Jerome Hines and My Story

This is part of my story of being a young opera singer in New York.

In the fall of 1975 I made the big move to New York. Tulsa had cradled me and brought me along, but now was the time to head on up to the big time. As in everything else, I was helped by my unseen “Friend.” Things just seemed to fall into place. Lynn Fann, the same friend who introduced me to opera in seminary, had introduced me to his friends in New York who shared an apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan near Columbia University. By the time I was ready to move to New York, one of them was ready to vacate, leaving a vacancy for me. The terrible job of searching for an apartment in New York was spared me. It was an acceptable area, on the border of safety. I loved being right next to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I spent many days meandering through the beautiful chapels much the way I had meandered through the garden during childhood. It seemed that everything was being arranged for me, including the proximity of this wonderful cathedral.

One of the first things I did in New York was to arrange for an audition with Jerome Hines of the Metropolitan Opera, that operatic basso par excellence who had provided me with the model voice during my seminary years. In theological seminary, a fellow student, Lynn Fann, had introduced me to opera. I had never really heard it before. In Carthage we knew about the “Grand Ole Opery” but that was about it. I listened to all of the great singers of the second golden age of singing with Lynn. Something in their sound made me sit up and pay attention, especially the singing of the great bass, Jerome Hines, partly because he was also a Christian who would sing at the Salvation Army on skid-row in New York when he wasn’t singing at the Met. His voice and his life became a model for me. Now in 1975 I was going to get to sing for him. My old teacher from college, Ted Harris, had been instrumental. Ted told me that Hines’ opera company was going to be auditioning for a baritone to take the place of Met baritone, Calvin Marsh, for a production of Hines’ opera on the life of Jesus, I Am The Way, to be staged in April 1976 in Columbus Ohio. Ted arranged for me to talk to the stage director, Derek de Cambra, a spunky, enthusiastic fellow with a British accent who had a love for beautiful singing. I was to go over to New Jersey to audition directly for Hines himself. I was finally going to meet the wonderful singer whose voice excited me so much in seminary. In those days I was not really nervous. I was excited and ready to go. My voice could do anything and I could pound on it for hours, if necessary, and it would still be fine for the next outing. I prepared my benchmark arias that had won the Met auditions for me and took a train, then a bus, to the New Jersey audition site. It was a small room to sing in. Hines was seated only a few feet from me. Still, I went eagerly to the task and sang Macbeth’s last act aria, “Pieta, rispetto, amore,” which had won for me the Midwestern Finals of the Met Auditions, interpolating a long, sustained, high A flat at the end. Hines was visibly impressed and began talking about his recording of Macbeth with Leonard Warren. He was warm and cordial but every bit the opera star that I expected him to be. He talked several minutes about great baritones he had known and how favorably my voice compared. I could not have asked for a more favorable review from one I idolized so. I got the part and began preparing the role. The baritone I was replacing, Calvin Marsh, was a Met baritone with a huge voice, beautiful color, commanding range, and a veteran. He was a tough act to follow. My voice was much different than his, darker, almost a bass-baritone compared to his, yet more lyrical because of youth. My old college teacher, Ted Harris, was to sing the bass part of the villain, Eliakim, one of the chief priests (a fictitious character), who conspires with Judas to capture Jesus. I was going to get to see two dreams come true, to sing with my teacher and my idol. In the spring of 1976, after performances of “Tonio” in I Pagliacci in Tucson with the Arizona Opera, and a cross-country concert tour for Columbia Artist’s Community Concerts, I headed for Columbus Ohio, my ego beginning to inflate from the heady rushes of early successes. I still heard the inner Voice, but I did not remember “who” or “what” it was, and I certainly was not cultivating a habit of reliance on it for guidance. At times I would do what it said, and at times I wouldn’t. Each time I obeyed, I was amazed at the eerie way in which things fell together for my benefit.

For example, In 1975 I had made the finals of the highly prestigious WGN-Illinois Opera Guild Auditions of the Air in Chicago but had not won. The Voice told me in strong “words” that if I entered again in 1976 I could win them. I entered and easily passed the first two rounds. The auditions director, Dick Jones of WGN Radio, Chicago, really liked my voice and thought my singing had improved over the previous year. Some time later I was notified that I was to sing in the finals at the Chicago Lyric Opera House. There was only a small problem. I was in the middle of a cross-country concert tour with a trio, performing from town to town. I discussed my feelings about the audition with my colleagues, Roger and Debbie Lucas, and they were supportive in anything I chose to do. The Voice was very strong that I had to find a way to go to the finals, and that I would win. The trio’s schedule just worked out that we had a day’s travel, no concert, on the day of the finals. After our performance in Pueblo Colorado I caught a flight to Chicago, got into the hotel about 4:00AM for five hours sleep and showed up at the stage door of the Chicago Lyric Opera House at 11:00AM, ready to sing. I sang my first aria, “Cortigiani vil razza dannata” from Verdi’s Rigoletto, and was pleased with the way it went. But for the next round, the judges got to pick an aria from my prepared repertoire. I “knew” that if they picked the prologue to I Pagliacci, I should be one of the two winners chosen. The Voice told me that I would be the second winner. The judges chose the prologue. I sang it with full gusto, including a resounding high A flat, and left the stage feeling good. I could not stay for the end of the auditions. I had to run to the airport immediately to catch a plane to Traverse City Michigan to rejoin my concert trio for a performance that night. When I arrived in Traverse City, I called back to Chicago and found that I had been named the second winner.

Wouldn’t you think that experiences such as these should have been enough to teach me to listen to that inner Voice and always obey it? Apparently they weren’t, because I didn’t. I still thought my rational intellect was the most important part of me to listen to, and I liked the heady rush of the ego as I saw my name up in lights, doing things my way, with my voice. I soon began believing all my publicity and was convinced that I belonged in the Tsar’s court in old St. Petersburg and that by divine right, of course.

By the time I arrived in Columbus Ohio in April 1976 to begin rehearsals for I Am The Way, I was full of it, and I don’t mean the way, the truth, and the life, but a substance with a lot more unpleasant odor to it! I had just gone up to my hotel room and unpacked when the telephone rang. It was one of the other cast members who wanted to come up and say hello. I felt mildly irritated at being disturbed but magnanimously allowed him to come up to the room. He was a very down to earth fellow; full of something I had once known, not too long ago, sincerity and thanksgiving. He was singing the tiny part of “Thomas”, and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. He literally had only a couple of lines to sing in the whole show! His face beamed with joy as he described his pilgrimage from the Deep South, at his own expense, just to sing his two lines. By the time he finished visiting with me I had begun to feel very ashamed of myself for the egotism I had allowed to grow inside me, replacing my gratitude to God for the voice I was given. I was making my own ego world-view of specialness, rather that viewing my voice as a gift to give to others. I prayed. I apologized and asked for renewed innocence. The Voice was right there. It had gone nowhere. Only I had changed. The Voice said, “Just keep on going the way you are going now and I will have you sing for Presidents and Kings.” It was a startling message! By this time, I was supposed to go down to the lobby to meet the Director. I grabbed my score and headed for the elevator. No sooner had I reached the elevator than did the doors open. Inside it stood Jimmy Carter. He extended his hand saying, “I just wanted to shake hands.” We rode down to the lobby together in silence. You have to understand that in April of 1976, Jimmy Carter, running for the Democratic nomination for President, was still a long-shot. Nobody thought he would get the nomination and nobody dreamed he would be elected President of the United States. As we exited the elevator, I watched him go, and said another quiet “thank you” to God for his faithfulness, and for the internal Voice which always spoke for truth, on my behalf. I knew Jimmy Carter was going to be President of the United States. And maybe if, just if, I did what the Voice said, kept on going the way I was going, then I might even get to sing for him!

