I’ve been a musician for most of my life.
I recall my first attempts at the piano at about the age of 5 when I taught myself to play a popular church hymn by ear, one note at a time. (Sorry, folks – no Mozart-type child prodigy here.) The next step was my oldest sister teaching me the basics for a few years; then, I began private lessons at about 8 years of age, continuing this wonderful experience until my high school graduation. Coupling this with belonging to marching and concert bands on the high school and college levels (I played baritone horn), I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to learn from some great teachers and play alongside other talented musicians. (No, I still can’t hold a candle to Mozart or any of the other great classical composers, but I have fun.) Having said all of this, the vast majority of my musical contribution to the greater community has been that of playing liturgical music – from elementary school until the present. It is something that I enjoy immensely and plays an important role in my spiritual journey and ministry. However, I enjoy many types of music, from Cajun to soft rock to Caribbean to various types of African.
There’s just something about music.
It does something to one’s soul – one’s psyche – one’s body. It can cause one to relax, to become excited, become drawn into meditation, get whipped into a frenzy, incite some to war, and draw some to peace.
There’s also something about singing or playing along with other folks who also love to play and sing. There’s a beautiful power in that – something sacred.
It can cause us to weep, to become melancholy, disturbed, happy. We play music for happy occasions and we play music for sad occasions – in important rituals in our lives, from birthday parties to football games to weddings to funerals. Music indeed plays an important function in all of these events; and, for most of us, things are just not right if music is missing during these times.
Today, I had a bittersweet experience in which music played an important role. I provided music and singing at the funeral service of one of my former students, taken away from us much too soon. She was only 35 years old, succumbing to cancer after a battle of less than one year, leaving behind a husband and four young children along with her own immediate birth family to grieve for her. It was a particularly poignant moment since today’s musical (and personal) involvement was a bookend to another important event in her and her husband’s lives which occurred 11 years ago – that of their wedding, in which I also provided the music and singing.
I chose the musical selections carefully today, wanting every song to be meaningful.
As I reflect on the day, I wonder just how were they received by the members of the mourning congregation? Were they mere pretty words and notes, or did they resonate with them? Did it assist in their grieving process and openness to healing their traumatized souls? Did it have any effect on their individual images of God/Creator? Did this music-filled liturgical, communal experience, coupled with the other sights, sounds, and smells, move them closer to embracing the Mystery of this whole human condition thing or did it wedge them away?
I guess that I’ll never fully know, but I was honored to be part of it.
Yep, there’s just something about music . . .