PipeChat Digest #4756 - Friday, September 10, 2004
Annual Dutch Dash (Part two) - also hideously long
  by "Colin Mitchell" <cmys13085@yahoo.co.uk>
Annual Dutch Dash (part 3) - still hideously long
  by "Colin Mitchell" <cmys13085@yahoo.co.uk>
Happiness in our jobs
  by "Charles Peery" <cepeery@earthlink.net>

(back) Subject: Annual Dutch Dash (Part two) - also hideously long From: "Colin Mitchell" <cmys13085@yahoo.co.uk> Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 05:49:32 -0700 (PDT)   GRONINGEN AND BACH     I will forever be grateful for the atrocious weather in Holland this year, for the only way to avoid it was to travel a long way in the car, and Groningen is almost on the Northern coast of Holland, and Rotterdam is in the South West.   The names of Arp Schnitger, and that of his son, Frans Casper Schnitger are uppermost in the thoughts of organists when referring to the Groningen province of the Netherlands; the Schnitger dynasty, and their successors being especially active in this area and particularly well represented by extant instruments in either original, near original or carefully restored condition. Groningen itself, is a city with a typically splendid old centre, even though surrounded with industrial and more modern housing areas. Also historically a centre for brewing, Groningen lends its name to a well known lager.   Drawn to Groningen by the opportunity of hearing the wonderful Arp Schnitger instrument in the Martinikerk, little did I appreciate the treasure chest of unique and historic instruments in this northerly province of the Netherlands, of which I was quickly to become aware. Clearly proud of their unique organ heritage, the area abounds with organ specialists; a formidable body of historians, organists, organ commissioners, academics, teachers, organ builders, specialist restorers and writers. As I understand it, the organ commissioners are appointed by government, to preserve and protect the various historic organs; preservation being an important part of the cultural activity of the Netherlands. Indeed, I would suggest that in this one province alone, there are probably more priceless instruments, "orgel konzerts" and "Orgeltours" per square mile than anywhere else on the planet!   I was first of all met with enthusiastic entrance desk-staff at the Martinikerk, who expressed a sound working knowledge of the organ scene and the importance of the TWO fine old organs in this impressive church. Spacious and with huge resonance (always the best stop on the organ) I knew that even a harmonium would sound good in this magnificent building, never mind a real Arp Schnitger instrument. Before the concert started, I was steered towards an exhibition set up by the local "Stichting Groningen Orgelland." At their desk was all the information, CD's, CD-Roms, Books and Photographs anyone could wish for.   The main purpose of my all too brief visit, was to hear a konzert given by Vincent van Leer; first using the historic 18th century French baroque organ built by Le Picard, a builder of whom I had never heard. Judging by the beauty of the sound which flowed from this instrument, Le Picard was a fine organ-builder. Perhaps the most intriguing item of the entire programme were the "Uit pieces d'orgue - deuxieme ton" by a composer previously unknown to me; namely Lambert Chaumont (c.1650-1712). Typically "coloured" and "mannered" in the French style, this was fine music, demonstrating amply the various sounds of this small but remarkable two-manual instrument.   The various movements of the Chaumont work were as follows:-   Prelude Fugue gaie Cornet Recit Bass de cromhorne Chaconne grave   After the Bach "Fantasia" BWV571, Vincent van Leer made his way to the magnificently restored Schnitger organ in the West gallery, with its imposing pedal towers and a veritable forest of polished tin pipes, set against the magnificently carved organ case painted in a deep blue/black, with lushious gold gilt highlighting the detailing of pipe shades, life-size statues and delicately carved reliefs. The case is a visual feast in itself, and typical of the quality craftsmanship from the "Golden Age" found throughout the Netherlands.   I knew what to expect of an Arp Schnitger organ, but in the flesh, the effect is breathtakingly rich and sonorous; the chorus-work dangerously rich in overtones at close quarters. What a perfect foil the flute registers are; as beautiful and delicate as any Lotus blossom, whilst the chorus reeds add nothing much except even greater richness of harmonic sonority. Only the pedal reeds are strong enough to add real power and gravitas when drawn; fulfilling their role as "cantus firmus" registers and adding a splendid, reedy underpin to the electrifying richness of the full organ pleno.   