During rehearsals of I Am The Way, I met many wonderful people who were going to stay with me throughout the years as close personal friends. The rehearsal period itself was rewarding because, in addition to the good staging by Derek De Cambra, Hines himself did some of the dramatic coaching, working with the singers on subtle acting points, “camera angles”, Chris Lachonas, a veteran, called them. This stayed with me my whole career as I tried to use a style of acting that was as suitable for television as it was for the stage. The music of I Am The Way, all composed by Hines himself–an extraordinary feat for a singer, not trained in composition–shows a little of every role he ever sang. The scene called “The Woman at the Well” shows a lot of the playfulness of the Bohemian characters in Puccini’s opera La Boheme, which Jerry sang many, many times. In fact during the bleak years at the Met when Rudolf Bing was trying to force him out, Jerry was cut down to one performance a season of “Colline” in La Boheme. Still, he stuck it out and had a renaissance long after Bing had retired. The scene called “The Last Supper” showed a lot of Wagner influence, especially Parsifal, in which Jerry sang the role of “Gurnemanz.” I did not view this negatively. It seemed inescapable to me that if an opera singer were to compose an opera himself, it would inevitably show the influence of everything he had sung. And the music he composed was beautiful, full of sweeping melodies and beautifully constructed scenes. What gave it an impact was Jerome Hines himself! There was that enormous, richer than rich, bass voice with incomparable grandeur, being used in the role of Jesus. What more could anyone ask for? In 1976, Hines was 55 years old and his voice was still at the peak of his powers. He sailed through the performance with ease and assurance. I used every second as an opportunity to listen, observe, and learn, how he made an entrance, how he related to the other characters on stage, most of all, how he sounded! In one scene called, “At Bethany,” my character, “Simon Peter”, sits right beside Jesus as he sings the Lord’s Prayer. Looking up at Jerome Hines, hearing that enormous voice so close to my ear, I gave thanks to God for His incredible ways. And then the performance was over and the company packed up to go back to New York, the singers back to their other careers. I went to the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York to sing with the Symphony and prepare for my first Rigoletto in the fall of 1976 for the Houston Grand Opera. As a young singer, I had no rational reason to believe I could sing this, the greatest of Italian baritone roles, but the Voice said that I could do it and I had agreed when I got a letter from the General Manager asking me to do the part. The letter came “out of the blue,” and I knew, even then, that this was something I was destined to do.

The Hines Company performed I Am The Way only once a year. The following year, 1977, Calvin Marsh returned to the role of Simon Peter, leaving me without a role. Not to be outdone, I suggested to Jerry that I play the role of the heavy, “Eliakim,” the chief priest who conspires with Judas. Jerry had always had difficulty casting it because of the way it was composed. As I was told the story, originally, the role had no aria. But when Jerry approached the great basso, Ezio Flagello, to sing the role, Flagello refused unless an aria were written for the character. Ever the one-upsman, Hines said, “All right. I’ll compose you an aria, but it’s going to be so hard you won’t be able to sing it.” The result was Eliakim’s long aria which is loud and very high for any bass, ending on a long, sustained high F sharp, not territory that basses like to hang around in, even a great bass like Flagello. He never sang the part again, and Jerry went through bass after bass trying to find someone who could sing it. I suggested that I could sing it. Even though I was a baritone rather than a bass, I had enough richness in the voice that I could carry its heavy insinuations. Learning my own one-upsmanship I said, “but you have to transpose the aria up one half step for me.” Hines laughed and agreed, so off I went to Birmingham to sing Eliakim, following in other years to different cities. In Cleveland in 1978, I was rehearsing the big aria with Hines himself at the piano, accompanying. After I finished, Hines was silent for quite a long while. Finally he said, “I wish we could have recorded that. I’ve never heard anyone sing my music the way you do.” It was the most wonderful tribute I could have been given by this man whose singing meant so much to me, and whom I had come to love so dearly. Some years were difficult though. Two years later, November 1980 in Edmonton, Alberta I had a dangerously close dovetail of engagements. I ended a string of performances of “Germont” in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Arizona Opera, the evening before dress rehearsal for I Am The Way. The Director was confident of my ability to do the role without rehearsal by this point, so I flew from the desert of Phoenix right after the last performance of La Traviata to the Nov. cold of Edmonton! I was exhausted and slept until 4:30 in the afternoon with the dress rehearsal at 8:00PM. Still, I felt ready to go, and during one scene I interpolated a high B flat! For the non-singers reading this, a high B flat is the pinnacle note for a tenor, and is virtually never attempted by a baritone. Once, the Met’s star baritone, Sherrill Milnes, had recorded a high B flat, but I don’t recall him ever singing one on stage. Why did I do it? Because I could! It was that much ego, nothing deeper. Hines was in the audience for the rehearsal and he let me know what a good note it was. I was happy, justified in my specialness. But the next night was performance. There would be no day off for rest as was usually the case, and I desperately needed a day off for rest. Edmonton in the winter is colder than anything I had ever experienced! It is so cold that the water particles in the air freeze into ice crystals which can cut your lungs when you breathe! I had known cold in Missouri but nothing like this, and I was coming straight from balmy Phoenix. My body was in shock and tired. That night after rehearsal I slept very poorly. I was too tired to sleep and wished that I had brought along the singer’s friend, “restoril”, to induce a good night’s sleep. But I hadn’t. I lay tossing and turning all night, finally drifting off to light sleep early towards dawn, only to be awakened early by the maid who did not want to believe the “do not disturb sign” posted on the door. Furious at her for disturbing my specialness, I screamed at her from the bed to get out and tried to go back to sleep, all to no avail. I was up. After two pots of coffee I began to vocalize a little and did not like what I felt. That afternoon was no better. Still, the show must go on, and my voice had never really failed me before…except on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera when I had muffed a high A flat. Still, I was seasoned now, and I had not cracked on a note in public in the six years since. Staying with my typical performance schedule, I found the nearest steak and potatoes around 4:30 PM and began to tank up for the evening performance. That evening I sang the difficult aria OK but the voice still seemed off, stiff and thick. More importantly, my tenacious clinging to ego specialness had cut off my ability to hear the internal Voice that guided me in everything. The time in the scene came where I had interpolated the high B flat the night before. Should I do it again, in performance? As soon as the question flashed through my mind, I heard the internal Voice say “No.” Oh well, I would do it anyway! I went up for the special high note, hit it…and it cracked! Not to be outdone, I tried to regain it and it cracked again!! The curtain mercifully descended and I made my way, like a scalded dog, as quickly as possible through the labyrinths of back stage corridors, eyes to the floor, to my dressing room. I was mortified, disgraced. I, Joseph Shore, one of the greatest baritones in the world, had cracked on stage! Standing in the hall, barring my refuge into my dressing room was Hines, in costume as Jesus, making his way to the stage, enormous grin on his face, laughter ready to commence at any moment. He began to chuckle, “That just makes you human,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. But remember from now on, when you crack a note, get off of it and let it go. I remember when Set Svanholm, at the Met, cracked on the high B flat at the end of ‘Celeste Aida.’ He cracked and tried to get it back and cracked again, just like you did.” Somehow it did not make me feel better. I brooded. How I brooded. I spent the night in the dressing room trying to avoid all conversation. My specialness had been wounded and I was not eager to address any re-shaping of my image. Years later, Hines said to me, “You know, I was glad to hear you crack on that high B flat because it proved to me you were human. You always sang like someone who wasn’t human.” I took it as a compliment. But for fourteen years he never let me forget that I had cracked on a high B flat. I never let myself forget it either!

