MY CONSTANT WILL BE
B A R R Y B R A K E . C O M

 

 

things i did in 07.
a moustache-twisting journal of the few things in my life worth mentioning

12  |  11  |  10  |  09  |  08  |  07  |  06  |  05  |  04  |  03  |  02  |  01  |  2000  |  99  |  98  |  97

 

 

 

 

 

yeah

 

land of smiles.
six weeks honeymooning in thailand

120 days in the valley.
diaries from my cancer journey

go east.
my month in beijing

fast hannah.
a preliminary bit of blizz blazz

mad skills.
bbbbarry thRoWz U sOmE dEeP hOuSe

 

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wrote literature

After seventeen years of Sunday school teaching, word got around: Student Life Ministries, one of the largest outfits around for youth ministry resources, asked me to be on the panel of 12 writers for its new lesson series entitled "Consecration." It's affirming to have one's ideas taught in over four thousand churches. Boundaries expand.

 

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celebrated a third anniversary

It's hard to believe, but Catherine and I have been married for some years now. The honeymoon is far from over. Our honeymoon may have been in Thailand, our first anniversary in Panama, and our second in Vienna, but our third — our third was in New Braunfels. Hey! New Braunfels was great. Moreover, life together is great. Catherine is my lover, my inspiration, my best friend, my solace, my source of giggling, snickering, and all-out laughter, and one of the most admirable people I know. I'm thrilled to go through life by her side.

 

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was encouraged to temporarily remove myself

A few days after teaching a Sunday school lesson, I found out that that lesson had been quite controversial. Several people had raised complaints to such a pitch that the ministers involved told me there were only two options: to remove myself voluntarily, from Sunday school teaching, and from all involvement with the youth, effective immediately and for an indefinite period, or to get removed. What a choice! And that's not all: since these people said they simply could not worship with me in front leading the band, I was encouraged to voluntarily remove myself from doing that too. Several people threatened to leave the church over this issue. My words in the lesson in question were unwise (you can read it here), and I most definitely needed to hear correction from the people who took issue with it. But that's exactly what I didn't hear. Contrary to Christ's clear instructions, the people who were upset with me didn't come to me — not a single one. To this day I don't even know who they are. So that indefinite period continues, for I can't serve in those areas unless and until this family has directly addressed the issue of confrontation, and has at least promised to arrive at a Biblical process of accountability. The whole situation has me weighted with sadness. Everyone makes mistakes (and this one, bad as it was, wasn't at all my worst), but the question is how do you address those mistakes? March 6th was a product of, and a contribution to, a culture of incredibly low trust. Pray for us.

 

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celebrated a 20th anniversary

In 1987, I played synth for Chris Davis's fraternity act in Baylor's All-University Sing, the largest amateur show in the United States. Every year since then, I've played in the pit band, and written arrangements and directed as well. One of my favorite things about what I do is that I get to hear my musical ideas come to life; it's just icing when that's done by really good performers in front of sold-out audiences. And for twenty years! That means I've been involved in Sing for almost half of its existence.

 

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celebrated a 40th anniversary

My birth, that is. I'm not sure that anyone could possibly ever have a better fortieth birthday. A party with dear friends, splendid private dinners, 1967 Porto Rocha, stupendous gifts, and a journey across the Atlantic for second-row seats to one of my favorite bands. Yep, I finally...

 

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got to see the blue nile

It's hard to believe. First, they only come out with a new album once a decade. Second, they tour less than they release albums. But fortunately, a Nile sideman (the embouchure behind those plangent trumpet sounds in the early albums) was in charge of the Manchester International Festival last year, and invited them to headline. They did, one night only, and Catherine and I were there, soaking up the beautiful sounds. We even got a chance to meet and interview the leader, Paul Buchanan (Texas Public Radio listeners, be on alert!), and got invited to the after-party with the band. We also enjoyed our stay in Manchester, at a gorgeous 1850s mansion peopled with an international cast of friendly, intelligent, fun characters. A charmed life, I tell you!

 

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moved out of the rock house

The deal was that we would keep up and spiff up the place a bit, so that it didn't rot before the church began to use it again for whatever purpose. Well, that purpose arrived in July in the form of a dynamic new minister named Nils Smith, and his wife Katie, a long-time TBC friend. We were thrilled to welcome them into their new home, thrilled to have stayed for a spell in such a beautiful place, and thrilled that, in a church so good at hellos, this particular farewell was a fond and graceful one.

