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J. Daniel Ashton

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Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, —Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands:
"See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God." —Micah 6:8, CEV
With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.
Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. —Proverbs 3:5,6 CEV

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Name: Daniel Ashton
Location: Germantown, Maryland, United States

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Beginning of the End

Tonight marks the beginning of the fruition of our elucubration. (OK, I'm not talking about a written work. But the card at Starbucks (click on 4. view winning spelling bee words.) just says "to produce by working long and diligently," and that's what this weekend will be, and has already been being. And I'm tickled by the Latin heritage of this word, which can be translated as "to work [on] at night by lamplight." That is certainly apropos to our experience in the last three months!) We have performances every night, and half of the mornings, for the next four days.

Tonight the choir at Rockville UMC sings for the Maundy Thursday service, and before and after the service we rehearse other music for the rest of the weekend.

Friday night is the first high-pressure performance for me: For the Good Friday service I will be singing the part of the cantor, or narrator, or Evangelist, in St. John's "Passion" by Heinrich Schütz, again at Rockville UMC. (This work is not well-known today, but I was able to find a recording to study, and I list it on this page, in case you're interested.)

I will direct, Sabbath morning, as a combined choir performs selections from Handel's Messiah at my home church. This is, in part, to act as a preview for the evening's performance, and in part to give us an excuse to leave the choir risers and chairs set up on the platform. <grin>

Sabbath evening at seven o'clock is the first of the Messiah performances we've been laboring over. This one will be at Triadelphia SDA, which is at 12950 Brighton Dam Rd, in Clarksville, MD.

Sunday morning, being Easter, is, of course, a big deal at Rockville UMC. I direct the Maryland Chamber Orchestra Brass, and they will be providing service music and accompanying the congregational hymns, as well as the obligatory Hallelujah chorus from The Messiah. This is a big deal for me not only because I am eager for these musicians to play well, but also because I'll be playing first trumpet, and I'm still developing the chops necessary to survive this. (I also transposed the Handel/Proust trumpet parts for Trumpet in A, a.k.a. trumpet with your tuning slide pulled a long way out, and I'm nervous about that. It seems to work so well that it qualifies under the clause "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," and hence my nervousness.)

The weekend concludes with the second performance of The Messiah, this time at Trinity Lutheran, which is at 6600 Laurel-Bowie Rd, in Bowie, MD. Our last rehearsal at Trinity was last Sunday evening, and we had nearly a full orchestra. I came away from that rehearsal feeling very encouraged and hopeful about the performances, so I'm looking forward to the performance there.

Last night's rehearsal at Triadelphia was different, but not starkly so. I knew by Sunday evening that significant portions of the orchestra would be missing at this last dress rehearsal, as well as a few key singers, so, while it was still somewhat disappointing, it was not a surprise, and for that I am grateful. The choir was solid, although we took a second pass at a few things. I still don't have a good feel for using my left hand to ask the choir to stand or sit, while conducting the orchestra with my right hand. About two-thirds of the choir stayed to prepare responses for the Sabbath morning service, and, in contrast to the time we have spent learning Messiah music, these responses were beautiful and solid on the first try. It was a wonderful way to conclude the rehearsal.

After Sunday night we get three point five days of "normal life" before we board a train heading for Michigan and the final Bible Achievement event. I'm proud and pleased that we have half of this first-place team, together with half of their parents, singing in our performances this weekend.


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