I did Eliakim again the next year in Allentown Pennsylvania, and it went extremely well, but then I stopped singing I Am the Way. I told myself that I was tired of singing the villain. But wasn’t it really because I had cracked on a high note and injured my feelings of specialness? In the intervening years, I missed my friends terribly. I missed Jerry. I missed I Am The Way. During the years of 1982-1990, a lot of water went under the bridge professionally, new roles at new opera houses, but there was some lesson I was not learning. Things were not going the way they were supposed to go. The performances got better and better artistically, but the engagements were getting fewer and fewer. I thought I knew what the world was supposed to be like, but I didn’t! Then in 1994 I found myself near death. The internal Voice returned with great strength. I had a four-month-long life review as I waited, near death, for the Canadian medical system to put my name at the top of the list for surgery. Back in my hometown of Carthage my father went into the hospital at the end of June for what was supposed to be a minor surgery repair of a hernia. Something told me however that this was the end of the line for Dad. The doctors gave us a progressive litany of worsening prognoses. Finally, they told the family that he was not leaving the hospital. I knew that part of him had faith in a life after death, but I also sensed that part of him was very frightened because he felt that he had failed in some important aspects of his life, one of those being in his relationship with his son. Those failures tore at him very deeply. Involved in my own near-death struggle I could not go to Missouri to be with him. We braced ourselves for the fact that he could die at any time. But I had much unfinished emotional business with Dad which I did not want to leave without closure. I also wanted to help him in his final hours.

I prepared a special time when I would be alone in the house, and began to pray for Dad. I asked God to let him know that I forgave him for all the things between us that he held against himself. I asked God to tell Dad I that it was all right for him to let go and go on if that is what he needed to do, but if he was supposed to fight and stay with us, that was all right too. I wanted him to know that I supported him in his decision, one way or the other. For some reason it was important to me to sing my prayers for him. I do not know how long this final song lasted, quite some time I think, maybe an hour or two. I had little sense of time as I was doing it.

My son, Tom, was to have his birthday in just two days, and I really did not want Dad to die on Tom’s birthday. So he didn’t. Tom had a wonderful birthday. Dad died the following day, July 10, 1994. The night he died, I had an archetypal dream about seeing someone off on a ship. It was Dad. The next morning I thought that he had passed over. Sure enough, he had. I was somewhat disappointed that I had not had a full parting vision but I knew he understood now that everything was OK between us. I just missed the good-bye. Finally, two days later, in the early hours of the morning of his funeral in Missouri, I awoke in the spirit while my body was fast asleep.
I was in a very special kind of railroad station looking for Dad. I was pushing through enormous crowds of people who were waiting to board this train. I was in a great hurry as I knew this train was about to leave. Then I saw him from behind. I knew it was him. I called to him, “Daddy, Daddy.” He turned around with a big smile all over his face. I ran to him and jumped into his arms. I remember the feeling. I looked into his eyes. I remember those eyes. He was young and looked somewhat differently than in life, but there was no mistaking him. All of the cares and worries, doubts and fears, insecurities and self judgments, were gone from his face. Instead, there was this pure love, all throughout him which gave him his new substance. I hugged him and said, “I love you Daddy.” He squeezed me. I remember that squeeze, and he said, “I love you too.” And then he made a little joke just to make sure I knew I wasn’t just dreaming this. He knew I would remember it. He said, “You see, I’m a little thinner now than I used to be.” He was now spirit, not flesh. Then he boarded that train. A few hours later his funeral was conducted in Carthage. Even though I could not be there, we had had our farewell.

Around this same time, I got an unexpected phone call one day from my old friend, Derek de Cambra, Jerry Hines’s stage director for I Am The Way. He said that the company was doing I Am The Way in Benton Harbor, Michigan next year, 1995, and would I do the role of Eliakim again. The Voice shouted “yes,” and I immediately agreed. I was so happy to be back in I Am The Way. Jerry had done a wonderful job in keeping his voice all these years. He would be 74 years old in 1995! What a miracle to keep his voice! Few singers had accomplished that. No basses, to my knowledge. I was happy, truly happy to be back in I Am The Way. The Holy Spirit was that Voice which always spoke for truth and He must have something there for me to do, something for me to learn, some service for me to render to others, I thought. I could not know more at that point. I began to restudy the role of Eliakim and sing it back into my voice. The last time I had sung it had been the fateful performance in Edmonton! That was out of my mind now like a bad joke. I saw the silliness of the ego’s distorted view of things. I just wanted to go back to old friends! This time I took with me a young voice student who had heard all of my stories of the great singers of the previous era, called the Second Golden Age of Singing. I was passing on my love of singing and my love for Jerome Hines to another generation.

