September11, 2013 Edition

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'Let it shine'

Vivian Heyl
Staff Writer

There is nothing more joyous than a group of children making music, and two Sundays a month my husband, daughter and I have the opportunity to enjoy playing music with the youth at our church. For at least some part of the activity, musical instruments are brought out and we just enjoy the moment. Watching their faces light up with happiness is worth the cacophony that often marks their performance.

My husband, Larry, who is a musician and composer, encourages our group of young Beethovens to strum, pluck, bang and clang to their hearts' content. His smile is as big as theirs and I can tell he is enjoying the moment as much as they are. To anyone listening it might resemble total mayhem, but for us it is creativity in full swing.

It's not always just about making a joyful noise. They are also learning about rhythm, reading music notation and how music and words work together. One of the first things we did was introduce them to songwriting. Most of the kids have been co-writing and singing their own tunes for several years now. Even though Larry writes much of the music they enthusiastically contribute their ideas and most of the lyrics. They're very talented and I am so proud of their ability to create wonderful messages using contemporary themes.

They enjoy singing their songs in public whenever they get a chance. Give them a microphone and they are happy campers. Our group of children range in age from three to 12 and seeing a three year old in front of a microphone belting out a song may be one of the most joyous sights ever. We perform for the congregation occasionally and each year at Sunday In The Park the group gets a chance to show their chops to a much larger audience.

The park performance is one of their favorites. When it is their turn to perform they flood the stage, grabbing instruments and beaming at the audience with such radiance that everyone knows they are going to be in for a treat. I love watching them as they sing, clap and play tambourines, maracas, and other rhythm instruments along with the band. Their enjoyment in making music is evident and shines out for all the world to see.

Larry has developed a grand finale over the years that involves audience participation. He invites everyone to sing, grab a rhythm instrument or just clap along with the youth group. This is a much-anticipated part of the show and performers and audience look forward to it each year. The first few notes of "This Little Light of Mine" always brings an enthusiastic group of kids and parents to the stage as they wait to join the fun. With only the drummer playing everyone is encouraged to join the clapping and singing.

Imagine a 40-foot stage filled with people completely lost in the moment. They play with childish abandon no matter what their age. The only important thing is being a part of the celebration.

There is something remarkable about the sound of rhythmic clapping, stomping and drumming accompanied by voices ringing out with conviction. The volume continues to swell as the number of people on stage increases and I am sure they can be heard all over the park. Listening, I imagine that in every picnic and play area voices are joining them as they sing, "Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

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