During the course of an all Buxtehude/Bach demonstration of this superlative instrument, (restored by Jurghen Ahrend), the acoustic qualities of the impressive Martinikerk did not escape attention. In a less resonant buildings, it was easy to understand the displeasure felt by those who find their ears assaulted by the shrillness of Schnitger-style open-foot voicing and rank upon rank of high-pitched upperwork.   It isn't just a question of resonance, but a particular type of resonance; heard only in very lofty, well proportioned buidings. As the bright, rich sounds of Schnitger diffuse amongst the miriad reflective surfaces of soaring stone arches, oak roof timbers, oak furnishings and the black marble (bassalt?) flooring, the brilliance of the tonal edge gives way to perfect balance and thrilling sonority, with the gently blown basses coming alive as they bloom in the ambient acoustic. Creeping quietly to the apsoidal chancel of this imposing building, there is only perfect harmony and sonority, as at Haarlem, but with one big difference. Whereas the organ at Haarlem degenerates into a beautiful mush of sound when heard from afar, the Groningen Schnitger still has transparency and clarity. Maybe I now understand why Schnitger, and Silbermann, are regarded as the finest tonal artists of their time.....an accolade enjoyed only by a select handful in the entire history of the instrument.   I came to the conclusion that no copy and no neo-baroque instrument could ever sound this good in a different type of building, but of course, that is merely stating the obvious fact that Schnitger was, without doubt, a tonal genius.   If there was but one highlight of this year's annual "Dutch Dash" it would have to have been THE most stately performance of the "Gigue Fugue" as I have ever heard. Cast from your minds the thoughts of young sailors skipping along poop-decks, or dashing military suitors leaping on tables and sending pewter-ware crashing to the floor! This was a gigue danced by elegant ladies in heavy dresses: a glimpse of occasional white stocking maybe, but a far cry from a baroque version of the "can-can" so many would have us believe! Vincent van Leer demonstrated exactly how this splendid fugue should be performed on an organ such as this, and in a spacious acoustic like that of the Martinikerk. Believe if you will, those who claim that it is not possible to hear the individual strands of counterpoint in fugal writing. I would gladly testify to hearing every single strand of the "Gigue Fugue," as clear and exact as if it were performed on a Consort of Viols in the anachoic chamber I call my living room. THIS was the genius of Schnitger (and Jurghen Ahrend) revealed in naked purity of tone and ,quite literally, a sound to die for!   Groningen is celebrated for the fact that it does not have just one Schniter organ, or just two, but THREE within its' ancient boundary. How I wish I could have heard the organ of the Aa-kerk, but a brief glimpse of the imposing, dark oak case was the nearest I could get, whilst the tables and cutlery were being set for some official dinner party or other in the body of the church.....a strangely Dutch thing to do!   As I was to learn, very quickly, the name of Schnitger is but one among many in a province famed for many historically important organs; some dating back to the late Gothic period. Perhaps it would be as well to bear in mind that as a province, Groningen possibly takes up less of the planet's space than just one big American city like Los Angeles. Consider if you will, the following list of significant instruments in the Groningen province, covering just the period from the late Gothic to the early part of the 19th century. Bear in mind also, that the baroque-organ tradition continued well into the middle of the 19th century in the Netherlands, with celebrated organ-builders such as Batz, Hinsz and Lohman slow to make radical changes or introduce swell boxes.   1. Leens, Petruskerk, A A Hinsz o.b. 1733 2. Mensingweer, Herv.Kerk. A.Schnitger o.b. 1698 3. Ulrum, Herv.Kerk, N A Lohman o.b. 1806 4. Eenrum, Herv.Kerk, N A Lohman o.b. 1817 5. Middlebert, Herv.Kerk, J W Timpe o.b. 1822 6. Haren, Dorpskerk, A A Hinsz o.b. 1776 7. Groningen, Martiniker, Le Picard (France) 1742 8. Uitthuizermeeden, Herv.Kerk, A A Hinsz o.b. 1785 9. Uithuizen, Herv.Kerk, A Schnitger o.b. 1700/1701 10. Kantens, Herv.Kerk, Gebr.Huis o.b. ca.1660 (restored by Ahrens) 11. Farmsum, Herv.Kerk, N A Lohman o.b. 1828 12. Middelstumme, Doopsgez Kerk, D.Onderhorst (kabinet orgel) ca.1760 13. Appingedam, Nicolaikerk, A A Hinsz o.b., 1744 14. Oosterwijtwerd, Herv.Kerk, Cabinet Organ, Christian Muller o.b. 1744 15. Loppersum, Herv.Kerk, Hins/Freytag o.b., 1735/1803 16. Eenum, Herv.Kerk, A Schnitger o.b. 1704 17. Zeerijp, Jacobuskerk, Faber o.b. 1645/Blank o.b. 1979 18. Krewerd, Herv.Kerk (organ builder unknown) 1531 19. Godlinze, Herv.Kerk, A Schnitger o.b. 1704 20. Bierum, Herv.Kerk, Frans C Schnitger / Freytag o.b. 1792 21. t'Zandt, Herv.Kerk., H Huis o.b. 1662 22. Finsterwolde, Herv.Kerk, H H Freytag o.b. 1806 