Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Sustain Pedal

I play the piano. Not well. But well enough to play the hymns impromptu or accompany if I have some advance notice. (Like several weeks. Okay, maybe a month.)

When I was a senior in high school, my grandmother asked me to accompany our entire extended family (cousins, aunts, uncles) in singing a special musical number at their missionary farewell. The piece was called, “Here am I” and was written by my grandmother’s sister. My grandparents had been called to the Minneapolis, Minnesota mission and all their children and grandchildren had been dutifully practicing in small circles around living room pianos in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho, belting out, “Here am I! Use me Lord!” to the robust strains of Great-Aunt Marie’s rallying chorus…that repeats. Twice.

I had been practicing too. The accompaniment consisted mostly of chords that moved quickly up and down the keyboard, from black to white, both hands pounding and leaping along. The piece was stirring but tiring to play. The flap of skin between my thumb and pinky finger was stretched weary, and I was having trouble making the chord transitions sound anything but choppy.

Then I remembered the sustain pedal and its wondrous mechanics.


Disclaimer: I usually write for a broader audience, but this post, I admit, is rather heavy on the Mormon lingo. The principle discussed transcends any setting in which we might find ourselves, including our families. But for you, my reader friends who are not Mormon, here's a short glossary of terms.

1. Missionary Farewell: church meeting at which a young person or couple who have chosen to serve an 18 month or 2 year mission for the church speak to their local congregation.

2. General Conference: World-wide gathering of church members via the internet or cable, at which the general leadership of the church speaks. General Conference happens twice a year.

3. Bishopric: Group of men called to serve as lay leadership for a local congregation.

4. Sister Julie Beck: General President of the LDS womens' organization known as the Relief Society.

5. Prophet: A man called by God to speak revelation for our day. "Like Moses?" you might ask. And I would say, "Like Moses. But without the beard." (This facet of Mormonism makes us most different from other religions.)

6. Sustain: the very topic we are discussing... come on over!


  1. Cath, darling, You are always wonderful, insightful, brilliant. Love this piece. I told Heidi you used the sustain analogy and she was flattered. :)

  2. Lovely, as always, Catherine.

  3. Michelle - thanks to Heidi for the analogy. I love you.

    Bonnie - you're so sweet to read. I want to get our families together soon.


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