music

The Musician

The fourth and final part of the Guitar Venture series

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In the previous three posts I have written much about the guitar and almost nothing about the musician who plays it. A great looking, fine sounding, and wonderfully playable guitar will, despite its considerable attributes, still sound terrible in the hands of an untrained, clumsy and passionless player.

There is a well-known poem by Myra Brooks Welch about an instrument in the hands of a maestro, and I want to play a verbal variation on that theme, but first, here is the poem itself:

The Old Violin

Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”

But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.

“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”

“And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.

I have likened the church to a guitar in the previous post and so now I want to extend the analogy to include us as individuals, and replace Myra’s violin with a guitar. My classical guitar is complete now yet I still attend to it almost every day. I tune it and retune it because nylon strings stretch a lot and are also susceptible in changes in humidity. I polish it and deal with any blemishes or scratches I spot. I have even lowered its action and adjusted its intonation twice since getting back from the Guitar Venture. But of course I do more than all this… I play it, and the more I play it the better it sounds and the more of a musician I become.

We are made in the image of God, His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) to be His representatives and do His work in the world. Like a guitar in the hands of a master musician together we make music that has the potential of changing the tune of the whole world. The church, of which we are part, is like an orchestra of guitar players, and Jesus is the conductor. We collaborate with Him in writing variations on His master script and we strum and pluck the instruments of our talents, time, and resources. And all the while we keep an eye on the conductor and an ear open to the melodies of our fellow musicians.

A fine guitar without a fine guitarist is just an ornament or an exhibit. A fine guitar in the hands of a fine musician is a delight to both see and hear. An orchestra of fine musicians under the direction of a master conductor is a miracle of cooperation, interdependence, and glorious melody.

I suppose, given the theme of these posts, I had better end the series with a fine

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The conception and birth of a classical guitar

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I have been playing the guitar since the age of thirteen and have dreamed of building my own instrument for as long as I can remember. On the 9th February 2015 I flew down to George to fulfil this dream under the expert instruction and guidance of luthier Luigi Marucchi. What an experience!

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In the next few posts I want to share some of the multi-levelled life lessons that immerged from the two week construction process. But first I need to describe the background and the actual Guitar Venture experience itself.

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My ‘relationship’ with the guitar began in my early teens and six years later a guitar played a leading role in winning over the woman who was soon to become my wife. For our first date I took her to a beach braai and towards the end of the evening I borrowed a guitar and played her ‘The house of the rising sun’… and the rest is history, as they say.

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At the age of thirty my best friend, and ex drummer in our amateur rock band, introduced me into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and my life changed in so many ways. One of these changes was that I developed a desire to learn to read music and to play classical music. So I selected a teacher and set about becoming as competent as I could on the classical guitar.

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I have told quite a bit of the story already in my post When the Music Died so I won’t repeat myself here. If you read that article you will know that after a painful layoff of many years the guitar is back in my life.

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Last year I gave serious and prayerful thought to what I should be doing in my retirement years and I have touched on this in a series of three posts culminating in Retirement – Insights from Scripture. What I haven’t yet divulged, however, are the outcomes of the process. I ended up with three areas in which I wanted to devote my time – teaching/writing/preaching; discipling younger leaders; and guitar music. The first two ticked all the boxes but the third troubled me a little – was this not just an indulgence or could I honestly say that it was something the Lord Jesus wanted for me?

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In January this year the dream of building my own guitar surfaced again, powerfully. I found myself watching youtube clips of various luthiers constructing classical guitars, but the more I watched the more I was convinced that I was foolish to even consider such an ambitious project. I have no woodworking skills, am not even a handyman, and my hands are still not strong. On Sunday 1st February I had lunch with my family and told them about the dream I had long cherished and how I now realised it was beyond my grasp. On Monday morning my son sent me a link to Luigis’ course down in George. Luigi responded to my emailed enquiry with a phone call and assured me that he could teach me to build a guitar, and that he had a vacancy on the course starting in a weeks’ time. Within 24 hours I was booked and had arranged the air ticket, car rental, and BnB accommodation. My wife was enthusiastically supportive, and my extended church family gave their wholehearted approval. So, the following Monday I was off for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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In my next post I will tell you all about the 14 day, 10 hours a day, every day, Guitar Venture. In subsequent posts I will describe some of the significant life-lessons that the Holy Spirit led me into. Please keep reading.

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When the music died

I started playing the guitar at the age of 13 when I saw an older boy playing and wanted to be able to make music myself. So I saved up my pocket money, went off to a music store, and bought the cheapest guitar there. It was a terrible instrument that sounded like strings stretched over a tin can, but I loved it. I figured out how to play three chords, but then a kindly adult explained that my guitar was totally out of tune and that I needed to learn to tune it. So I started again and quickly mastered most of the basic chords and strum techniques.

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In my late teens, I started a rock band with some school friends and played lead on a powder blue Hoffner solid-body guitar. At the age of thirty, the same year I became a follower of Jesus Christ, I decided to learn classical, bought a suitable instrument, and enrolled for lessons. Within a few years I was quite proficient and enjoyed playing – I even composed my own pieces and performed occasional recitals at church functions. However, the church’s need at that time was for a worship leader, not a classical musician, and so I bought an Ovation guitar and from then on focused on rhythm accompaniment.

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From the age of about 50 arthritis struck both hands and playing became increasingly difficult. But I still loved music and often listened to records (remember them) featuring great guitarists, classical and other types of music. Our local church now had the joyful service of some very competent musicians and worship leaders, and so my Ovation joined the YaIri classical guitar to collect dust in the cupboard.

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About four years ago one of our musicians set up a workshop for beginners. She offered drum, piano, and guitar lessons and asked me to run the guitar workshop. Half way through the first session my hands were so painful that I put the guitar down; “I am so sorry folks but I just can’t go on; I am in too much pain”. I drove home that evening in deep distress; I felt as though something precious had been taken from me or like I had lost a limb. Something very sad happened that night. Music died in my soul. It was probably a coping mechanism, but from that night on I blotted music from my life. I no longer played, or listed to music. I sang in church, but that was all.

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Christmas time a year ago all our worship leaders were away and most of the other musicians were also on holiday. There was nobody to lead the church services; what could we do? I prayed earnestly and felt the Holy Spirit urging me to rise to the challenge and lead the worship myself. So I prayed; “Lord, if this is what you want me to do then you will need to do something miraculous to my hands and musical memory.” I have to tell you that for a few years I had been taking vitamin and mineral supplements and, although still uncomfortable, my hands were no longer constantly painful. I took my Ovation out of the cupboard, cleaned it up, re-tuned it… and started to play. Of course, my left-hand fingertips were tender because I had not played for such a long time, but I could shape the chords and I could strum quite adequately. I was amazed and so very grateful!

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One of my retirement projects is to become skilled once again on the classical guitar and also the piano. I started practising a couple of months ago and am making good progress. In fact, I am so encouraged that I am in the process of acquiring a quality classical guitar so I can retire the old YaIri and move on to a new musical level. I have unearthed my old classical scores and the tunes I composed 35 years ago… and I am greatly enjoying playing! What was once dead has come alive again! Isn’t that just what God loves to do?

 

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.