23. Oostwold, Herv.Kerk, H H Freytag o.b., 1811 24. Nieuw Scheemda, Herv.Kerk, A Schnitger o.b., 1695 25. Nieuwolda, Herv Kerk, J F Wenthin o.b., 1787 26. Hellum, Herv.Kerk., H Huis/N A Lohman o.b. 1661/1819 27. Bellingwolde, Magnuskerk, Schnitger/Freytag o.b., 1797 28. Midwolde, (WK) Herv.Kerk, L Eckman/A.de Mare o.b., 1630/1660 29. Roden, Herv.Kerk, A A Hinsz o.b., 1780 30. Peize, Herv.Kerk, Verbeeck/Schnitger/Hinsz o.b., 1631/1697/1757 31. Anloo, Herv.Kerk, R Garrels o.b.,1718 32. Morra, Herv.Kerk, Schwartzburg o.b., 1740 33. Wijnjenwoude, Herv.Kerk "Duerswald", F C Schnitger o.b., 1721 34. Dantumawoude, Herv.Kerk, A A Hinsz o.b., 1776     The list does not include the three Schnitger organs at Groningen, and it is neither an exhaustive list of significant historical instruments, nor is it a list which includes many fine contemporary instruments.   Why, I found myself asking, should such a tiny region have such a wealth of historic instruments?   The answer is surely to be found in the history of the Netherlands and its economic development. With the ousting of the catholic rulers from Spain and the reformation which followed, the "Golden Age" of the Netherlands began, as mariners, traders and diplomats ventured far and wide; buying and selling all manner of goods. Increasingly skilled at drainage, sea defences, canal systems and land reclamation, the farming communities prospered. With the black-death a fading memory, the increase in population guaranteed economic growth and the establishment of a wealthy class of merchants willing to finance great works of building and art. A once watery wasteland was changed beyond recognition, and what the Romans once referred to as "the great bog of Europe," was transformed into the haven of extraordinary civilisation we see to-day.   Although the exact details defy instant analysis, the procurement of organs for churches seems to have been a matter for civic pride, with many of the instruments actually owned by the townsfolk of local communities, just as they are to-day. If the organ was used nominally as accompaniment to robust metrical psalmody during divine worship, there was also the clear understanding that the organ could and should be heard outside the normal times of worship. It is a peculiarly Dutch phenomenon, that churches are treated simply as bricks and mortar rather than as holy places, and in the Netherlands, churches are still used for exhibitions, concerts, meetings, fund raising dinners and other popular events. For reasons which completely escape me, Holland took the organ as a musical instrument to heart, and to this day, there is an extraordinary awareness of, and latent appreciation for the instrument across all age groups. With a relatively large and lucrative market, the names of the great organ builders of the "Golden Age" thus take their rightful place alongside those of Rembrant, Vermeer, Van Dyke and Frans Hals.   Following the "Golden Age" there came a period of relative decline and a very slow transition towards industrialisation, and whilst new organs were built by the likes of Witte and Batz, most work centered around the introduction of equal temprament and modest enlargement. Some organs were re-built to incorporate pneumatic action to the pedals, and some new organs used larger scales, pneumatics and even early electrification. However, many, many organs were simply added to, restored or had the winding systems changed. Whilst a few organs were drastically altered tonally, many remained much as they were, and even where changes took place, there are fascinating stories concerning the discovery of older pipes stored on the top of organs, disused and forgotten, where tonal changes have been made and new pipework added. Without doubt, the Netherlands organs have often been a restorer's dream come true! What better source of original pipework than the discarded pipes of another, older, restored instrument. In the restoration of an 18th century organ, it has sometimes proved possible to pass on discarded 19th century pipes added by a particular organ-builder, to another restorer busy restoring a 19th century organ from the same organ-builder's workshop.....and so on......up and down the time-scale. Restoration is a serious business in Holland!   Furthermore, when industrialisation did finally arrive, the Hollanders very sensibly built their industry AROUND the old town centres; leaving a rich heritage of beautiful 16th to 18th century town centres which we can still enjoy to-day.....Amsterdam, Leiden, Groningen, Delft, Alkmaar, Haarlem.....the list is endless. The possible reason for this is the way in which many Dutch buildings are built; set as they are on wooden posts which rest on the clay undersoil, rather than the soft sand layers close to the surface, building foundations is a difficult undertaking. In the UK. industrialisation simply meant knocking down the old and starting anew; ripping the heart out of ancient towns and cities. There are probably perfectly practical rather than aesthetic reasons why Holland retained the old town centres, but it would take a Dutch civil engineer to explain it properly!   