Merry Christmas 2016!

To all who visit my website and blog:  Merry Christmas!

Putting on the 5th Voice Lifted at Christmas concert two weeks ago was a highlight of my Christmas season.  As always, it was a delightful experience for me to be with so many family members, relatives, friends, community members, visitors, returning audience members, and those coming to one of my concerts for the first time.  I am uplifted by being together with you all and having the opportunity to share my music with you.

I came to this year’s concert in a more peace-filled and joyful place, and I’m hearing that this came across in the show.  In addition to my red dress and red music stand, I chose to sing some more familiar carols and joyful, upbeat pieces.  It felt good.  I felt the best after this year’s concert than any of them so far.  I had fun on stage: performing my solo pieces and collaborating musically with Tom Flamini, Emily Barrett, and Mark Denchy.

A great article was published in the Pottsville Republican on the day after my concert.  I am grateful for that coverage, and I’m happy that the news article will spread the word to others who may be interested in attending a future Voice Lifted at Christmas concert.  Next year’s event will be on Sunday, December 10, 2017.

I’ve been more quiet this year on my blog, not having written and posted as often as in previous years, but I plan to do more of that in 2017.  I enjoy this connection to all of you.  Please feel free to leave comments on my posts – that will encourage me to show up more and share more.

In offering to everyone a Christmas message this year, I invite you to connect with your inner child and to allow yourself to be present in the celebrations in which you take part and in the difficult moments, too.  The holiday season is really, for most of us, NOT picture-perfect…but there is amidst all of that, so much to really celebrate and to be joyful about.  Jesus and Mary clearly struggled at many points throughout their lives, and they did not hide it or put on a face that masked their pain…but what they did was know that the holy God within was far greater than the human challenges they faced.  God is not external and distant.  We can allow ourselves to touch and hold God and to be touched and held…by simply going within and breathing in the love that is both the holy infant and the divine power inside.  May we allow Christ to be born within us today, and may we experience joy in that birth.

All photos by Andy Leibenguth – www.tamaquaarea.com

Thank you, Andy!!

 

Voice Lifted at Christmas – Fifth Annual Benefit Concert

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It is hard to believe that this will be the fifth consecutive year for the Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert,  This year’s event will be on Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 2:30 pm.  This event will, as in the past years, benefit the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation and the Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  100% of the ticket money will go to these two organizations, with each receiving 50%.  Tickets will be $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  You may call 570-818-4135 for advance tickets.  Returning to the stage as guest performers this year will be Emily Barrett and Tom Flamini.

If you have not attended a Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert in the past, I invite you to experience this event as a way to lift your spirit and to do something for yourself this holiday season that will help you to connect with the deeper meaning of Christmas.  My intention each year is to make this concert a retreat from the busyness of the season, a time to breathe & go within, and a time to reflect on who we are and how God is present in each of us and in our world.  The concert will include familiar Christmas songs as well as many unfamiliar pieces that explore our relationship with the Divine, our human experiences and emotions, and our connection to the past and to the future.  A favorite part of the concert in past years in addition to the music was the improvised sharing of personal stories and messages.  I look forward to opening my heart to the inspiration of the Spirit and seeing how God speaks through me in this annual event.

Please contact me with any questions about the concert or if you would like to purchase tickets in advance.

Merry Christmas 2015


Merry Christmas!

I offer my sincere wishes to each of you on this Christmas day for peace, joy, and love.  May you experience and know abundant blessings.

My heart feels expansive at this moment after some significant shifts within as I remember who I am as a child of God…an extension of God…a reflection of God, and as I allow God’s bright light / my bright light to be seen & then to stand in gratitude and awe of this same light in everyone around me as I soften to this beautiful world, breathing in the supreme, divine perfection of all.

This year’s Christmas benefit concert was an opportunity to join in community and to celebrate the sacred that was, that is, and that always will be.  I found meaningful connection in gathering with those in attendance and sharing our spirits and energy.