When I arrived in Benton Harbor it was indeed like a reunion with long lost friends. How I loved them. How they helped me to remember the Light. Jerome looked like a sight for sore eyes. Even his slight infirmities of age could not make him look old to me. But he was not singing in rehearsals and I could tell he was worried about his voice. He and I got together for an afternoon of vocalizing the way we had done in earlier years. They were wonderful times for me, learning experiences, as I observed this supremely great singer go through the vocal calisthenics necessary to sing grand opera. But this time Hines’ voice was not working. The whole cast knew it and we were all worried. Jerry had been in trouble before vocally and always made it through the performance. One time in Cleveland we finished a final dress rehearsal about 2:00AM. Jerry wanted to go out to an all night restaurant near the lake. It was mid winter and freezing cold in Cleveland. But what Jerry wants, Jerry gets, so off the whole crew went. I noticed that Jerry was not even wearing a coat, and I said, “Jerry, what’s the matter with you? Put a coat on!” “Ah, let your body breeeeeathe,” He vocalized in Hinse-ian tones. “I don’t need a coat!” We went to the restaurant and had a feast, whooped it up in grand fashion. The next morning Jerry called the conductor to his hotel room in a panic that his voice didn’t feel good for the show the next night. He even looked at his own vocal cords with a homemade device and saw that they were pink and swollen. Ever inventive, Jerry had taken two dental mirrors and welded them together with just the right curvature so that he could look at his own vocal cords! Panic ensued within the Directoral staff, but we all, Jerry included, managed to pull the show out of the fire.

This time in Benton Harbor was different. There was something seriously wrong with Jerry Hines’ voice. We made it to the final dress rehearsal. I had already counseled myself to end the “infamous” scene on a lower pitch than the interpolated high B flat! I would sing a high F instead, which is plenty high and would give me no trouble. I would not entertain any notions of interpolating ego notes. I had learned my lesson! Hines watched the rehearsal from out in front. At the end of my scene He came up to me and said, “Good job, Joe, but I was really a little disappointed that you didn’t take the high B flat!” I couldn’t believe my ears. He wasn’t joking. He was serious! I made a joke of it and said, “Well, I don’t know, I’ll have to ask HIM,” pointing upwards. “It’s HIS voice. I’m just the caretaker of it. I’d have to get the OK from HIM.” Jerry smiled and went back to observe the coming scene. We made it to opening night. Hines limped through the performance, sounding ill. The rest of the cast did a fine job. I ended my scene on the high F. All went well. We had one day of rest and then a Sunday matinee at 2:00PM. Matinees are difficult for all singers. We are accustomed to preparing our voices for an 8:00PM curtain, not 2:00PM! I hated matinees. In my earlier days of incessant bravado I had plunged into them full voice, thinking nothing of it. In the fall of 1979 I had performed the title role of Verdi’s Macbeth with the Arizona Opera Company. We finished the dress rehearsal about 2:00AM, and like Hines, I wanted to go out and get something to eat. I ate a huge plate of rare prime rib. By the time I arrived back at the house where I was staying, my gluttony was telling the tale. I threw up everything and continued to throw up for an hour. I got to sleep about 5:00AM., got up at 7:30AM, went to the theatre at 8:30AM and performed a “matinee” at 9:30AM of Macbeth for school children. It was one of the best performances I ever gave! But I still hated “matinees.”

This time was different. Hines was in real trouble. On his day off he had gone to a doctor to have ultra sound therapy performed on his larynx, but it was to no avail. He seemed totally laryngitic. There was no understudy. Jerry would have to go on or we would have to cancel the performance, which meant financial disaster. Jerry went on. He barely made it through his first big scene of “The Woman at the Well.” My scene as Eliakim was next. I sailed through the aria better than ever, holding a long sustained high G towards the end, finally ending on an optional low F sharp. The infamous scene was next, but I was not nervous, I had already decided not to interpolate the high B flat. I had sung the high F the previous performance and it had been more than sufficient. As Mary Magdalene sang her long monologue, I sat back in my throne-chair and played with the character, Eliakim. Finally the end of her aria arrived. I had two beats before I was to sing the infamous words which ended the scene, “Is the whole world gone mad!” Usually those two beats fly at you like the wind and you have just enough time to take your breath and sing the notes. But this time, time itself seemed to slow down. Those two beats became an eternity. What was I to do with all this luxury of time? The Voice said, “Take the high B flat.” I could not believe it. There was plenty of time for an argument. “What? I’m not doing that again, no way.” The Voice was very clear, “Take the high B flat.” Something I had learned made it easy for me to agree. I went up for the high B flat. It was not only there, it was there in spades! I held it forever. This time there would be no scalded dog, hiding his head as he crept through the halls to his dressing room. Slowly and happily I walked off stage as my colleagues said things singers say to one another after a good job: “Wow, what a note!” “Holy cow, what did you eat? I want some of it.” On my triumphant way down the hall I passed Jerry’s dressing room. The door was open. He sat disconsolate at his make-up table. I could see that he was worried and afraid of the next scene coming up. It was the “At Bethany” scene and he had to sing the Lord’s Prayer which had always given him trouble, even in good voice. I walked into his room. He smiled faintly and said, “So the B flat worked tonight?” Without thinking I said, “I sang that high B flat for you so that you would know that if I can sing a high B flat, without cracking, you can make it through this next scene!” His face dropped and showed his true feelings of insecurity. “But how am I going to make it through it?” He said. “Dear God,” I thought, “what am I supposed to say to this man, my hero and mentor?” The words came tumbling out my mouth without any thought, “Just go out there, breathe deeply and don’t push!” Those words seemed to rally him. “All right,” he said, and headed for the stage. During the scene, the Voice told me to position myself in the wings, unnoticed by the audience, but in such a way that I had clear view of the stage. The Voice said that I was to pray for Jerry to be given strength. I did, and I saw that it was helping him get through the scene. Finally he made it to the big aria, Jesus’ Lord’s Prayer. Hines did what I said. He breathed deeply, taking many more breaths than he needed, and he didn’t push! He made it through. As the curtain descended, a happy Hines almost collapsed into the arms of his colleagues as they congratulated him. “I just did what Joe Shore told me,” he said, “And it got me through.”

For the rest of the opera, since my character does not appear with Jesus, I stood in the wings and prayed for Jerome. He gained in strength. During the difficult “Last Supper” scene, the Director came into the wings with a look of worry on his face, “He’s struggling,” He said. “Don’t worry,” I said with a smile. “He’s going to make it through just fine,” And he did. I knew why I was supposed to go to Benton Harbor. It was my love for Jerome Hines that was the lesson. That love is the love Jesus would have us learn. It is the same love I received from my grandparents and parents. It is the love that God gives us as His own. Receive it. It is there, waiting for us to grasp it in every learning experience, and every experience is a learning experience. Had I learned my lesson earlier, had I not gotten off course, I am sure I would have gotten to sing for Jimmy Carter! Nevertheless, I sang for Congressmen, Senators, Governors, the Russian Diplomatic Mission to the UN, and Consuls to several countries.

