-the glory of-the glory of-the Lord shall be revealed!"

Which was awesome in several different ways... 1) It's Scripture... Brock took the lyrics straight out of Isaiah 40. 2) It echoed and summarized the songs from the Messiah that we had played earlier in the concert. 3) It was EPIC. Period, the end. (I know I keep using that word, but it's kind of the most appropriate word for a whole bunch of things.)

The choir hits this high chord and just holds it... then they drop away while another mind-blowing, speed-duel between the solo cello and viola picks up momentum. Bows flying, fingers dancing up and down the finger board.

Then the cello section joins, pulsing on a single note. Faster. Faster. Racing now, while the winds and the rest of the strings join in with a swelling chord and the brass fanfare expectantly. Then everything is overwhelmed by another roll of thunder from the percussion, even more enormous and earth-shattering than the first one.

Our hearts are literally pounding now. If I didn't have to purse my lips to make a sound on my instrument, I would be either grinning from ear to ear or staring blankly with my jaw on the floor. The music washes over me like ocean waves and I can't catch my breath.

The familiar climatic melody from Carol of the Bells takes over (merry-merry-merry-merry Christmas), with the choir soaring over the orchestra again. And still the strings and soloists are racing wildly underneath it all. Up and up the music goes in volume and range. The choir has never sung so loudly.

Finally, they hit an impossibly high note... and hold it. The orchestra drops away. For a moment, the sheer power of 278 voices rolls through the auditorium like a tsunami. With the choir still sustaining their velocity at 30,000 feet, the orchestra strikes once, twice, a third time. The choir cuts. The drums and gong crash like a bolt of lightning directly overhead, vibrating and reverberating while the echoes of the voices still hang in the air.

And the audience explodes. After the soloists have been recognized, Dr. Kinchen motions for Brock to stand, and the applause swells to twice the volume, roaring with whoops and hollers and shrieks. They don't stop for a couple solid minutes, and for once, Brock's ears don't turn red. (Along with everything else, this amazingly gifted genius has been blessed with an even more incredible spirit of humility.)

That's one reason I'm writing this... he lets his music speak for itself, but for those of you who weren't there to hear it, you need to understand what it was like.

Afterwards, I asked several choir members what their favorite song on the concert was, and they all put Brock's song in their top 2. The only song that ever trumped it was the Hallelujah Chorus. A couple of them even said that although Brock's song wasn't necessarily the most fun to sing, it was their favorite to listen to. So they still gave it number 1 or 2 status overall!

You had to have been there. The microphones and cameras don't do it justice. And you have to know Brock... to see how badly he wanted the piece to "work" and how thrilled beyond words he was when it DID work, and when the audience loved it. He said later, "I feel like my soul is going to pop out of my body." I think it already did, in the form of the music.

There's pretty much nothing more thrilling and exciting for me than to see my friends and family thrilled and excited. So I was up on "cloud nine" for a while, too! Went home and didn't feel like going to sleep... for a long time. Good music always does that to me... especially when I get to play it, and especially when I get to play it with awesome people.

Here's a link to a YouTube video of this piece... although, as I said before, the recording doesn't do it justice. But you can get a taste. =)

There are rumors that we'll get to play it again next Christmas... that would be beyond awesome! But nothing will be quite the same as playing it for the first time. I'm so privileged to have been a part of this. God's blessings are amazing and unexpected! I can't wait to see what He'll do next!

-Natalie

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Comes to Campus!

Hey everyone!

I really am sorry that we haven't posted in... like, a month. Part of that is because we had literally no "social life" the first part of the semester. We pretty much just went to classes, ate our meals, and did homework. So we had some spare time to work on videos and blog posts. But as we got to know people, we kinda wanted to spend time with them and that takes up, well, time. =)

There's another reason we haven't posted videos lately, but that's all explained in the video linked below! This video also covers our orchestra rehearsals, what happened right before Thanksgiving break, and what will be happening in the next week or so before we go home for Christmas! We are currently working on two other videos to fill you in on the last couple of months, and will post those in the next couple of days. Thank you so much for bearing with us!


By the way, I don't know if we said this in any of our past videos, but Brock and Kimmy (two of the cellists from orchestra who are now some of our really good friends) are both film scoring majors. That's kind of important background information for this video... you'll see why. =) Both of them write amazing (and very different!) music, but Kimmy doesn't have any available online yet. If you want to listen to some of Brock's, you can find his YouTube channel here: Brock Snow

So anyway, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and stay tuned 'cause we have two more videos comin'!