As I shared at the concert, there is indeed much pain in the world;  sorrow and sadness can be amplified during the holiday season when there seems to be an expectation of perfect families and jolly activities.  There is also much to celebrate.  There is peace and love underneath the heartache, and the peace and love can be arrived at when we release resistance and accept our present realities with authenticity and care.  I have come to see that it is all about remembering…remembering who we are and accepting our roles as co-authors of our world.  Along with God, we are constantly co-creating a world in which hope, peace, and love can thrive and endure.  I believe in more than Christmas.  I believe that every day is Christmas: a day of birth, of promise, of peace, and of understanding that what might seem imperfect to the naked human eye (a lowly manger / our seemingly broken lives) is to the holy heart perfection and the wellspring of bliss.
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Christmas Benefit Concert

 

 

This year, I will offer for the fourth consecutive year the Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert on Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 2:30 pm.  This event will again benefit the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation and the Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  100% of the ticket money will go to these two organizations, with each receiving 50%.  Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  You may call 570-818-4135 for advance tickets.

I am excited to announce that guest performers this year will include Mr. Steven Toth (Tamaqua Senior High School principal), Emily Barrett, Tom Flamini, and Barbara Greim.

If you have not attended a Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert in the past, I invite you to experience the event as a way to lift your spirit and to do something for yourself this holiday season that will help you to connect with the deeper meaning of Christmas.  My intention each year is to make this concert a retreat from the busyness of the season, a time to breathe & go within & reflect on who we are and how God is present in each of us and in our world.  The concert will include familiar Christmas songs as well as many unfamiliar pieces that explore our relationship with the Sacred, our human experiences and emotions, and our connection to the past and to the future.  A favorite part of the concert in past years in addition to the music was the improvised sharing of personal stories and messages.  I look forward to opening my heart to the inspiration of the Spirit and seeing how God speaks through music and word in this annual event.

Please be in touch if you have any questions about the event or would like to purchase tickets in advance.

Voice Lifted in the New Year

As we transition from 2014 to 2015, I look back on my Voice Lifted journey in this past year and look ahead to where I hope to take my music making in the upcoming year.

My Christmas Benefit Concert on Sunday, December 7th was a success.  It was a great experience to perform in the newly remodeled Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  I was delighted to connect with the wonderful audience who came out that day, and I am thrilled that the event provided support to the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation as well as the Community Arts Center.  I look forward to seeing these two organizations continue to serve our community in the coming year.

2014 brought the release of my second album Voice Lifted at Christmas.  This album is now available for sale online (download or CD) at this link.  My first CD Voice Lifted is also available here.  Downloads of the music from my Christmas CD are also available at Amazon.  Additionally, Voice Lifted at Christmas is available in streaming format on Spotify.  

In 2014, I greatly enjoyed many performances at private events, community events, and at churches.  I am excited to continue these in 2015.  For those who like to plan ahead, I am announcing the date for my 2015 Christmas Benefit Concert at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center – Sunday, December 6th, 2015.  I will be announcing other public performances throughout the year, but I wanted to get that date out right away, as I have loved hearing that some people are now making my benefit concert an annual Christmas tradition.

I also plan on additional performances in the new year with my music partner Tom Flamini.  Right now, we are preparing for a February 8, 2015 performance at Providence Place in Pottsville.

In the upcoming year, I also plan to continue blogging.  I plan to do that with more regularity, as I know that writing is a wonderful source of creative expression for me, and I enjoy sharing my journey with others on the path.  Additionally, many ideas are floating around my mind for live performances and recording possibilities.

For me personally, 2014 was a year that brought many challenges and much growth, and I see 2015 as a building year.  I believe that there will be much opportunity to take all of the lessons of 2014, allow myself to start at the place at which I am, and create much from the bottom up in this new year with faith and trust as the foundations.  Many of those around me have expressed similar feelings about 2014 being a year that involved much tearing down, shaking up of things, a lot of confusion, “a year that brought us to our knees,” and a year that was like a roller coaster ride.  I am envisioning and holding 2015 as a building year for myself and for those around me, for anyone who chooses to embrace this intention.

New Year’s Blessings to all of you and to those with whom your share your hearts and your lives.