With the great prosperity of to-day's Netherlands has come the opportunity to study, finance and execute careful restoration of buildings, art treasures and, of course, the hundreds of significant organs which are, in themselves, examples of world heritage.   Of course, the Netherlands organ-scene is often accused of being absurdly and impossibly academic, but with so much priceless history, it could simply not be any other way. Students of the organ do not, generally speaking, look to the French Romantic school and become titans of organ virtuosity. Instead, they become great interpreters of early music and the finest exponents of romantic counterpoint........easily the best Bach, Buxtehude and Reger to be heard almost anywhere. Fortunately, the music of Hindemith, Schmidt, Andriessen (etc) follows the contrapuntal tradition, and with a living, breathing tradition of improvisation, the Dutch are not entirely consumed by historical considerations. However, with many old organs retored to mean-tone, historically informed performances tend to make up the bulk of concert listening.   After the concert, we went to a cafe in the town square, where a funfair had been set up. Shaun was suddenly in his element. I drew the line at strapping myself into a ghastly fun-fair ride at Groningen, whereas Shaun was quite happy to be hurled upside down and spun around in the process.....I felt ill just watching. He followed this with a MacDonalds and two ice-creams!!   Leaving Groningen, and driving the second leg of a 320 mile round journey from Rotterdam and back, I was reluctant to head south across the enormous (38Km long?) sea defences, with the Zuiderzee on one side, and the North Sea on the other. My head and my heart had found a special place, in a world where such things are now almost extinct, and I knew then, as I know now, that I will be drawn back to lift the lid of the glorius treasure-chest which is the Groningen province.   -o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-       _______________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Shop for Back-to-School deals on Yahoo! Shopping. http://shopping.yahoo.com/backtoschool  
(back) Subject: Annual Dutch Dash (part 3) - still hideously long From: "Colin Mitchell" <cmys13085@yahoo.co.uk> Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 06:00:29 -0700 (PDT)   A HAARLEM NOCTURNE     Greater love hath no man than to give up a Schnitger for an afternoon in the Rotterdam "Tropicana" pool, but Zwolle would have been yet another very long journey and I felt that Shaun needed a bath.   Instead of Zwolle, I decided upon a second hearing at Haarlem, which gave me time to shop whilst Shaun splashed around the pool in his flippers. I returned with an ice-cream.....I was getting hooked!   When it comes to organ concerts/recitals, I can sit through most things respectfully and feel that I have learned something, enjoyed something or even been inspired by something....... but not at the organ concert given by Jan Hage at the Bavokerk, Haarlem on the last evening before returning to the UK.   I KNOW that the Bach canonic variations on "Von Himmel hoch" are simply wonderful examples of contrapuntal art........like watching Kasparov play chess and marvelling at every move. ....but it is highly academic music which sees JSB on a loftier, more academic plane than usual. Perhaps I might usefully have paid more attention to the musical ingenuity of the "Von Himmel Hoch" variations, for these were by far the most enjoyable music heard that evening.   I have always loathed and despised the organ music of Gyorgy Ligeti with a passion. In fact, such loathing is only equalled by my intense dislike of Polish food.....spotted meat with half a ton of added garlic and always accompanied by cabbage of various hues and culinary quality. The fact that the eating of Polish food might benefit from a quick wave of a geiger-counter since Chernobyl, is another good reason for steering clear of it.   The "Etude nr.2 'Coulee' (1969)" will not be on my Christmas shopping list for the forseeable future, though should I be given a copy, I could probably find a suitable place and a nail on which to hang it ! Bereft of real melody, proper harmony and any semblance of vitality, this is simply awful music. In the unlikely event that our paths ever crossed, I just know that Ligeti would be buying the drinks!   Then followed a strangely nondescript "Sequens" by Jan Welmers (1979), during which I found myself watching the bats fly around the cathedral. Indeed, since the previous year, the bats seem to have had a happy event of two, with five of the flying comics keeping me awake and entertained.   