 

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was a next-door neighbor

When we moved out of the Rock House, we moved in next door to Catherine's sister Ellen and her family. Ellen and Chris and their daughters, Anna and Isabel, were just a blast. Every time there was a knock on the door we knew something fun was about to happen. We took walks, did some kidwatching, and enjoyed too-few evenings together. It's a reminder of how out of balance modern life usually is, to live in such a villagey way near one's family.

 

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wore cellini

I first wore Cellini cologne in high school. Its spicy scent was a pleasure. It seemed a perfect fit for brisk fall weather and its fashions. Still does. They discontinued it in the late eighties, though; I parsimoniously stretched and stretched my last bottle. But the internet came to the rescue last year: I found some and bought it immediately. Ah, Cellini!

 

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made and missed some world premieres

Texas is, of course, the world capital of new opera. Didn't you know? Well it is: recent years have seen premieres by composers great and small, and a huge huge outpouring of creativity, all showcased in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. We have season tickets to Austin Lyric Opera, which housed the premiere of Philip Glass's "Waiting For The Barbarians." Alas! Alas! I had the weekends mixed up, and we missed it! How could this have happened? But then there was Thomas Pasatieri's "Frau Margot," at the Fort Worth Opera Festival, a dramatic, satisfying story based on a real-life incident between Leonard Bernstein and Alban Berg's widow. These days we often pick apart a performance of something everybody already knows by heart; it's good to see opera the way its first audiences saw it, encountering a new work as a whole. That's why it's good to be in Texas.

 

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saw two favorite performers in the same place

One reason it's not quite so good to be in Texas is that Dar Williams stays away from the red states. Catherine caught on to her soulful voice and thoughtful lyrics and quirky delivery and interesting ideas several years ago, and has been itching to see her perform ever since. I just so happened to find out that she just so happened to be appearing live in concert with another band we like, Over The Rhine, up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So, we made this our second concert trek of the year. Well worth it: both Dar and OTR were terrific in person.

 

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walked with harry potter to the end

If you haven't read the Harry Potter books, you're missing out on a major achievement. We're living in a golden age. It's really really hard to bring any lengthy series to a satisfying end, whether it's a movie series or television or books. And when an author has opened so many doorways and introduced us to so many characters we love and identify with, it's almost impossible. But JKR did the impossible. For one blissful weekend, we witnessed the Potter telos. All those who pooshed at the idea that HP was a Christ figure and that the series was a retelling of the Great Story of the World, where are ya now? No matter: it's serious fun to be in the presence of a master storyteller.

 

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partied bigger and better with the protags

We've been doing the Protagonists Jazz Party on KRTU for five years now. That's a lot of shows. But starting a couple of rounds back, we began doing more adventurous shows and experimenting with different themes, and having more guest artists. It's all paid off: the show is recognized as one of the best radio shows around. We've had compliments from ordinary folks, deep music lovers, radio professionals, and the local press, who called us "near-essential listening." What a pleasure, to be recognized for doing the thing one loves!

 

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led worship at a new church

Not long after the events of March at TBC, I was invited to be the worship leader for a small, growing church just north of San Antonio, Christ Church in the Hill Country. Till last year, they were affiliated with Christ Episcopal in San Antonio; now they're autonomous. The Episcopal Church has always been a refuge for me, and especially Christ Episcopal. Now CCHC is just such a place: they're fully liturgical, yet completely relaxed and unstuffy. I plan the entire musical side of things, write out charts, rehearse the musicians, and lead the congregation — from the back of the room, of course. There are pleasures small and large: a company of saints who are loving and supporting, PowerPoint ministers who are competent, a pastor who's truly pastoral, a beautiful Hill Country setting that provides a soul-cleansing journey every week, a knack for balancing tradition with innovation, a place where new things can get done. It's been a real refreshment for me.

 

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wrote music for yet another silent movie

Texas Public Radio commissioned me to do my third silent-film soundtrack for them. This time it was for King Vidor's "The Crowd," a humorous, dramatic, exciting, passionate meditation on how one man interacts with society, shaping it and being shaped. Again, they interviewed me on Classical Spotlight, and again I received a warm response from, uh, the crowd. I really enjoy combining my love of doing film soundtracks with my love of performing for live audiences.