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Christmas Concert, Christmas CD

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I am excited about my upcoming Christmas Benefit Concert that will be held on Sunday, December 7th, 2014 at 2:30 pm at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  This is the third year that I will offer a concert of Christmas music with 50% of the ticket money going to the Tamaqua Community Arts Center and 50% of the ticket money going to the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation.  Since my concert last year, the Tamaqua Community Arts Center has been renovated.  I will be performing on their new stage, and the seating upstairs has also been redone along with multiple other additions and improvements around the center.  I look forward to making music in this beautiful space that is a cultural home in our community.  I will be joined in the performance by several guest musicians, including high school principal Mr. Toth who will sing as part of the concert as a first-time guest at this event.  I hope that many in the Tamaqua Area School District will come out to support him, to support me, to support the other performers, and to support these wonderful organizations.  Advance tickets are available for $8, and tickets will cost $10 at the door.  Call 570-818-4135 for advance tickets.

I am also excited to announce that I have completed work on my second CD “Voice Lifted at Christmas.”  This CD will be available for purchase at the benefit concert, and it will soon be available for purchase on my website.  At the top of this post is the cover photo from the CD.  As on my first CD cover, I am lifting my voice to God.  Highlights of the new CD are favorite carols “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel,” and “Silent Night,” as well as favorite inspirational Christmas pieces “Mary, Did You Know?” and “Breath of Heaven.”  I am joined on 3 songs on the CD by vocalist Tom Flamini.

This is a preview of the new concert hall.

This is a preview of the new Tamaqua Community Arts Center concert hall.

 

 

 

Christmas Eve – Subject to Change

I have served as the church musician at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lansford for over 10 years now.  Our church has always had an 8:00 pm Christmas Eve service. Last night, snow squalls and black ice prevented us from having our traditional Christmas Eve church service. Some unexpected snow led to accidents…which led to road closures. My father and I attempted to get to the church, but we came to a point where the police directed us to turn around; a portion of Route 209 was closed. Our pastor also was unable to make it to church, as part of Route 443 was closed. While it was disappointing to not be together with our parish family celebrating Christ’s birth through prayer, Scripture, song, and communion, it was much better to play it safe and stay off of the slick roads.

 

There are those things in life over which we have no control. Most of us are quite good at planning. We organize, design, create, and put structure to our homes, our work, our days, our gatherings, our lives. And then…life happens. Often times, life has other plans. And often times, we don’t understand them. But I think that’s part of God’s plan…to remind us to let go & realize that we are not in control. Our job is to be our best selves and make the best choices with what we are given…just like Mary and Joseph did on that holy day in Bethlehem.

 

If Mary and Joseph were to choose a time and a place for the son of God to be born, I am certain they wouldn’t have named a tiny stable in Bethlehem on a cold winter’s night as the ideal conditions for Jesus’s birth. They were not prepared and didn’t want the blessed birth to turn out like that. But the circumstances were what they were…and things turned out okay…even better than okay. Mary and Joseph did their part and trusted and prayed. And that’s what we can do, too.

 

So often in life, we shape and sculpt our environment and have very neatly packaged visions of how we want everything to flow. Sometimes things flow as we have predicted and planned, but other times the weather, timing, other people, and so many other factors change things around, and we must go from there. But the good news is that on many occasions the outcome is better than we could have ever imagined.

 

Many times, the shift in plans leads us to enjoy it all more. We relax our shoulders as we let go of the rigid blueprint we had been holding. We laugh at how our serious and well-intended game plan was turned upside down. And we take joy in the connections we make with others as we bond over the unpredictable circumstances. Something about uncertainty brings us together, as we realize that none of us have it all together & we all can bring a lot to each other’s lives as we support each other in this unpredictable and sometimes crazy life journey. Besides, memories are made out of missed flights, unannounced visits, improvised recipes, detours, creative alternatives, unscheduled stops, and those minor mishaps that keep us on our toes. I’m convinced that God has a sense of humor.

 

A belated Christmas liturgy is still possible, and silent meditation and reflection has power. There are so many possibilities, but what matters is that the Christ child was born…not where or when or how he was born. And he lives in our hearts if we are open to His power, His plan, and keeping the faith, including all of the vulnerability and mystery that is inherent in faith.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Above is a photo of the Christmas tree at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bowmanstown, where I played a later Christmas Eve service (after roads re-opened.)

