Last Friday, on the opening concert of the Friday Morning Music Club’s first resident season at Calvary Baptist Church, my good friend and frequent performing partner, Natalie, sang (beautifully, I might add) one of my most favorite songs…a song by Lee Hoiby, called “Where the Music Comes From…”, for which the composer himself wrote the words. The text is, for me, an eloquent statement of so much that I hold true:
I want to be where the music comes from
Where the clock stops, where it’s now
I want to be with the friends around me
Who have found me, who show me how
I want to sing to the early morning
See the sunlight melt the snow
And oh, I want to grow
I want to wake to the living spirit
Here inside me where it lies
I want to listen till I can hear it
Let it guide me and realize
That I can go with the flow unending
That is blending, that is real
And oh, I want to feel
I want to walk in the earthly garden
Far from cities, far from fear
I want to talk to the growing garden
To the devas, to the deer
And to be one with the river flowing
Breezes blowing, sky above
And oh, I want to love!
And, oddly, the song runs through my mind, even while I am deep in study and discovery about the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Perhaps not oddly after all, because as I work my way through the stack of articles and books I have piled on my desk, there is one thing about his life that jumps out at me at every turn.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a musician. Music came to him before theology. Music never left him as he grew and as his spirit grew and his thoughts about life and community formed. Music never left him in his darkest hours of imprisonment. Music formed a great thread in his life in community, particularly at the Brother’s House in Finkenwalde, where every noon time was devoted to singing.
Music is what he brought home with him from his time at the Abyssian Baptist Church; it was the language of the spiritual that reminded him of the faith and community and attention to social justice that he had experienced there. And it was through making music that he experienced so much of family life in his youth: the regular Saturday evening musicales of the Bonhoeffer family, where as an adolescent he accompanied his mother as she sang the famous Beethoven settings of the Gellert Psalm texts and the Cornelius Lieder at Christmas, where he himself composed hymns and full cantatas that were performed by his talented and regularly expanding family circle.
Why the importance of music expression throughout his life? My guess, he (along with many of us) knew the answer…he knew where the music came from.
So, tonight while I try to make some sense of his theological writings, I will be remembering the part of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that believed in his whole heart that making music together expresses without theology his very basic beliefs in just what community and living together means. It is all about where the music comes from…