Months later, the Voice told me to call Jerome and let him know that I not only wanted to perform the role of “Simon Peter” again, but that I was supposed to. I knew Jerry would understand. I made the call. It just so happened that the Hines Company was going to be doing I Am The Way in June 1996 in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, but the role of “Peter” was already taken by one of Jerry’s students from OMTI (Opera Music Theatre International). “Put me on standby,” I said, “You never know. This guy may not be able to do it.” He agreed. A short time later, the Director called me with the news that Mark Delavan could not do the part and it was mine. Twenty years had passed since I sang the role of “Peter,” but I knew it. Jerry was in fine voice. This time, my character sat at the Last Supper table with Jesus. As I looked at Jerry I knew that the love I have for him is the message of Jesus, that we should love one-another even as He loved us; and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The circle was complete.

hines and i, 1995 i am the way

My mentor and hero in opera was Jerome Hines

My mentor and hero in opera was Jerome Hines, the great bass of the Metropolitan Opera and the greatest bass America has ever produced. Not only was he my mentor but we became very close friends, as close as Jerry could get to people. Jerry was born in L.A. to a socialite mother and an alcoholic Father who worked in low level Hollywood productions. When Jerry was born the parents thought they had no time for a child so they sent the infant Jerome to live with a foster family. Jerry grew up the first five years of his life thinking the foster parents were his real parents. Then, when he was five, his real parents showed up and said, “Hello we are your real parents and you are going to live with us now.” Can you imagine? He said it was like hell living with them. They were always fighting. The father was always drunk and in and out of jobs. The mother was over protective and smothering. But by the time he was 16 he discovered that he had a voice and could sing. At 17 he became a student of Gennaro Curci, a famous voice teacher who had been an operatic bass and the brother in law of the famous soprano, Galli-Curci. The rest is history. Jerry signed his contract with the Metropolitan Opera when he was 25 years old and went on to become the greatest bass America ever produced. In the 1950’s and 60’s he was a household name in America, appearing on TV and singing for the first family many times. He was the first American ever to sing at the Bolshoi in Russia, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. After his performance of Boris, Krushschev came back stage and gave him a secret message to give to President Kennedy. When he arrived back in New York he was quickly taken away by secret service officers for debriefing. He had to sign a national security non disclosure document never to speak of what he was told. But over the years he told us the gist of the message. Kruschev wanted Kennedy to know that Russia would not go to war over Cuba. Jerry remained at the Metropolitan Opera as leading bass for 41 consecutive years breaking all time records for a lead singer. He also had his own opera company which he used to perform his sacred opera on the life of Christ, called I Am The Way. He chose me as a leading baritone with his company in 1976 and I stayed with him until 1997. He dedicated one of his books to me. His wife, Lucia, contracted Lou Gherig’s disease and he spent his later years nursing her and spending every dime he had on her treatments and nursing. He said to me one day, “Do you know a good witch doctor? I have tried everything else.” At that time I didn’t. But now, I could tell him to take her to John of God who has cured people with the same disease. Lucia died in bed with him one night. Jerry was never the same. He was broke, could hardly sing anymore and there was a double mortgage on his house. He only had a few students, one of which would bring him food, because otherwise he did not eat. One day he asked his student Les, if he would take him to the Vet to buy some food for his old dog. Les agreed and off they went. Jerry went in the store and picked up a bag of dog food and went to the counter. He opened his wallet and just stared into it. Les quickly saw what was happening and went to the counter to pay for it. “It’s OK Jerry. This is on me.” They took the food and went back to the car. Jerry began to cry. “I never wanted you to see me like this,” he said to Les. Jerry would often call me during those days and wanted to talk with me about his career. He could not make the adjustment from being one of the greatest operatic basses in the world to being an old man who couldn’t sing anymore. Over and over he would ask me to tell him if he had really been a good singer. Over and over I would tell him he was one of the greatest basses of the 20th century. Then his threatened ego would come in and ask me to tell him, “Well, was I the greatest bass of all time?” His ego could not adjust either. Patiently I would tell him, “You were one of the greatest basses of the 20th century, Jerry.” For a while that would hold him, and then we would go through it over again in a few minutes. I couldn’t know then how he felt. At the time I was still in the prime of my voice and I expected to sing into my 70’s as he had. In the fall of 2002 Jerry became quite ill. He looked like a skeleton but he was still talking about singing. On Christmas in 2002 he went to the Salvation Army in New York where he had worked for years as a volunteer, and stood up to sing. People who were there said that this tall skeleton of a man, looking like father time himself, hobbled up to the podium. But when he opened his mouth, out came the voice of Jerome Hines. Shortly after that he was hospitalized and within a short time, passed over. He had used every ounce of his talent. He had traveled through the storms. I felt enormous loss when he died..and still do, but I did not feel what he felt about losing his ability to be on stage until 2006 when I had a disastrous heart surgery, during which the surgeons made errors which damaged my lungs, disabling my normal breathing. I could no longer sing like Joseph Shore. I lost my persona, my art, my profession, my self-image, my ability to make a living, all because of a surgeon’s incompetency. Then I knew what Jerry felt like; like all of a sudden you are not you anymore! Who can cope with that? I went from being Joseph Shore, one of the greatest baritones in the world, to being a semi-invalid with no ability to be me, and little ability to make any income. I suddenly understood the state of mind of my dear mentor and a man who had been a great world artist. All that saved Jerry was death. All that has saved me has been A Course In Miracles. Cherish the day you have. You have no guarantee of tomorrow. But this is not such a sad story for me. Since 2006 I have learned more about spirit and my abilities to work with spirit, which means my ability to help other people. Helping others is the way I escape despair. And it is better than just avoiding despair. I have had many episodes of Cosmic Consciousness, one of which lasted for six weeks!! Life is still beautiful. The sadness now, of no longer being Joseph Shore, the great opera singer, is a part of the happiness then! That’s the deal! And you can’t re-negotiate it; at least not until you pass over and have a good long discussion with the Lords of Karma. In the meantime, while I am still here, I try to help people. That’s my lot now. It’s not so bad.
hines and i, 1995 i am the way

Our Dear Brother, Ken Wapnick goes Home

It is my sad news to report that Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, the teacher of A Course in Miracles since its beginning, has passed over. His foundation gave this message: ” It is with the utmost sorrow that we inform you of the death of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick on Friday December 27, 2013. He died peacefully at home with his beloved wife Gloria and family at his side. The family will have a private service and plans are being made for a forthcoming public memorial.

“There is no death. The Son of God is free.” (W-pI.163)
“Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you.” (T-11.VI.7:3-4)

Ken was my dearest friend, and definitely my mentor in ACIM. All of the articles I have posted on FB about ACIM were given to Ken first for his comments. We never had any significant disagreements. Ken was a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology and a fine theologian as well. His many books and videos survive him. He fulfilled the job Jesus laid out for him and he is receiving, I am sure, thanks, gratitude, and good reviews for his life by the angels.

For me, it is a great personal loss. Ken was my fan as well as my mentor. Part of Ken’s journey into Spirituality came from his love of opera. Over the years I sent him many arias, scenes and operas that I performed and he was always a heart-felt fan. I always knew that I could share anything with him and get his honest answer.

We will not dispute the higher decision to call Ken Home now, but we inevitably wonder about the future of ACIM without Ken. Ken, there with Helen from the beginning, was appointed by Jesus to be the teacher of the Course. He held the ship steady even while ACIM was splintering into schisms at an alarming rate, matching even Christianity’s early splintering into sects, which continues to this day. Thankfully Judy Skutch remains at the helm of The Foundation for Inner Peace.