Announcing my Holiday Benefit Concert

 

On Sunday, December 15th at 2:30 pm, I will be giving a solo concert, with a few special musical guests, at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center, 125 Pine St., Tamaqua, PA. Tickets will be $5 in advance and $6 at the door, with 50% of the money going to the Tamaqua Community Arts Center and 50% of the money going to the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation, supporting special projects in the Tamaqua Area School District.

 

As I shared last year, I love singing holiday and Christmas music, and I am again excited to be performing my music to benefit the arts in my community and to benefit the school district that I graduated from and where I now teach.

 

I invite you to my concert.  It meant so much to me last year to have family, friends, supporters, and fans in the audience.  I again hope to have a good turnout in order to benefit the Tamaqua Community Arts Center and the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation so that they may continue to do the wonderful things they do!

 

Please contact me if you would like to purchase tickets in advance.  You may also buy tickets at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center.

 

Reflecting after the Concert

It’s been 9 days since my Holiday Benefit Concert.  On December 16th, I performed a full concert of holiday music at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center, with my concert benefitting the Tamaqua Community Arts Center and the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation. I was joined on stage by special musical guests Faith Roberts, Stan Stewart, and Tom Flamini. These musical guests lifted their voices and created beautiful music that uplifted all of our spirits. It was a special afternoon for me, because I love to sing, play the piano, play the guitar, and share my music with others. It was also a special afternoon for me, because it brought together so many wonderful people.

 

During the Christmas season, our to-do lists seem to get longer with holiday preparations that need to get done, family and work parties to attend, and gifts to buy and wrap. It’s easy to get caught up in it all and not take the time to slow down, reflect on what we’re feeling inside, and allow Christmas to come alive in our hearts. I don’t see Christmas as an all-out celebration of joy, jolliness, and peace on Earth. Those who attended my concert heard me sing pieces of music that speak to the fears and doubts we have inside, the struggles we face on the journey, and the heartache that is experienced during life on Earth…as well as the joy & sweet surprises and playful, lighthearted fun that is part of the season. I believe that Christmas is all of that. Christmas is a celebration of being alive and being together, feeling all that we feel and accepting it, while keeping focused on what really matters in life.  For me, two of the most meaningful things in life are people and music.

 

As I performed my holiday concert, making music and sharing comments and stories in between songs, I held a special connection with each person in the audience, and I felt inspired by the energy of the audience. The audience was inspired by my music and message. It was a continuous exchange of inspiration & energy between the audience and me on stage. It was truly uplifting. I was honored to have the opportunity to share my songs and stories with so many people who have been part of my life throughout the years and so many people who were meeting me and hearing me for the first time. I thank all who joined me for that special afternoon.

 

I was already asked about performing a Holiday Benefit Concert at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center next December, and I look forward to doing that. I will post details on that upcoming concert here on my blog. I invite everyone who attended this year’s concert to return next year to continue the connection, and I invite those who were unable to make this recent concert to join us next December.

 

Christmas Blessings to all of you.

 

Holiday Concert Photo, Susan at Digital Piano

 

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Holiday Benefit Concert: 2 Days Away

My holiday benefit concert is just 2 days away. 

 

I hope you have seen some of the publicity leading up to the event, as I am hoping to perform for a large audience at the concert and raise as much money as possible for the Tamaqua Community Arts Center and the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation, supporting special projects in the Tamaqua Area School District.

 

I was interviewed yesterday on WMGH Radio and WLSH Radio, and a track from my CD – Voice Lifted was played on both of those stations.  The (Hazleton) Standard Speaker included the event twice in their “Happenings” section.  The Times News ran an article both last Friday and this Tuesday about the upcoming holiday benefit concert.  TV-13 (Blue Ridge) News also gave great coverage, filming an interview and clips from “Oh, Holy Night.”

 

Making music is a true passion for me.  I am looking forward to having a special connection with all of those in the audience on Sunday as I lift my voice on traditional Christmas carols and other special pieces that communicate all that this season means and holds for us.