I was driven from my apartment by the noise of my neighbors this evening and came back to my office since I had nowhere else to go. When I can hear them singing vocal exercises and scales at full volume even over the earbuds I am wearing to drown out the noise – I eventually get so irritated I need to walk away. But I couldn’t really focus on work, and when it was time for our “music night” (think choir – but not quite) the last thing I wanted to do was sing.
Eventually I did go. When someone stands at your door and says “Are you coming?” it’s hard to resist. And now, after singing together with others, singing words of praise, singing in harmonies, my spirit has been calmed. I’m not ready to go home, but I can read and write and pray.
I have pushed to change “Choir” to “Music Night” – not just to give it a new name, but to give it a new, conscious purpose. Choir seemed to have become defined by the task of singing anthems rather than the healing, transformative value of making music together.
Making music together is the most universal activity of human communities. But we don’t do it anymore. Singing is a hobby for a few rather than the joy of the whole. We don’t sing as we labor in the fields. We don’t sing as we travel the trail. We don’t sing as we thresh the harvest. We don’t sing as we pray for rain. We don’t sing our joy or our sorrows or our peace.
We listen to music with earbuds rather than make music together. I have my music. My daughter has her music. My neighbor has his music. We are not a community; we are being isolated from each other.
So we sing in worship. But I’m not sure that hymns and liturgies on Sunday are enough. We need to learn how to sing harmonies. We need to make music together not just sing the assigned hymns. It’s good to sing with Ann a song that matters to her – and to have others sing with me a song that is meaningful to me. It is good to sing together and it’s good to learn new songs and to work at a song together. After we have sung together, then we can think about whether we want to share it with others. So some of our music finds its way into worship, but the point is to make music. Some silly. Some sublime. Some happy. Some profound. But music. And deep in our primal brain where bird songs and frog calls have their primordial origin, music works its magic. Or, better, in our song God’s Holy Spirit gathers our fractured spirits to himself and to one another and we are made a little more whole.