 

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joined a health club

I always wondered why on earth I would pay to do what I could do for free. Better to walk or run out in the open air than to use a treadmill, the very symbol of drudgery. Better, though, to do something than nothing, which is what was happening. So Catherine and I signed up, and walked and ran and swam and sweated … and drank margaritas. (Ingenious! Serving margaritas at a health club, like lollipops from the dentist.)

 

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was given a grand piano

The Soupiset family had an inherited grand piano that they finally decided to get rid of. They chose the Brake family. We were surprised and delighted, and honored, to be receiving this wonderful old 1929 Brambach baby grand, and I'm still glad to be playing it week in and week out in its new home at CHCC. The piano is one of the great technologies of the world, and one of the great achievements of Western civilization. Though electronic keyboards have their place, there's just nothing like the real thing.

 

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stayed in the windy city

I can't believe it took me this long to get to Chicago. Our friends Andrew and Alisha hosted us in their Mary-Tyler-Moore-era high-rise apartment. They have a beautiful view of the lake, dotted one sunny afternoon with a flock of white sails. We ate deep-dish pizza, drank local beer, feasted on a pile of glorious Italian food, visited the Sears Tower, window-shopped, and tried on haute-couture fashions. And we discovered the truth: Chicago really does smell like chocolate.

 

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sang the sacred harp

This folk hymnal, first published in 1844, has been on my mind for a couple of years now. Those sparse harmonies and frontier melodies always strike just the right chord in American hearts. Last year, I went to my first Sacred Harp Sing, where people sit around in a square and make music that's the vocal equivalent of bagpipes: stirring, raw, and much more fun to make than to just listen to. It's like sharing in the making of a musical quilt.

 

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did more recording and producing

Along with the unveiling of Ken Slavin's "I'll Take Romance," which was mostly done the year before, there was also an album I played on with the Protagonists, as a backup for a fine jazz vocalist who did a diskful of standards. Then there was the critically-acclaimed Mike Brannon, whose album credits often read like a Who's Who of Jazz (Bill Evans, Trey Gunn, Paul Wertico), and whose new album is still in production: a flamenco-jazz project that's fertile and imaginative, and tons of stressful fun to work on. Add to that several demos for vocalists, a few personal side projects, and some take-out work for studio heads Keith Harter and Marius Perron, and that's a nice full plate.

 

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got new and old cuff links

It's so hard to find good cuff links. I think the problem is that the people who wear cuff links the most tend to gravitate to blingy ones. So those of us who like the unblingy kind are a bit challenged. (This provided the occasion for my funniest remark of 07: I was sharing this frustration with a friend, who said, "Do you think my cuff links are blingy?" My reply: "Not if you don't mind being called Cuff Daddy." Wow, that was my funniest remark?) Just in time for my birthday, though, fate answered with an antique mother-of-pearl pair that are perfect: understated, unusual. Then, because blessings abound, another pair in delicate silver ajouré that are a bit harder to negotiate but are just as perfect. There's great pleasure to be found in a thing well done.

 

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got respect

I've always told myself that it doesn't really matter what people think of me. But, having been given several healthy doses of respect, I realized last year how gratifying it really is to be recognized for what I do. The band was mentioned often and favorably in the press, and so was I. I had some recording professionals at a session surprise me by deferring to my expertise and asking for advice. Several times I had people brighten with recognition when I introduced myself. One newspaper actually referred to me appositively as "the respected composer-pianist." You know, Barry Brake, the respected composer-pianist. Wow! I'm respected? That's nice.

 

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enjoyed good health

For the first time in a long time, Catherine stayed well for weeks and months on end. I think taking a year-long break from work helped her immensely; her body was finally able to really mend and rest. That, combined with new medical treatments, made for a year that was mentally and emotionally restful, too. Throughout, we continued to get inquiries about Catherine's health from friends and family and people from all our various churches. How deeply good, to be so loved and prayed for and worried about and cared for by so many!

 

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What a year, filled with love and joy, deep depression and high adventure, and music through it all. Dedicated to the glory of God.

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so, what did you do?

 

 

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