If the Welmers piece seemed dull, nothing could prepare me for the horrors of the ironically named "Etude nr.1 - Harmonie" by Ligeti; a sillier piece of music almost beyond imagination, and second only to the "Volumina" as the ultimate degredation of organ-culture. Indeed, every time someone has pretended to play the "notes" of "Volumina", I have had to leave the building to avoid a fit of uncontrollable hysterics!   The compositional technique of "Etude no.1" is not without nominal interest. It starts with the silence of depressed keys and with stops drawn. Then, and only then, does the performer switch on the blower! Then the performer has to ease out, very, very slowly, more stops.....each making a sound like a dying wilderbeast caught in the jaws of a lion. More lions, more wilderbeast......more wailing and gnashing of teeth. More half draw, slightly drawn and fully drawn stops join in the fun....how I wanted to see both performer and composer drawn and then quartered on a shared gallows!   I recall from my student days.......it was 2.17pm on a wet Friday afternoon.....when a fellow student deeply involved with contemporary music, suggested that Ligeti was "a genius."   If so, then his genius is surely restricted to the fact that he has somehow worked out a way of actually writing cacophony on paper; but then, my cat can do that with the aid of an ink-pad, a furry tail and four paws.   As if this wasn't bad enough, at least forty people walked out of the concert.....older Haarlemers who wanted to hear good music, familiar music or maybe interesting new music. They didn't protest or look angry, for that is not the Hollander's way, but with heads bowed and shoulders hunched, their body-language said it all, as they politely and quietly slipped out of the cathedral.   During the first Ligeti piece, young Shaun had also slipped quietly away, and instead of listening in agony, slept soundly on the back seat of the car; oblivious to the horrors of the concert and no doubt dreaming of more agreeable things.   The final work was by Reger...the "Symponische Fantasie und Fugue "Inferno" Op.57 (1901)"...no doubt composed around the same time as that masterpiece "Hallelujah" Gott zu loben!"   I like the music of Reger....I like it very much in fact....but I came to a conclusion many years ago.   I once watched an experiment in my psychology studies, where a spider was given LSD. It still spun a web, and the web still functioned, but it was as strange piece of knitting as it was possible to observe.   Reger, in all his diatonic dissonance, had a tendency to run musical riot unless he was pinned down by something sacrosanct such as a BACH motif , a Passacaglia theme or a solid Lutheran hymn-tune. Without those, Reger would often resort to manic hyper-activity, where harmony ran amok and structure struggled to circumnavigate the harmonic congestion. Despite the manic quality of much of Reger's writing, more often than not, there emerges a deep sense of melancholy. Like the deranged, drugged-up spider furiously knitting away at his "infernal" creation, this was complex musical knitting using Saracen's head harmonic knots cast on the thickest of needles. As for the musical structure, it was probably buried in the notes somewhere, but I never did find it !!   By the end of the concert, I felt that, as an organist, I had been dragged kicking and screaming through every conceivable contrapuntal machnination, every conceivable quarter tone, every conceivable sonic "experience" and every concievable derivative of every concievable dominant seventh of every conceivable key!!   I was frankly appalled by the crass disdain shown towards ordinary music-lovers by this awful piece of programming, and I felt genuinely sorry for those who had come along expecting to be inspired, uplifted or, dare one suggest it, entertained?   Of one thing I was sure, this concert ran contrary to the warmth of that wonderful (peerless?) instrument, the humanism which created it and the generosity of the Dutch spirit which holds such things close to the heart. It is therefore all the more commendable that the town burghers appointed Jos van der Kooy as civic organist to Haarlem, for he unfailingly thrills and delights his audiences where others fail, and perhaps he is a warmer, better, more human person for it.   Somehow, I was aghast as the last sounds died away, and several people leapt to their feet with cries of "Bravo!"   Were they responding from the heart? From the head? Was there something wrong with me, which just wanted to seek fresh air and welcome silence?   I came to the sad conclusion that those who cried "Bravo" were the sort of people who like to be seen to cry "Bravo". Perhaps they were a self-selecting social or intellectual elite....... but more likely, they were simply tipping a vaccuous nod in the direction of trendy, middle-class Dutch liberalism.   I wonder if the ten-year-old Mozart would have enjoyed the music?   