Seven Sacred Pauses
Tallahassee Democrat......Dec 8, 2007
Singing with great spirituality
Velma Frye's new CD is a collection of sacred songs
By Sharon Kant-Rauch
Spiritual practice can be summed up in two words: Pay attention.
To God. To those around you. To the blessings that are showered on us every day.
But most of us have a difficult time staying focused. We get sucked into the blender of our lives, whirling around and around, faster and faster, with little or no thought to our connection to the Divine.
Longtime Tallahassee vocalist Velma Frye has teamed up with Benedictine nun Macrina Wiederkehr to help people stay aware throughout the day with the new ly released CD "Seven Sacred Pauses: Singing Mindfully Dawn Through Dark." Listeners are offered three songs for each of the seven periods of the day: before dawn, dawn, mid-morning, noon, late afternoon, sunset and after dark. Frye composed melodies for most of the songs based on poems by Wiederkehr, who lives at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Ark.
The result is a CD that starts out gently with predawn songs such as "Sacred Darkness," builds as the day continues to the more driving melody "Be the Peace" at noon, then winds down with songs such as "Vespers Colors" and finally ends with the tender lullaby, "All Through the Night." Wiederkehr has written a book that explores the "hours" of the day in more depth. It's scheduled for release in 2008.
The CD already is creating a buzz among some of Frye's friends and colleagues. During an interview at Frye's house, a neighbor, Sue Cerulean, stopped by to purchase 10 of the CDs for holiday gifts. She said she loved the simplicity and elegance of each song. One of her favorites is "The Truth," a song Frye sings in rounds with her college-age daughter, Zoe Sharron.
"These songs bring me into the present moment," said Cerulean, who listens to the CD while driving.
Jack Levine, founder of 4Generations Institute which works to connect the young and old, said he immediately grasped the potential of the CD to cut across age differences.
"The kinds of messages in this music are appropriate for grandparents to share with a grandchild, or a parent to share with a baby," he said. "I listened to it three times running. I rarely do that. To me it was like a walk in a completely undeveloped natural setting."
(One reason may be that on the CD musician Sammy Tedder plays a flute he made out of local river cane.)
The partnership between Frye and Wiederkehr started several years ago when Frye read a line in one of Wiederkehr's books: "Oh God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is."
Frye was so taken with the line, she wanted to put it to music. She wrote Wiederkehr to ask her permission and Wiederkehr immediately agreed. Frye changed it slightly — starting the line with "I will believe the truth about myself" — and included the song on her CD "Many Voiced Angel."
A couple of years ago, Wiederkehr, who leads retreats at the monastery, decided to write a book about the seven times throughout the day that cloistered nuns traditionally pray. She wanted to make the practice more accessible to everyday people, so she called them "pauses." She called Frye to see if she would be interested in creating a CD as a companion to the book.
Frye loved the idea and set aside time in January and February to compose the songs. The muse was apparently in full force — the songs just poured out of her.
"I would sit down at the piano, and I would hear the song in my head," Frye said. "'The whole creative process was thrilling."
Every time she'd write one, she'd bring it to a singing group she leads at her home every Thursday morning. Dawn Earl is part of that group.
"It was really exciting to be in the class and try a new one each week," said Earl, who was listening to Frye's CD as she was cooking when a reporter called recently. "They were so much fun to sing — simple, poetic, beautiful."
Frye and Wiederkehr stayed in close contact during those months, tweaking the lyrics and deciding on the flow of songs. The final selection included 18 songs written by Frye, one song written by Candy Butler from Quincy, and three traditional songs.
"Even though we're from different religious traditions, we just seem to click," said Wiederkehr during a phone interview. "We think alike in so many areas."
Frye describes her religious life as "eclectic." Wiederkehr has been a nun for almost 50 years. Both want the CD and book to be accessible to a wide range of people, so the way language is used is purposely open-ended. Take, for instance, the words in "Keeping Vigil With the Mystery," a song for before dawn.
My heart can see into the darkness.
And my prayer travels deep where the Eternal One waits.
With love I listen, keeping vigil with the Mystery,
With the one who waits for me.
I am with the One who waits for me.
Wiederkehr said that even if people can't do all seven pauses every day, they can pick one or two and start to do them. She encourages people to take a "desert day" — a time set a side for praying and reflection — once or twice a year.
"The most important word in the spiritual world is practice," she said. "You can't just read about it."
These songs are one way to start.
Sublime Voice, Sublime Spiritual Journey
‘This is so beautiful! Ms. Frye’s voice is so intimate, so vulnerable, so lovely, I almost couldn't breathe for note after note, phrase after phrase of such sublime singing. I was lost in the universe of her sound, floating in the stream of wherever her voice would take me next. It is amazing that she can sound so masterful and so egoless at the same time. So many things I loved: the cello intertwining with the vocal on Donna Nobis, “Oh Living Breath of God”, with the flute; "Day is Done", “Light the Lamps”. And it is so wonderful to have a whole cd built around a theme, so that you can relax into it and inhabit that universe for an hour, going deeper and deeper.