The Gift of Making Music Together

Kathryn Anderson / Parish of St. Paul / Sunday, November 21, 2021

I am grateful for POSP for many reasons. 

Today, I’ve been asked to talk about The Gift of Music and the Gift of Making Music with each other, 

For me, our making music together is a kind of worship that I can’t do anywhere else. 

I can’t do it outside of church.

It doesn’t feel like worship without music that we make together. 

Three “Notes” and a Coda

The A part: Music is a response to something, and it is prehistoric, possibly pre-human.

One of my favorite sounds from childhood is the sound of cicadas and locusts and katydids singing. You can hear them, but you can’t see them because they are hidden in the trees. There must be thousands of them. 

Their lives are short, by our standards, just a season. 

For me it is the sound of summer, of going to bed while it was still light when I was little, of being safe, surrounded by this wall of sound — it is loud! 

I’m pretty sure that an adult in my family told me that the bugs were singing to God. 

Musician and philosopher David Rothenberg hypothesizes that the first human music, the music of prehistory, was made in response to, or as an accompaniment to, “Bug Music” like this and other sounds of nature. The bugs sing; we imitate and sing / play back to them or with them. 

But did prehistoric people realize that what they were hearing in the dark was insects? 

Or did they think it was the sound of the Holy surrounding them, and they were singing along, or singing back? 

The B part: Our response in music is a gift to us as individuals and as a community.

Music is good for our bodies and brains and souls:

Synchronized deep breathing slows our heart rates. 

Dopamine increases. 

Choir folks share these news clips with each other, but we know these things already, because we’ve experienced them. Making music makes us feel better in all kinds of ways. 

Church may be one of the last places in our society where many of us make music with meaning or regularity.

** ** 

This is the kindest and most collaborative church music program I know of — for years we lifelong music lovers have been blessed to work with the talent and leadership of professional musicians. 

Please know: it’s one thing to be a professional musician. 

It takes another skill set entirely to be a musician at that level who can ALSO work kindly and patiently with non-professionals. 

To a person, they have welcomed more input from us than choirs usually get into liturgical music. 

In their presence and in their absences, we’ve grown as musicians.  

** ** 

It has been said more than once in this place that any kind of music made together with others is a metaphor for community, a rule of life in action: 

Listen. 

Listen to each other.

Breathe. 

Make it possible for your neighbor to breathe. 

The C part: Our response does us good, but most importantly we are responding to an Audience of One.

That’s what Peter Cutts said. He was our former organist and choir director: “We are singing to an Audience of One [he gestured — it’s a number, but it’s a directional pointing, too]. Everyone else is just along for the ride.” 

We can use music to tell our Creator what we may not be able to say in words alone. 

Sighs too deep for words? That’s music too.

Yes; and — in the last 20 months we have learned that we are also singing for each other: the comfort of hearing each other’s voices, the courage we take in hearing each other, the joy of making music together, was something many of us missed. 

I was surprised by how much I missed hearing us making music together, and by how sad my voice sounded alone. 

** ** ** 

Coda

These are the words of Hatian- and Puerto Rican-American visual artist and musician Jean-Michel Basquiat: 

“Art is how we decorate space. 

Music is how we decorate time.”

We are creatures currently living on Earth and therefore limited in and by Time. 

Our lives are short, by God’s standards. 

We are decorating time, for our pleasure and benefit in community, and also for the pleasure of and in honor of the One who lives outside of Time. 

I am so grateful for our worship through music in this place. 

Listen: We’re singing to an Audience of One! 

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