I suspect he would have giggled uncontrollably during the Ligeti pieces, and written down the whole of the "Von Himmel hoch" from memory after the concert.   Of one thing I can be certain, he would have loved the bats and could have written a piece of music about them.   Oh! He did, didn't he?   o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o- Having heard the Bavo organ again, the wonderful Schnitger at Groningen, St Lauren's, Rotterdam after morning service, in addition to the old Leiden organs, I felt satisfied that I had balanced music with the simpler pleasures of showing a young teenager another way of life amongst the good, solid people of Holland........and he was not disappointed.   My own disappointment was restricted not to the ghastly weather, but to the fact that the cathedral at Alkmaar is undergoing extensive restoration to the roof. We journeyed there on the last day, for the town is worth seeing in itself. No organ concerts were billed during our time there, whereas they are normally very frequent. Still, Groningen had more than compensated for the absence of organ music played on the superlative F C Schnitger /Hagabeer organ, and the Van Covelens organ of 1511, of international fame, and in any event, I spent a couple of hours playing the Schnitger some years ago, and it was, and is, and always will remain a high point in organ civilisation. The organ waited 300 years for me, so I can wait a year for the organ!   I was able to buy a fine book about the big Schnitger, with lots of pretty pictures covering the restoration process. So if anyone wants to know anything at all about the Alkmaar Schnitger, I should be able to answer any query, even though it will take me time to learn the language better, translate the book and shape my reply in English.   My only other observation is the recommendation of two "must sees" for anyone contemplating a trip to Holland. Go to the blijdorp (zoo) in Rotterdam....it is nothing short of fantastic, and worth the expense....equivalent to about $25 per person, with no reductions above 12 years of age. To stand three feet away from the dangerous end of a fully grown Bengal tiger, and then see it yawn is, shall we say, memorable!   Thank God for glass and concrete barriers!   The other recommendation is a visit to the wonderful and enormous model city known as Madurodam, on the outskirts of Den Hague, where can be seen exact replicas of many important buildings in Holland, with docks, canals, ships, aircraft, Schipol airport and an enormous scale-model railway running around the perimeter. The only comical thing is to see a crow sitting atop the Westerkerk, Amsterdam, which if blown up to full scale, would have a wing-span of perhaps 100ft !! As for the swans which make Madurodam their home..........the mind boggles!   It was soon time to fly home like migratory birds, and the weather in the UK the next day was............would you believe......absolutely glorious?     -o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-       __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? New and Improved Yahoo! Mail - Send 10MB messages! http://promotions.yahoo.com/new_mail  
(back) Subject: Happiness in our jobs From: "Charles Peery" <cepeery@earthlink.net> Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 08:11:24 -0400   I am happy in my job! I decided to be happy about five years ago, when I lost my church job of 22 years because the new Senior Pastor wanted only top 40 radio music.   Sounds flippant, except that I think the first step is: deciding to be happy. It's not the instrument, it's not the style, it's not the people, it's not advancing your philosophy. It's deciding to order your thoughts toward happiness. I decided that I'd try changing my mode of thought. Instead of program goals, quality-control goals, musical goals, style goals, budget goals, I adopted a new mantra: "I'm here to serve." I still have all those goals and ambitions, for sure. But I don't jump on people when outward things don't match my inward vision, as I used to. I take a deep breath, say "I'm here to serve", and think about what to do next to make the situation better for everyone (including myself, but not primarily myself.) I try to be unfailingly polite and supportive to everyone.   To quote out of context, "Think on these things, and all the others will be added unto you as well." I think if you can be happy, positive, assertive, enthusiastic, and fun to be around, all the other things DO follow. I have a real inner component for sarcasm and bitterness. I couch it in humor, but still, it's definitely there. My excuse for that is that church music is certainly not an easy work environment, and this is my 34th year. So I can totally relate to being unhappy with.. well... I could be unhappy with just about everything, if I let myself.   I stopped letting myself. Of course, this could be delusional, as senility creeps upon me. But I think it's better.   Chuck Peery St. Louis