I am in a music group. Sometimes there are thirteen of us. Sometimes there are four. Backgrounds are varied. Retired business manager, school teacher, computer tech, farmer, accountant and so forth. Musical backgrounds are equally varied. Jazz, folk, musicals, guitar, classical training. One woman sang country western in bars every Thursday – Sat. for years. She had a chance to make it big, go to Nashville, but her husband said, no, that straw would break the camel’s back. So she stayed and sang her heart out here.
Without discussing temperaments, it’s safe to say not everybody gets along 100% of the time. At the worst times, people avoid each other. At the best, we don’t agree on how many measures to bridge between verses, or how long to make the introduction. We certainly don’t agree on which pieces should be sung when, and especially whether it is a glory or a torture to do the occasional piece in Latin.
We are very nearly like a family. A little microcosm of personalities who love to sing, and irritations notwithstanding, we really love each other. Most people in the group live within five minutes of the church where we sing. I live almost half an hour away. A year and a half ago when I was sick, seven different meals were delivered to the house for our family.
We are musicians and little things bother us. Musicians, I observe, live closer to the edge than some. It makes us touchy. It might also help us step outside ourselves into the music. Outside the music, our footing may at times lack the steadiness of others. Inside of the music, we are loosed from ourselves. Ready for a mini-Pentecost, we are free to let the music speak for us and through us.
Sometimes the music our group makes is good. Other times we muddle through without the spark of something bigger. We don’t decide which day is which. We sing to offer up the grand invitation, hoping for the mighty wind to move among us. Every once in a while we feel the tongues of fire from our heads, through the depths of joy and sorrow, to our toes. We become the sum which is greater than our parts. In the cry of our own hearts we raise the longing of the hearts beside us. Our own voices lost, we are found in a single voice, together.
It doesn’t last forever. For all the wishing in the world, there’s no hanging on, only the chance to ask again and wait and hope. Say thank you and be changed. It’s not imagining. Sometimes for a second, a few minutes maybe, heaven opens up a window. In glimpsing what we will be, it changes who we are. Not just for a minute, but forever.
Doing dishes the other night, the sounds of my son’s trombone warmed me at least as much as the wood stove. In one small run of eighth notes, I went from dreading the obligations of Christmas to realizing that, “almost December,” meant the Christmas Concert at his school. A sentimentalist I am not. Many a concert or school function I have attended as a grudging token of decency to the children I helped bring into this world. But this is not that. His school music program is exceptional and the concerts are a true pleasure. The Go-to-bed-on-time-Nazi (me) lets the younger kids go and be grumpy for two days afterwards because the way their eyes brighten and their toes tap is worth it.
For anyone within driving distance of St. Michael’s in Kemptville, I cannot recommend the Christmas concert highly enough. The students will be well rehearsed. Their repertoire will be a wonderful mix of pieces worth doing. The evening will appeal to kids and adults of all ages because the performers and their impassioned and talented director will bring enough joy to fill the place. The concert features Jr. and Sr. bands, a jazz band, and my personal favourite, a chamber choir.
On Thursday, December 12, at 7:00pm, something simple, true, and beautiful is happening. At that time, in that place, young men and women beaming with the promise of tomorrow will be making music. Together. For free. For you. If you can believe in their possibilities by attending the concert, you will be richly rewarded with the experience of something as new and alive as a miracle.
If you cannot come see these particular young people at this particular school, consider finding a school near you which is doing music well and then support them with your presence. Schools that value music need to know that we’re behind them because our children need to be able to sing. Children who sing know how to listen to the voices of others. They have seen and heard and felt for themselves the mystery of individuals working together to create a whole that is bigger than any one of them. Children who sing not only discover their own beautiful voices they learn how to make them stronger. They learn how to hold their own when others are singing something different.
This applies to those in choirs, as well as those in bands. A girl with a clarinet is discovering her voice as much as a tenor singing his first solo. Instruments are voices to which we have added imagination. What would happen if we were to hold our mouths just so and blow through this tube, or across the hole on the side of it? A hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand people have wondered, have practiced this . . . and then along comes the girl. She picks up the instrument, and to all the imagination that has gone before her, she adds her own. She finds her voice and sings an old song, now born into something completely new.
I am posting this now, in early November, because right now there is still plenty of time to save the night for this concert on your calendar. I’ll send a reminder in December, but consider blocking the time now. I don’t know about you, but I look outside and see a world that needs joyful voices. I see kids walking down the street, wondering about tomorrow, and I hope someone is teaching them to sing.
This Christmas season, if you can, find a school concert with outstanding music and go to it. Say with your presence that you don’t want a world without twelve year olds on trumpets and seventeen year olds singing Handel. Say their voices matter. Say you want the music.