Written by Ann Grote-Pirrung, Special to your Catholic Herald Thursday, 09 February 2012 08:41
“This is about God … not about me,” the 69-year old retired insurance
-executive-turned-songwriter explained. “Without his inspiration, this would not have happened,” referring to “In the Warmth of Your Arms, A Prayer of Love and Compassion in Song,” which he wrote, recorded and produced over the course of several years.
Words came to him while walking
Melanz’s journey as a songwriter began with a different kind of journey: his daily five-mile walk.
“In the spring of 2007, I was out walking and these words just came bombarding me. They didn’t come one at a time. They were just words, like ‘warm,’ ‘love,’ ‘arms,’ ‘peace.’ I knew right away it was God. I was being inspired,” he recalled.
This happened over the course of several days and only happened when he was on his walks.
“That’s my ‘God time,’” Melanz said. “That’s my prayer time and when I think things through. But I ignored it at first. I didn’t listen at first. And after several weeks of these same words over and over again I finally said, ‘I better do something with this.’”
‘Lovely poem’ needed a melody
With his wife, Linda’s, support, Melanz started putting the words together and after some hard work, he showed it to her. She was very encouraging. But while it was a “lovely poem,” he felt he needed to do something more with it.
So Melanz prayed on it, and God listened.
“He answered me. He said now that you have this in your head and on paper, you have to come up with a melody for it,” he recalled.
Music has always played an important part in Melanz’s life. He is involved in two church choirs as well as two community choirs. But he is quick to mention that songwriting is not part of his musical repertoire.
“I’m not a songwriter,” Melanz said. “I’m a guitarist and vocalist.”
But through what he believes was divine intervention, a melody started playing in his head.
“You know how you get a tune in your head and you just can’t get rid of it? And no matter what I did, that tune came into my head,” he said.
|In the Warmth of Your Arms
Life is but a moment in time,
less than a blink of an eye,
but eternal life is timeless,
eternal life is timeless, in the
warmth of Your arms, in the
warmth of Your arms.
Only You can give me the faith,
only You can give me the hope,
only You can give me the freedom,
to the journey to the warmth of
Life is but a whisper of wind,
less than a single breath,
but eternal life is forever,
eternal life is forever, in the warmth
of Your arms, in the warmth of
I have lived to give You my heart,
I have lived to give You my soul,
I have lived to dream of my
presence, and live in the warmth
of Your arms.
And I continue to long for that day,
when my reward may be, at peace
in the warmth of Your arms, at peace
in the warmth of Your arms.
Used with permission of Len Melanz, Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Divine intervention met human inspiration
And while Melanz is very comfortable around music, he knew that songwriting took a special talent.
“It takes some extra knowledge to be able to write a song,” he observed.
And that’s where divine intervention met with human inspiration. Specifically, three friends from Sheboygan helped bring Melanz’s words and music together to form a song with sheet music, musical arrangements and, finally, a CD.
The first “amigo” in Melanz’s three amigos of music arrangement was Don Guske, director of one of the community singing groups with which he’s involved. With the aid of a specialized computer program, Guske put Melanz’s words and music down and produced an arrangement for the song.
“After several hours of work we actually had a song,” Melanz recalled. “Just a single sheet of paper with a melody line and the words below. I was awestruck that God would choose me to create this message.”
Song ‘strikes a chord,’ says priest
Melanz took the sheet music to Lynda Larson, the accompanist at Immaculate Conception Church, Sheboygan, where they both attend. Larson told Melanz that she loved it.
“‘This really has some meaning,’” she told Melanz.
So they sang the song together and Larson wrote the harmony. The two of them debuted a duet arrangement of the song on Mother’s Day of 2007.
“It was very well received,” he said of the song that was introduced by Fr. Glenn Powers, pastor at Immaculate Conception.
The song was also sung at Melanz’s mother’s funeral in 2008 and, according to Fr. Powers, “No pun intended, it really struck a chord. It’s a gentle piece with a very simple message. ‘You don’t walk alone.’”
Fr. Powers said that was appropriate since the inspiration for the hymn began with Melanz’s daily walk.
Song is fine-tuned
Shortly after Melanz’s mother’s funeral, he and Larson started to fine tune the song.
“It really struck me that something should be done with this song,” Melanz said.
He and Larson were singing the song with regularity at funerals, in church and at Rainbow Kids, a grief support group with which Melanz was intimately involved, specifically working with adults affected by death and loss.
It was at this point that the third member of the “musical amigos” entered the picture. Robert Herrmann, director of The Golden Chordaliers, a singing group in Sheboygan, wrote a choral selection of the song.
“It took him almost a year. He wrote the soprano, alto, tenor and bass for the piece. It was unbelievable,” Melanz said. The Golden Chordaliers started singing it at funerals, nursing homes and local club gatherings.
Song plays key role in hospice work
It was also at this point that Larson and Melanz recorded their duet at a Sheboygan studio. After a long process, the music itself was copyrighted through the Library of Congress; the CD is in the process of being copyrighted.
In addition to God, family, church and music, Melanz’s other passion is service to those in need. He is a volunteer with a local hospice as well as a facilitator in Rainbow Kids. The CD worked perfectly with his ministry.
“The song plays a very key role in the hospice work I do and in my work with Rainbow Kids,” Melanz said. “I love people. I love to work with people. I love to be around people.”
Melanz takes comfort in knowing that his song has proved soothing to those who have heard it.
“The feedback is great,” he said, “but I wish it would go to the guy who started all of this. I cannot say it more emphatically … this is all about God.”
Melanz’s daily walk with God produced this song; his walks continue, so other songs might be coming. Whatever happens, Melanz knows it all starts with God.
“This is truly a miracle. I can’t put it any other way,” he said.