-Natalie

Sunday, October 26, 2014

System Override

There are some days when God re-writes your schedule, not to make things more complicated but to simplify your life and refresh you. Don't believe me? I wouldn't have believed either, but my God is so loving and faithful...

It was going to be a standard weekend... buried up to my ears in homework. I had an assignment for my Cinematic Arts Appreciation (CINE 101) class due Sunday night that required me to watch a movie of my choice and explain how the movie addressed existentialism. I also had to finish a short research paper for my University Core Competencies class (how-to-be-a-college-student 101) by Sunday night and prepare for a persuasive speech that I might have to give in my Speech Communications class on Monday morning. And let's not forget the quiz in my 7:40am Accounting Principles class, also on Monday! 

There were other, smaller things I hoped to get done as well, but the point is, I was swamped. I fully intended to lock myself in my room all day Saturday and all of Sunday after church, but God had other plans...

Saturday morning I sleep in somewhat longer than I intend to and get off to a slow start. As I try to review the chapter on Existentialism in my "Hollywood Worldviews" book for my CINE 101 assignment, Rachael has a long (and very interesting) conversation with her family in the background. Not bad... I like hearing from her family as well as mine... but it makes it hard to focus. Then I have to figure out which movie to watch. After making a list of the various movies mentioned in the book and several others that I think might work, I check which ones are available at the library and look up PluggedIn reviews on them. Finally I settle on Iron Man 2. 

By this time Rachael and I are ready for lunch. Before we leave for the dining hall, though, we spontaneously end up Skyping Jubilee for a while! It was awesome to talk to her, and we had a really good conversation, but I felt myself losing homework time. Tension grew inside my chest and a nagging voice started whispering in the back of my head. I knew that voice all too well... I did my best to ignore it, but I couldn't silence it completely. 

You're not being productive, it whispered. You're wasting time.

I know that, as my Dad always says, "People are more important," but sometimes I'm not sure where to draw the line between building relationships and doing my schoolwork. Anyway, we got a late lunch, came back and started a couple of loads of laundry, and eventually left with our laptops to do homework on the roof of DeMoss Hall, the really big, impressive academic building smack dab in the middle of campus. Problem is, it's hard to get a whole lot done when there's a gorgeous view of the mountains and the setting sun right in front of you.


Finally it got cold and pretty dark, so Rachael and I climbed down and went back to the dining hall, where we attempted to multi-task. The only thing I had managed to accomplish school-wise by this point was picking Iron Man 2, checking it out of the library, and finishing the rough draft of my research paper. 


We had already arranged to meet Kimmy (Rachael's stand partner in orchestra) to see The LEGO Movie at one of Liberty's regular movie nights. They show two movies at a time, and The LEGO Movie was the second one, so we hung out with Kimmy at the library during the first movie and *attempted* to keep doing schoolwork until the second movie started around 9:45. At this point, I pretty much gave up any idea of being productive that day. The LEGO Movie was a ton of fun, and we got to spend some time with just Kimmy, which was also awesome. 

I was still hoping to get something done when we got back to our dorm, but then we ended up talking to Bryanna from across the hall for a couple of hours. Again, it was a really good, encouraging, meaningful conversation, but by the time I went to bed it was 3am. (Yeah, I know. My body's on the college-kid schedule now...)

So Sunday came. We went to church and had lunch with some girls from our dorm, pretty much per normal, and I came home and sat down with my day timer. Sometime in the middle of the previous evening, that awful tension in my chest had melted away, and I knew that somehow, for some reason, God had "ruined" my Saturday schedule on purpose. Theoretically, that meant that "everything would be OK," But I still didn't know how I was going to get everything "done" on time.