Thank you, my dear, dear, dear friend and brother Ken I love you and I so thank you for all you gave me in this life. You lived a Christ-like life and touched us all. Fly high dear friend. I will see you again one day. ♥♥♥♥

Ken

How Does Your Artist Grow?

HowDoes YourArtistGrow?

 

Many elements contribute to an artist more than early piano lessons or exposure to concerts. To me, wonderment at the natural world and the presence of beauty was the precursor to my artistic ability. It made me philosophically curious and from that curiosity a voice came to give expression to the awe.My country beginnings did not include very much music. But music comes from the natural world of which we are a part. That which awakened the artist in me was my childhood world of the garden and my maternal grandparents.

I was born April 16, 1948 in Carthage, Missouri, a little town of 11,000 people nestled next to the Missouri Ozarks. For the first eight years of my life my family lived in the country, five miles southwest of town, on a “truck farm.” For you city people who don’t understand this term, a “truck farm” in Missouri is a small acreage where one plants a few small crops and raises a few animals. It sounds like heaven to a kid, doesn’t it? Well, at least it did to this kid. My maternal grandparents lived on the adjacent tract providing me with every kid’s dream, to live right next to grandma and grandpa. Joining the tracts was a large acre garden that fed both families. It did much more that feed us. It nurtured us. Every inch of that childhood ground has stayed with me as faithfully as my grandmother’s voice and touch. Looking back now, I would have to say that my childhood was the garden.

My grandmother was a grand person indeed. Lena Ritchie was known throughout her neighborhood world as a supremely kind, God-fearing Baptist woman, who had a distinctive froggy, foggy voice. Grandmother had a vocal condition known now as “spastic dysphonia,” or colloquially called, “monster voice,” except that nothing could be monstrous about Lena. Everyone in the neighborhood heard her monster voice as the distinctive sound of her kindness. My grandmother gave me a wonderful model of love which often approached the ideal unconditional love we are all here to learn. I knew that no matter what I did, my grandmother would still love me. That love was her real theology.

Grandmother didn’t like to pick her flowers for a bouquet.She explained to her “Joe-Boy”that as far as she was concerned, flowers belonged alive and growing outside. If she picked them, they would die. I began to see that the ground of the garden gave life to all; the flowers, the potatoes, the berries, the corn, and us. We were the caretakers of the earth as the Bible said and we belonged in the garden.

I never met a better human being than my grandfather, George Ritchie. For most of his life grandpa had been a tenant farmer, plowing land near the Spring River, river-bottom area. Rivers and gardens were the models for his life. When grandpa retired from farming he purchased the land and house of my childhood and planted his garden. In the night he worked part time at Hercules Powder Plant, gun powder, that is, not facial! In the day time he worked in his garden. Usually he had two tag- a-long companions: an old mutt dog named Ginger for his color, and me, Joe-Boy.

When we weren’t in the garden we were usually fishin’. Grandpa may have claimed to fish to put dinner on the table, but that was just the ruse. He fished to be near the river. We seldom caught very many fish on our river expeditions. Everyone we caught was “a nice one.” We never caught a “bad” fish. I liked that. For me, much of the excitement came from our journeys through the tall river-grass and grandpa’s stories about copperhead snakes. Grandpa had discovered the “Ozark kung fu” of killing copperheads. He had learned it, like his other skills, out of necessity. After World War II, Hercules Powder Plant refused to allow their night watchmen to carry guns, fearing the risk of explosion was greater than the risk of burglary. So grandpa was allowed to carry only a three foot long “billy club.” Since his nightly patrols took him through heavy cover, he frequently encountered copperheads which he would rhythmically dispatch with a stroke of his club. You could call it “Ozark kung fu.” He had plenty of opportunity to hone his skills on our farm as well. Grandmother was a strict believer in the literal interpretation of Genesis and was sure that every snake ought to be ritually killed for righteousness sake. More than a few times, a cry could be heard in the neighborhood, “George, there’s a snake. Kill it!” It was grandmother’s one weakness. Grandpa could not refuse her. He became a master of snakes.

Once we safely negotiated the tall river grass, we baited our hooks with a variety of arcane, home-made mixtures, cast our lines, sat, became quiet, and grandpa and I flowed with the river. Usually we would catch a few perch, a mud-cat or acarp, and head back home to the garden.

When I was about seven years old, grandmother and grandpa introduced me to the wonders of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in nearby Oklahoma. For years they had been going there to the promised land of fishing, bringing back huge catches of crappie, blue-gill, catfish, and white bass, all for table fare. Having survived the great depression, they were determined never to go hungry again. A huge freezer chest of frozen fish from Grand Lake made it seem unlikely. And yet, like the river adventures, the important thing was really to go to the lake and be there. At Grand Lake, no convenience was denied a fisherman. Large in-door, heated fishing docks, with theatre seats for comfort, were situated over key areas for crappie and other pan fish. Cedar trees were suspended from the docks to entice the cover-minded crappies to huddle there in schools, unaware of the fate which awaited them. It was a grand invention for a Grand Lake. Grandmother and grandpa introduced me to these holy haunts with a fervor reserved otherwise only for the garden. I soon learned to jig, as well as fish with live bait. The crappie never had a chance.

We traversed the entire 1200 miles of shoreline of Grand Lake in our crusades for crappie. Holy memories are indelibly imprinted in my mind of our favorite docks. Grandpa liked Ice Box Bluff, but it was a little Spartan for grandmother. The theatre seats were not as plush and “comfy” as some other docks. But it was at Ice Box that grandpa fought the leviathan carp! Grandpa and I loved to fish for carp. They grew big and they gave a great fight. They also required imagination to catch because they had only a small, soft, sucker mouth, and were picky eaters. They had no real teeth but they had a sweet tooth, preferring baits made with lots of syrup, honey, coca cola, and Wheaties. I fixed a homemade carp bait that was a lot like banana bread so that if the carp didn’t bite we could eat the bait! Carp fishin’ was fun. Ever concerned about practicality, grandmother had even figured out a way to make them edible. Most people used to say, “Clean a carp on a pine board. Throw the carp away and eat the board!”But grandmother had found that if she cooked them for days in a pressure cooker she could make fish cakes out of them that tasted remarkably like salmon cakes. The grandmother of invention had given us a new reason to stalk the wily carp.

Grandpa took no prisoners. He used a forty-five pound test cotton line that looked sort of like a clothes line. In addition to the small treble hook which was concealed within the dough ball of homemade sweets, he suspended a large grappling hook to snag the carp under the chin in case the small hook missed. It was serious business!We usually caught carp weighing between four and seven pounds. But one day at Ice Box Bluff, grandpa set the hook into a big one. You can tell when the hook is first set how big the fish is. This one didn’t give. For heavenly days,” grandpa exclaimed. It was the closest he got to swearing. “What have I got here?” The carp fought long and valiantly but eventually could not contend with the clothes line rope, and grandpa pulled in his biggest Carp, weighing 13 pounds. It looked like it weighed 100 pounds and grandpa was just as proud of it as if it had. We ate it, of course. It provided fish cakes for a month!

