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Devotion: A Tool in the Hand

National Lutheran Choir alto section member, Jenny Kelley, gave this devotion prior to rehearsal on April 12, 2016. It seems fitting to share after this past weekend, filled with memories of the beginnings of the choir and the man with the vision, Larry Fleming.

As a music major at Augsburg College, I studied conducting with Larry Fleming, the founder of The National Lutheran Choir. Though I found him a bit intimidating while singing with the Augsburg Choir, as a teacher he was very mentoring, guiding us through the skills it takes to be a good choir conductor. While I am not as gifted as Larry, Dave Cherwein, or the great conductors who lead our NLC Tune-ups, I became a competent conductor and went on to lead children’s choirs at various churches. Whenever I would work with the choir kids, I would hear Larry’s voice and feel him in my hands, and his teaching stayed with me. 

When I came to join the NLC and told a former bass (who has gone to heaven), Curtiss Strom, about my experience and how Larry helped me, Curtiss said, “I have Larry’s email address, you should write him, he would love hearing from you.” I did send Larry that email, and told him how much I appreciated his mentorship and how it helped me when teaching children. Here is his reply, “How wonderful to be complemented for being a mere tool in the hand of God." I was reminded of Larry’s reply to my email while studying one of our pieces for the Spring Concert: “Prayers of Steel," with text based on the poem by Carl Sandburg. “Lay me on an anvil, oh God. Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar. Let me pry loose old walls. Let me lift and loosen old foundations.” I have come to love these images: to be a mere tool in the hand of God is not always easy. I hope I may also be used in such a way. I hope that our music may “lift and loosen” our hearts, and the hearts of our listeners, that all may find peace.