Guess what I discovered?
  • The LEGO Movie that I'd watched "just for fun" with Kimmy and Rachael actually addressed all three aspects of existentialism that I was supposed to discuss in my CINE 101 assignment! (Chance over destiny, freedom over rules, and experience over reason) So I didn't have to spend an extra 2 hours watching Iron Man 2. 
  • On that note, I'm sure The LEGO Movie was also more "wholesome" than Iron Man. At the very least, I'm not going to have crass jokes and suggestive images stuck in my head for the next few weeks.
  • The Accounting chapter that I had to read before Monday morning was half the length it usually is!
  • My speech was already outlined from earlier in the week, so if I had to give it "on the fly" without much practice, I had a pretty solid foundation to work with. Also, there was a pretty good chance I wouldn't have to give my speech until Wednesday.
  • Convocation is cancelled on Monday this week, so there are no room checks. This means I don't have to sweep out my room or tidy it all up before I go to bed. (Sounds lazy, but you take what you can get! Besides, we haven't gotten written up for having a messy room yet!)
  • The toilet overflowed in the bathroom that Rachael and I were supposed to clean this week. It was so bad that the maintenance people came over the weekend to deal with it. Some pipe broke and is leaking on the quad below us. All of this sucks. EXCEPT the fact that we are forbidden to enter or use that bathroom in any way, shape, or form. This means that, until further notice, Rachael and I have practically no chores this week!

God knew this. 

                    God knew about all of this. 

                                                              I didn't. 

I was planning to keep myself busy, but God said, "You're going to take a break whether you like it or not." Which is funny, because lately I've been worrying that God might essentially make my life miserable if I let Him have control of it. Instead, He blessed me beyond what I was expecting and refreshed my spirit with several good conversations with friends. And no chores!!!

Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to override my near-sighted schedule and replace it with Your perfect one. Thank you for peace, rest, and joy. You are truly a good God, and you have blessed me beyond what I deserve. May I never forget this. May I never forget your compassionate, merciful wisdom. Amen.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Videos!

Hey everyone!

You may have seen these videos on Facebook already... I just thought I'd officially post them on the blog, too! Thanks for your patience! We're busier than we thought we'd be. (I can picture most of you grown-ups nodding with a smug smile at that. I'll forgive you for your smugness if you forgive us for our ignorant optimism!)

Anyway... that's my (poor) attempt at humor for the day. Please don't take it seriously. I'm trying to exercise my funny bone. =)

So here's the first video, which documents the first college football game that Rachael and I have been to (ever)! I know, it's weird that two girls who grew up in the heart of the SEC, smack dab between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide, never caught the football fever. But such it is, at least for now. =)

Then here's a longer video blog about lots of different things... a football pep rally, an exciting dorm event, our friends from orchestra, Rachael's 19th birthday, etc. We have enough footage for two more videos, but I'll try to post more frequently with pictures while we're trying to get those videos put together. =)

Happy Fall, people! Talk to you later!

-Natalie

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Art of Bowing

So yes, it’s sort of a double joke. :) Since coming to Liberty, I've had the privilege of taking private cello lessons in addition to playing with the symphony orchestra. It’s been great to continue learning something I love so much while at college!

Anyway, I've been learning a lot in the past month – and I've been surprised to find so many biblical parallels in playing cello. I've had a lot of “God reminders” while practicing and I wanted to share them with you all. So, things I've learned...


      1. You've got to let go.

    There’s a difference between precision and a stiff attempt to control every detail. Precision comes from practice and focus; a tight, rigid grip will only end badly, both for playing and for your hand itself. Being a control freak makes you inflexible, un-pliable, and strangles the sound. Not to mention the trembling, cramping hand! This reminded me that I don’t have any ultimate control of my life – that’s in God’s hands. So why pretend and stress out over something that is beyond my control? 
“There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the Lord directs his steps.”


     2. You have to be willing to make mistakes.

     It comes with the territory – if you play an instrument, you will make mistakes. Period. But without making the mistakes and learning from them, you can’t become a better player. So when the string squeals or the note is so flat you could balance a glass of wine on it, you shrug, smile, and move on. In my Christian walk, I have to be willing to mess up and fail. I've often seen people’s true character more in their “I’m sorry” than in their “perfectness.” Jesus Christ is lifted up in our imperfections. When we are shown to be our weak selves, God is magnified and made strong.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”


      3. Sometimes you have to be broken down to nothing.

     Bad habits, skewed way of thinking, wrong understanding… All these things have to be torn down so they can be built up again right. Relearning is seldom a fun experience. It often comes with frustration and lots of repetitive work, sometimes without any noticeable results for a long time. But it is so worth it. In my case, every detail – which muscle moves what, how the fingers rest on the bow, the angle the cello is tilted – had to be relearned or readjusted. God does this in our lives too. Hard circumstances, big changes, and trials all bring us back to our knees and remind us where we draw our strength & our very breath. He makes us humble so that we are pliable in His hands. And then, He can build us back up.