TheValhalla of fishing docks was Teague’s Dock, surnamed “Old Lady Teague’s” by grandpa because it had been purchased from our friend, Leonard Pane, the area auctioneer, by a woman named “Teague” who possessed a redoubtable appearance, complete with multiple pounds of pancake makeup. With this curious visage she greeted the fishermen that came to her dock. Nobody liked her, including grandpa. But the dock had its own drawing power. It was plush to the hilt. Padded, comfortable theatre seats encircled the extremely large fishing well in the middle of a well heated dock. Snack bars and a bait shop were handy within the dock, and it was situated over one of the best locations in Grand Lake for crappie, catfish, bass, and of course,carp. I once saw a man catch and land a forty pound carp on an eight pound test line! I was awed as if watching the real life filming of one of those National Geographic presentations where monsters of the deep are shown to an audience all agape! But the sneakiest fishin’ took place when the crappies were nesting. The mother crappie sat on the nest guarding her eggs, while the daddy crappie patrolled the perimeter,striking at any object which came into his territory. We soon discovered that if we threw in a jig near the nest that we could catch the daddies like nobody’s business! Needless to say, I felt very guilty about this and have sought to atone for it ever since. The day’s limit by Oklahoma law was 37 crappie per day, per fisherman! Most of the other fish had no limits! We often caught our limit, returning home as proud as if we had found the Holy Grail. Now I wish we had let most of them go. I haven’t kept a fish I caught since then. Like the flowers that belonged alive in the garden, the fish belonged alive in the lake.

It is no small thing that Genesis talks about the”Garden of Eden.” That ancient writer knew perfectly well what an apt image the garden sets up in our minds, ancient, connecting, and wonderful. Grandpa loved to stroll through the garden to “visit” with all the wonderful things growing there. Ginger and I took in all of his love for the earth and the Creator of all life.But Ginger had an easier time of it in one important way. He didn’t have to be distracted by the competitive world-view being peddled on Sundays by the variety of Baptist preachers that sought to “instruct” us in the ways of their strange universe. Many of them did not act like Jesus in the Bible. They seemed to be so mad at everybody and everything. Finally I made a personal discovery that I should believe in the God that Jesus showed me. One of my helpers in this discovery was Rev. Ray Stone, pastor of the First Baptist Church when I was a small boy. Brother Ray stood out from the rest of the preachers of my childhood. He was full of Love and Light. He was a “gardener!” “Just be so in love with Jesus,” he would say, time and time again, in trying to warn of the pitfalls to come in life. You know, I was and still am!

God  created a Garden and I knew what a garden was like! He created a river, and I knew what a river was like. God wanted us with Him. God was like Jesus and grandmother Ritchie!I’ll take that God. He can stroll with us through the garden as we visit the plants. He can go to the river with us, and we will flow together!

When I was a little boy, I thought the worst thing I could imagine would be the death of my grandfather. How I loved grandpa. God was good and grandpa lived through my childhood. But when I was 9 our family moved out of the truck farm house and into the big city of Carthage,about five miles away. I gladly rode my bicycle back out into the country to be with grandmother and grandpa. But then one day Hercules Powder Plant blew up. The explosion could be felt as far away as Tulsa, 120 miles away. The explosion was just a quarter of a mile away from my grandparents’ house. Our family got into the car and drove out to Powder Town to check on my grandparents. We got to within a half mile of them before we met a road block. Dad and a few other men set off walking through the woods to try to reach their house while we drove back to Carthage to wait. They had survived the blast without injury but their house was significantly damaged. My childhood paradise had been destroyed.

Inmost people’s childhood there were moments of love and moments of pain. We live with the fact that there was a snake in the garden, but in time, we see that it was beautiful nevertheless. Though unable to forget them, the bad times can never compete with the wonder and beauty of the garden, with flowers that never got cut,with baby chickens and old dogs named Ginger, with the fresh, clean smell of the air after a thunderstorm, with grapes and berries, pecans and pear trees, with sun-ripened watermelons, and corn picked with our own hands, with homemade bread and canned preserves, with quilting bees and a neighborhood awash in friendliness, with trips to the river—for the river was always around us—and returns to the garden.

The bad times can never compete with the best days of family. The garden is my memory. I will hold to that. I wish I could take my garden and give it to others. But to each has been given his own. Not everyone’s garden looks the same, and in some the snake was more present than in others. But if you will look now, there is something of a garden to remember and hold to. When I leave this world I expect to visit the garden once again.I know grandmother and grandpa are waiting there for me. To them it will seem as if they only just arrived, or as if they never left. The tool shed door will still need fixing and the well water will still satisfy. Old Ginger will still follow grandpa’s every step and an old three legged cat, Smokey, will still climb trees. The mimosa tree will still attract the humming birds and the clothes dry clean on the line. And the River will still flow just nearby. The snake did not win. The garden stays, fixed in my heart with love that was true.

After Hercules Powder Plant blew up, my grandparents moved into Carthage and things were never the same. They lost that sense of freedom and joy that living in the country brought to them.

I grew up and became an opera singer. It didn’t matter to them. They loved me still. The rest of the clan thought of me as the black sheep in the family and would often say,“Warren and Beulah’s boy ran off to the big city to become an opry sanger. We never could understand what got into him.” Nevertheless grandpa and grandmother still loved me.

In his 80’s grandpa often wondered why he was permitted such a long life. He would often say, “All my friends are dead. Everybody I knew is dead. Why me? Why am I still alive?” But alive he was and still able to plow his small garden and drive his car.

He had a small infection when he was 90 and the doctor wanted to treat him in the hospital just to be careful. It was not supposed to be anything big.The night before he was to go into hospital, he called my grandmother to him and said, “Now Lena, I want you to know I am going to die now.” Grandmother told him, “George, don’t talk like that. You’re not that sick.” But he protested in what for him was a pretty heated way, “I know what I’m talkin’ about Lena. I’m going to die now!”

