Failure and fear of failure are universal – we all have experienced defeat and are afraid of that crushing feeling that occurs when we don’t succeed. Today’s music draws from stories and narratives about this feeling – and how as Elizabeth’s Sollie’s and Jill McCallister’s sermons stated, one can’t let their fear of failure stop them from persevering and trying again.

This morning’s prelude was composed by the great Marvin Hamlisch, who has written music for everything from “The Way We Were” to “The Spy Who Loved Me”. His Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “A Chorus Line” is a musical theatre favorite and chronicles the stories of several dancers auditioning for a Broadway musical. Anyone who has ever tried out for any type of performing arts opportunity knows that there are no atheists at an audition – participants are filled with equal parts hope, desperation, and fear of being rejected. The song “Nothing” tells the tale how one of the auditionees felt like a failure in her high school acting class.  When trying to follow directions and “be a race car” or an ice cream cone, she felt nothing, was called nothing, but after believing she was a failure for a very long time, realized that her unkind and critical theatre teacher was the one who was nothing.  (The song humorously ends with the student hearing of her former instructor’s death and feeling…nothing.)

Today’s offertory was also selected from the musical theatre world, this time from the beloved preduction “Man of La Mancha”.  Don Quixote’s endless tilting at windmills, warning others about imaginary monsters, and seeing alternative versions of the facts drew laughter and derision from the people around him.  He was seen as a madman, and mocked for wishing to fight impossible battles that were ridiculous and couldn’t be won.  The beautiful lyrics of “The Impossible Dream” explain why we need to continue fighting battles even if failure seems imminent.  We must dream impossible dreams, fight unbeatable foes, try when weary to reach unreachable stars, and to be willing to go into hell for a heavenly cause.

I had originally planned to play a jazzy version of “Pick Yourself Up” (Keep a heads up for UUFC Music Director David Servias’s blog post about the choir anthem coming later today) but Elizabeth Sollie used some words in her sermon that struck a chord and I decided to play Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” as the postlude instead.  After hearing Elizabeth speak of getting knocked down and continuing to get up again, the following lyrics leapt into my brain from a song I heard frequently during my teen years:

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down