Yes, I will admit it. I can change my mind. And I find out that I can, when enlivened, inspired, and amazed, sit through a class in a bunker basement room on a beautiful summer day and be glad that I chose to be in that room instead of sailing on the Chesapeake (which was, by the way, my other choice).
And no, I am not writing this simply because our instructor read my blog the day BEFORE class and saw my reservations about an all-day class.
There were so many insights and inspirations yesterday that I want to think about and write about, but what is most on my mind at this moment is the discussion we had about programming music for worship, and the importance of including what our instructor called “heart music”.
Heart music is literally music that bypasses the head and goes straight to the heart. More than that, it is music that we take away with us…the hymn that just won’t leave us, the tune that we hum over and over again; the song that stays as a source of comfort and inspiration for years to come, maybe for our whole life long. As such, it is music that changes us, whether we know it consciously or not.
I immediately thought of Keith Green’s There is a Redeemer. Okay, maybe you think that is a strange choice for a classical musician, but never forget that I am also a CHURCH musician. And here is what I know: we used There is a Redeemer as a call to prayer in worship during a certain sermon series, well ove r a year ago. And to this day, no one can go to bed at our house until that song has been sung or played. It is now part of our household faith practice, a song that is certainly outside my musical experience and that I had never encountered (nor probably would have without its use as service music). Heart music, pure and simple.
In my days in the more “new age” branches of the Christian faith, we had a million of them, and we often had hour-long meditation services composed of singing, praying to music, and just listening to music. So I must confess that in my mental filing cabinet, I had placed my understanding of the music and prayer services of Taize and the Iona Community in the “new age” bucket and thought no more about them.
That is, until yesterday. And until this morning. And, well, until I started writing this entry a little while ago. Until I started thinking about “heart music”.
You see, when I sat down in the choir this morning to sing through the hymns, I couldn’t help but notice that no. 430 in the Chalice Hymnal that we were to sing today, “Lo, I am with you“, came from the Iona community, words by John Bell, who also happened to be in town today doing a service at another church. I also noticed that the text comes from Matthew 28, also know as the Great Commission. When we finally sang that hymn in preparation for our time of prayer, I thought it ended too soon: I wanted it to continue on and on. Heart music.
And then, there was the moment at the end of the service, when the congregation stood to sing “Trust and Obey“. I have the honor of looking out over that congregation most Sundays, but I have rarely seen them as bright and shiny and inspired as they seemed today. And the singing! I love it when I can hear the congregation sing out. The old and familiar tunes can be heart music, too. And today my community sang from its heart.
So, out of curiousity, as I was sitting down to write, I decided to check out the Taize website. I downloaded a podcast of one of their services, and began to write. Again, heart music.
I think, after all this, what I have discovered is that I don’t have enough “heart music” in my life. And, too, that I must always remember in performance, to make certain that whatever I’m offering is presented from the heart. There is no other reason to make music.