Stories of Hope: A Conversation with the Rykert Trio

 

I think back often to this interview, so even though it first came out in May, I’d like to share it with you now. All around us, there are individuals transcending their suffering to build up their community.

 

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Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

It had not occurred to Joe Rykert to sing with his family as a group. Now The Rykert Trio, which includes him, his daughter, Noelle Rykert-LaRosa and son, Joseph Paul Rykert have released their second album, titled “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a contemporary take on Southern Gospel.

Along with work as a photographer, Joe Rykert sang solo for forty years. He performed in musical theatre and opera with Townsend Opera Players for over twenty years. His children, all vocalists, sang on their own path in other venues.

Everything changed, two weeks before Easter 2015, when Rykert received a diagnosis: Stage 4, Large B-cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Devastated by the news, a commitment to sing at a Sunrise Service at Lakewood Memorial on Easter morning kept Joe grounded. With his first chemo treatment scheduled three days before that service, he asked his children to back him up should his body react to the five toxic drugs to be used in his chemotherapy.

On Easter morning, the five Rykerts stood on stage and a new path for their lives began. “So out of something very dark—cancer, came one of the greatest blessings in my adult life, getting to sing and share the stage with them. And they are blossoming and growing in greatness and I’m a fading rose. It’s just, God had to get my attention, he had to show me what I was missing. That was the opportunity,” Rykert shared.

Unbeknownst to them, Tammy Rykert, Joe’s wife, entered Joe, Noelle and Joseph, into the Valley Talent Project. In August 2016, the Rykert Trio walked away first in the sing-off, Audience Favorite and Judge’s Favorite. “It was a grand slam,” Joseph said. On the same weekend, the Trio performed at the Celebration of Hope, a cancer awareness fundraiser event put on by Sutter Gould.

The calls for bookings began. Hope grew out of darkness. The Rykert Trio dove in. Individual projects continued, and Tammy continued to look for avenues to move the Trio forward. They produced their first album in Turlock using monies raised during a concert at Geneva Presbyterian. Joe described the turnout and amount raised as an affirmation, “we’re on the right path. That’s God’s stamp of approval.”

 

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While they sang mostly secular, classical and jazz tunes, at the Southern Gospel Convention, the Trio discovered their new sound. Musical groups they met from all over the nation encouraged them on.

Why Southern Gospel? Joe answered, “It’s the subject matter, it’s all about the blood, it’s about the cross, it’s about what Christ did for us. His sacrifice that we are not worthy of.” With tears, he recounted his gratitude to God. Indeed, the family sees their growing success as a ministry in itself.

Tammy explained, “so many have been touched by cancer and just the encouragement of what he’s been through and what he has overcome. He’s in remission. He’s never going to be without cancer but at least he’s in remission. Especially people who are going through it, they see the story and there’s hope. And hope for the afterlife. If they don’t make it through. There is that hope and future in Christ.”

Joseph added, “The Lord’s always faithful. It seems like the ladder is endless for us. We’re just going to keep climbing as long as we honor him. Now, that we’ve found music that does honor to his name, it’s only going to get better.”

 

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You can find music by The Rykert Trio on all the major streaming platforms and for purchase on their website and Amazon. To book the Trio, visit their website http://www.therykerttrio.com or email therykerttrio@gmail.com or go to the website. For regular updates, like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram.

 

Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

The need for moments of transcendence

Have you ever experience a moment of exquisite beauty?

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You walk into a building, a piece of music, and have to catch your breath.

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You look around you, bewildered at the sight, pause and take in the sounds that are foreign and yet familiar.

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You feel your heart lifted, your thoughts quiet, your soul settles on a higher plane. These are the effects of transcendence.

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We need to experience moments of transcendence from time to time. Is not life bitter? It rains, the clouds overwhelm the visual appeal we may or may not have achieved at in our homes. The crumbs on the floor, the clean and dirty clothes scattered throughout the preschool kid’s room after she has learned she can move her chair, climb up, and empty and all the contents of her dresser; the crying, yours and your infant’s; forgetting to take our the garbage can; wiping noses, rushing to wipe the nose before the toddler uses his hand over and over and over again; stepping unintentionally in puddles (when it’s intentional that is okay). Life is muddy, mundane, monotonous. Fish spend every waking moment looking for food. What else have we?

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We need to be reminded we are not merely men, not merely animals. We have souls, spirits, like the angels and can be lifted up to where the angels are. Why else do we need God? The animals worship God by their very existence. They are not aware. We need something more. It is not enough to just show up and bless him with our presence (he’s just happy I’m here). No! We need to turn out thoughts, our mind, out intentionality, because we are, unlike the brutes, able to will) to God. We must give to God.

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How can I be drawn to give this gift of myself and my spirit if the liturgy merely inspires the brute and not the spirit? Modern liturgical music and architecture are designed so we feel comfortable. Words anyone can sing, therefore no one sings. Melodies that take us back to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Homiletic anecdotes I read in a chain email eighteen years ago when the Internet was up and coming.

But if I walk into the Church building and it is other-worldly, meaning it reminds me of a place not of this world…Heaven, I am reminded that there is more to my life than the again and again of life and family. My life becomes imbued with a sense of wonder and transcendence. It becomes easier to move through the tasks at hand with the recent memory of that moment in my mind. Just as it is not enough to have only heard sweet nothings from my spouse on our wedding day but never again, I need frequent reminders because I am human. Why begrudge each other that? Are we afraid that because we have lost a sense of transcendence that others will not be drawn to it. Did the devil creep when we whispered to ourselves “I feel so small.” Did he creep in and add “because you are nothing” and then block any of the beautiful thoughts that could follow that, “I am nothing, but yet God still cares for me, died for me, created me, protected me.”

It is happening in some places. New churches are being built. Times are changing.

I live in a predominantly rural area. It is common for inhabitants of rural areas to instinctively find the arts superfluous. My father agrees every child should learn music because he believes what he read that learning music early on enhances one’s ability to learn the other subjects. But at the same time, he can say schools should only teach the three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. So while our family is being blessed by attending a parish that actually wants my husband’s musical gifts, the memory is still fresh of encountering again and again a “what’s-the-point” attitude from two parishes where he was previously employed.

What’s the point? Perhaps we need to experience more of it in order to know it.