      4. Live out loud.

     It was unconsciously forming – I was pulling up my elbow and shoulder and taking the weight out of the string to make my sound quieter. I had trained myself this way because, for some reason, I thought loud was wrong and undesirable. And then, even if I wanted to, I could not play “big.” But the shoulder and elbow has to relax, to move fluidly and quickly and boldly. The bow is meant to make the string sing out! Likewise, we’re meant to “live out loud,” as the Steven Curtis Chapman song coins it. We should pray for boldness to share Jesus with those he loves. We have a relationship with God – we, who even at our best were just filthy rags – and we were meant to sing it out!


      5. Enjoy the Ride!

     Throughout the years, there have been times I have avoided practicing. I would scrub the kitchen floors to keep from sitting down and working on scales and tricky runs. It was a thing on the list, to be done. But the more I understand, the more I delight in things I'm learning, the more I immerse myself in this beauty of music that God's given us, the more I love playing cello. In fact, there have been a couple days I have put off homework so I could practice (okay, so that's not saying much, but really I've had a great time!). This just kept bringing the verse in Matthew to mind:
"Come to me, you who are weary and heavy ladened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
This made me think: What if, just maybe, it's more about resting in Jesus, more about savoring my relationship with him? More about a crazy-awesome ride with Jesus at the wheel and me trusting him in joy. :) So, anyway! I've really enjoyed everything music-related here so far!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Global Focus Week

Hello everyone!

If you're interested, here is an article about today's convocation. (FYI, the article fails to mention that President Falwell forgot about the "spoken word" artist at the end, so he dismissed the students. When quite a few people were out in the aisles on their way out, he realized his mistake and called everyone back, so there was mass confusion for a little while. That was pretty funny.)

This week has been very convicting so far. On Monday, Nik Ripken, a missionary who had spent years in Africa (in/around Somalia) shared how he often felt like repaying the Muslim extremists with military violence. "The Old Testament sounds really good to me," he said. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But then he reminded us how Jesus tells us to love our enemies. The truth is, many Muslims have never heard of Jesus, because the church "didn't get that far." They never had the chance to believe and act any differently.

Apparently one of Mr. Ripken's friends fell on his knees before God after 9/11, asking God to forgive, not the terrorists, but the church because they hadn't reached the Muslim world with the Gospel in time to prevent terrorism. That was a whole new perspective for me.

One of Mr. Ripken's Somali coworkers literally walked for 5 days without food across mine fields and under barbed wire to get to the Ripken family because their son had just died. The coworker was amazed that Christians know where they are going when they die; Muslims don't. He asked Mr. Ripken, "Why have you Christians kept this to yourselves?" That's not really what I would expect a Muslim to say, but he did.

Today in Convo we were told that the Scriptures might very well be translated into every language within the next 20 years, which of course brings up the verse: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all nations... and THEN the end will come." It should make me excited, but it's kind of a scary thought. "The end" means the Tribulation, the Antichrist, Armageddon, the whole nine yards. Of course, it ultimately ends with Christ's return, but there's a lot of trouble that has to happen first. I've known that the end would be coming soon... but I was still startled to think that it might be THIS soon. I like my happy little world, and I really don't like being reminded of the ugliness outside. This is a very wrong point of view, I realize, but it's where I am right now.

Which raises the question, in light of the soon-ness of the end of the world, how should I live? The weight and enormity of these realities makes even going to college seem trivial by comparison. I want to kind of brush it off and go on my merry way... but then again, I don't. I don't want to be one of those virgins who forgot to trim her lamp and was shut outside when the bridegroom came. I don't want to be caught sleeping on the watch. I want to be ready and doing the will of my Lord when He comes. But His will is SO big and SO heavy.

Often I feel God calling me to commune with Him, but I feel guilty for not doing my devotions (or whatever the situation might be) and I try to tune Him out, kind of like Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden of Eden. For some reason, I let myself believe that interacting with Him and listening to Him will be this awful, painful thing... but really, truly walking in fellowship with God is when I feel the most free, the most alive. Yet I tend to go into auto-pilot and just kind of drift along in life, when I should be actively leaning on Him. Only then can I focus on and do His will without buckling under the enormity of it all.

Anyway... that was a different post from what we've done so far, but I wanted to share that, and get it written down. I would appreciate your prayers as I learn how to walk with God and also consider what part He wants me to play in taking the Gospel to the nations. Thank you so much!

   -Natalie