I was living in New York when one morning, around 4:00AM or so, I was awakened in the spirit. My body was still asleep, but it was as if my spirit were awake and observing. I saw two angels holding my grandpa, one under each arm. They were taking him around the earth to allow him to say goodbye to certain places and people.He wanted to see me. He was young and happy and full of excitement. He looked down and saw me in my apartment asleep and said, “Why there’s Joe down there.” Then he went on his journey. The next day I knew that the worst thing I could imagine had happened. My grandpa had died. I called home and found out that he had indeed passed away about the time that I saw him in spirit. I never had any further visions of my grandpa after that. It was sort of disappointing in a way, for there was such finality about that last vision. Grandmother was inconsolable at the funeral. When the vows say, “till death do we part,” it really means it. Marriage belongs to this earthly realm. It cannot be extended into spirit. When grandmother died not long afterwards, I did not get a parting vision of her, but in the weeks after her death she came to me in dreams many times. She was young and happy and just wanted to contact me. I asked her about how grandpa was and she gave me a very interesting answer that did not fit in with my world view at the time. She said, “I am not with grandpa now. We are all spread out here like stars in the sky according to our distance from God.” I had no idea what she was talking about. Could it be that we are all on our journey back to God? Could it be that there was a time before time when we were all apart of God, all one with Him, all whole, One Garden? And could it be that we will all be with Him again? Such wonderment was the precursor to my artistry as a singer. Then there came a time, and I could sing.

CALLING THE LIGHT….

The time is coming and almost is when we shall be able to call in the Light of God, that unspeakably wondrous Light of God which is Love, the Light we call “the other side,” or “home.” Most people have had to be near death to see that light, and enter it again. The transformative Light changes all who enter it by stirring our remembrance of our true Self. We are the radiance of God. The Light is us and we are it. Now you can see why we are not a body and there is no universe. We ARE this Light and in it we are all One. This Light knows no judgment. It only is the Love that is God, Truth and Knowledge. When you go into the Light you will not want to be a body again. You will weep at the thought of leaving the Light to come back to such a sour illusion as the body. Now the time almost is when we will be able to call that Light into our being now and the veils will be lifted from illusions. Your loved ones who have passed over into the Light are still here with you. We will soon need no channel or medium to contact them. Their presence will touch you when the Light comes and it will come. We will call it in. THIS IS OUR GREAT TIME OF SERVICE to each other and to the Light for God is lonely without his Son. Our minds are being prepared now to be able to call in the Light. If you have felt like a caterpillar about ready to change into something you know not what, this is part of what we have been sensing and feeling. So soon now, the Light will come and take down the barriers to our illusions. The Light will come. We will call it in and it will fall on us like the rain of Heaven, bringing with it all our beautiful memories of the Truth we have forgotten. So easily will all our fears slip away from us into nothingness and we will know that Love is all that is real. While for a while bodies will remain and the phantom we call Earth will slip in and out of the Light, I will look into your eyes and see only the Love of God and the Light will lovingly and gently wash away anything that would come between our joining. Would it not be something of great worth to you just to speak to your grandmother again, or your husband, or that child you lost too early? They are not gone. You will speak with them and you will know them in the Light. WE WILL CALL IN THE LIGHT AND IT WILL FALL FROM HEAVEN LIKE RAIN ON A DRY AND DUSTY PLAIN AND LOVE WILL MAKE ITSELF KNOWN. When the Light comes, first the air will sparkle with living glimmer, then the glimmer will enter you, every little place where you need Love’s Presence. Soon the air will become nothing but Light and the sight of bodies and planets will disappear. In the Light we will be transformed by remembrance. We are not native to this physical, dreamy place. We come from the Light. We are Light Beings native to a spiritual universe of Love which is also Light and Truth and Knowledge. We have been trying to remember our Home all these ages of bodies, coming from the Light, going into bodies, going back to Light. It is enough to make the world spin.

Our school years have almost passed.

The time for learning is almost over.

In this space I would put away all time and learning.

I would come afresh to stillness. I would call in the Light.

There sparkles all the truth my learning could not attain.

In that Light I find you,

perfect with the innocence of creation.

You have not changed.

As wisdom-bearer in Brahman’s House, who could change you?

As natural as the flow of the Tao, who could change you?

As the silence on the Buddha’s lips, who could change you?

In this Light there is stillness,

And in this stillness I have found you as perfect.

In the Light all minds join into One.

When the Light comes there is relief from time

and freedom to remember the vast ages of our knowing.

Lifetimes upon lifetimes present themselves in parade of gallant splendor for at last we remember.

Millions of years come to us in memory of who we are and the Love that grew within us.

We have not changed.

Our alchemy shows its art.

In this space I have summoned the Light and I remember that I Love you

Keeping the Faith!

Keeping the Faith!

Is Faith a gift or a work? Faith is a natural property given to those who ask but you have some work to do in maintaining it! Faith asks you to keep your eyes on Jesus and do the work you were sent to do. Life is full of possible distractions and so maintaining faith is not a cakewalk. Evil and suffering are there along the way to try to steal your gaze. When the wolf is at the door you need faith more than ever but holding on to it is the hardest thing you will ever have to do. These are not idle words. I have been there. There have been many days that all I had to eat was a can of pork and beans but I still managed to give some change to the beggars.

Krishnamurti was asked, “Is it true that life will take care of you?” He responded, “Yes, but you have to give yourself over to it completely.” That would be faith, moment by moment, day by day, month by month, year by year. It is living on a razor’s edge but somehow you know that there is no other way for you to live. The only thing that makes living this way bearable is FAITH.

In the early part of my career as an opera singer I called this “floating” in life. It is more than a little ironic that I should use such a term since I never learned to swim. But others told me that learning to float in water one had to relax and trust the water. Somehow it made sense to me, so when I moved from Tulsa to the Big Apple to start a career in opera, I learned to float. I had to learn. I had no financial support to cushion me. What I had was FAITH that God himself had given me this gift of voice and had told me to sing opera. That certainty was enough to give me the faith to “float” in life. Month after month I found someway to pay the rent and eat, though often not much. Some days I had two eggs for breakfast and lunch and a large slice of pizza for dinner. One summer I sold orange juice on the streets of New York. Sometimes I got work as a bartender. But then I would get an engagement in opera and all of a sudden I had money. FAITH (Floating) was essential. Those who had talent but no faith gave up on their careers and went back home to teach.

Then there came a month when I saw no possible way to pay the rent! But there was a singing competition called the Bruce Yarnell Memorial Award for Baritones which would be held soon and it had a prize of $1,000 and the prestige of being named the best baritone in the U.S. And Canada at the mid-career level. I entered the competition. My competitors were from the New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and other regional centers. I had the faith that I could win and I worked very hard to hold on to that faith. I won and paid the rent!!

Many nights I would take flight in my dreams and actually go on journeys in the spirit. One night I went up into the spirit world and came to a “class” that was being held for spirits preparing to enter life in a body. The class was about how to “float.” The students were seated on what looked like high school bleachers with dumbfounded looks on their faces. I floated right into the class and said, “Look, it’s like this. You just float,” and as a spirit I demonstrated “floating.” I had learned how to do it, not in water but in life. There have been many times I have been tempted by fear to lose faith. Saying the Lord’s Prayer is very helpful….”lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” Who is the evil one but the one who would seduce you to lose faith? Pray to be delivered from that one, and woe to those on judgment day who choose to draw others away from faith and to the dark side! That will be a life review you wouldn’t care to attend! Jesus said of such people, “It would be better for them were a millstone tied around their neck and cast into the ocean.”